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LATEX-L  June 1997

LATEX-L June 1997

Subject:

LaTeX3 goals (was Re: ideal future document processing environment)

From:

Frank Mittelbach <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sat, 21 Jun 1997 12:52:04 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (78 lines)

Ernst Molitor writes:

 > I'm but a LaTeX user, but I really appreciate its many advantages and
 > the fascinating typographical results it allows even lay people (as
 > far as typesetting is concerned, at least) to achieve. IMHO, it would
 > be very much of a pity if the LaTeX3 project would produce a high-end
 > tool intended for use by document formatting professionals,
 > only. While it is obviously up to nobody else but the LaTeX3 team to
 > decide what type of a system they want to develop, I'd look sadly at a
 > "professionals only" LaTeX3... TeX, and LaTeX, after all have been
 > author's tools, not tools for "document formatting professionals", at
 > their very beginning, haven't they?

i think to a large extend i hope to be able to reassure you. If you
look at the goals of the latex3 project as outlined in ltx3info.tex
you will find that it is very much concerned in serving the authors
--- as well as the professionals.

one important aspect of LaTeX already in the current state is to free
the author from those tasks he/she isn't trained in and let him/her
concentrate on the content of the documentation. In other words, the
idea behind that system is to separate content and form as much as
possible.

so producing content is for the author and producing design to pour
content into is for the designer (both may be the same person, and
unfortunately often have to, at least to a certain extend, but the
skill you need to produce good design are different then those needed
to produce a good book content or math paper --- that is one of the
reasons why TeX unfortunately does have a relatively bad name in the
professional community: too often authors have been left alone
struggling not only to produce the content but also the design
resulting not in "masterpieces of art" as Don Knuth has hoped but in
poor products).

in the possibility to specify design are probably the largest
deficiencies of the current LaTeX although there are also a lot in
specifying content.

so Sebastian saying that he sees the future "in providing high-quality
tools for document formatting professionals and not about authors" is
not a contradiction as i see it, but it is putting the finger at the
very problem LaTeX currently has.

There are many people who are not satisfied with the layout/design
they get and they wish to be able to apply a different class, set some
option etc to make the thing look differently. Nearly none of them
likes to start digging into macro writing (or even latex class writing)
themselves, they like to have it provided at their fingertip (by the
professionals if you like). but for this there need to be a design
interface professionals are willing to work with (which is not TeX's
macro language usually, I do know only a very small number of top
designers who are willing and/or able to think and work in the
algorithmic structures forced upon them by a system like TeX/LaTeX as
it is now).

another important point is that to assure the future of LaTeX (and TeX
or a successor :-) you have to keep it in the market. The TeX/LaTeX
community is large, and there are some areas like math research in
which it has a very good standing and will continue to have for a long
period. But we are behind the peek and the community as it is
structured now is rather getting smaller than getting larger.

(and, if i may say so, wonder tools like MSword are getting better)

so it it is also important to get into new markets especially those
where a system like tex/latex is in principle (due to its underlying
concepts) very much superior to other solutions.  such a market is
LaTeX as the backend to automated typesetting systems for SGML
documents, database publishing systems, etc. In this market LaTeX
isn't at all for the author but only for the professional who designs
the layout (which means we are back to Sebastian's words).

Now making LaTeX fit to play this role will also help it along as an
authoring tool the way most of us use it now. so i don't see that we
have a contradiction here.

frank

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