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LATEX-L  June 1997

LATEX-L June 1997

Subject:

use of e-tex

From:

Frank Mittelbach <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 16 Jun 1997 16:50:19 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (86 lines)

Philip Taylor writes:

 > >> Is it widely used?
 >
 > Pass!  There was an amazingly high hit rate on the web reference site
 > when V1.1 was first announced,  but as we have received no bug reports
 > since then we cannot be sure whether e-TeX is bug-free or unused!

i fear the answer is "mainly unused" and the reason is simply that
that for most people there is no use for it (right now) as they are
not programmers but users.

 > >> Is there a support for new e-TeX's primitives available in LaTeX?
 >
 > I think not, but the LaTeX team should answer this.

depends on what is the meaning of "support" here.

if it means can one use LaTeX with e-tex and use any of the features
then surely one can. if it means does LaTeX use any features of e-tex
then surely no.

it is very simple, if we would use any feature right now then 99.9% of
all LaTeX users would suddenly find that they can't use LaTeX any more
and would be forced to upgrade.

but they would not upgrade as there is no compelling reason for them
to do so as we can't produce any functionality right now that would be
considered by the majority of users a good reason to switch to the new
system. what we can do is produce better and simpler code as some
things do work much nicer with e-tex functionality but this is nothing
a user cares if the result is the same (or mostly the same on his/her
level).

 for that reason they will not upgrade but instead will use
some old latex version and stick with it. See how difficult it was
(and still is) to make people switch to 2e (which offers a lot of new
features and does not even require changing binaries).

so it doesn't make sense for us to switch 2e onto e-tex and if our
core is on tex then we can't do development that could be released as
packages using e-tex either. if we would do this then we would work
for nearly nobody and for a long time none of our developments would
be tested or used.

so what you need is a compelling reason that make people switch and
e-tex functionality unfortunately isn't the answer.

in my opinion a combination of etex and omega (and pdf support)
however could be the answer at least it seems to me a very good case.

but then a frozen version so that one could reliably use the features
in LaTeX and other formats.

Werner has asked why frozen? because otherwise there is no point in
developing for a large user base as you will not get one.

that does not mean that there shouldn't be further development of the
two groups on the contrary but you need a fix point. at a later stage
you might then release another version but that would be a long time
off. the e-tex group has done something like this but as i said etex
alone is not the answer.


Phil has asked what features i miss that omega has. i'm not sure that
this was a serious question (you should know what your competing
successor is capable of, shouldn't you? :-) but in any case here are
some:

 - full internal 16 bit (ie unicode support)
 - thus true support for multi-lingual issues, eg proper hyphenation,
   encoding support, rewriting support
 - otp's

i think that's for a start, if we could combine all that and e-tex
plus the pdf work then we would have something that is worth writing
code for and could probably have a market --- and that is what counts
not if it is already the best, it is "is it going to be used?"

frank

ps a bit like this portability discussion: portability is not just
defined by the theoretical possibility of working correctly but also
by the practical one, is the necessary environment really available at
a large number of physical sites (and not only theoretically
available)

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