[texhax] description of text in {\tt }

Uwe Lück uwe.lueck at web.de
Tue Jan 27 00:55:29 CET 2009

Hi Paul,

At 22:36 26.01.09, P. R. Stanley wrote:
>BTW, the reason I'm asking the list is because I'm blind and the end
>result of a latex compilation i.e. dvi or pdf isn't very accessible.
>So I can't get the information via my screen reader.

thanks, I dare to represent the TeX users' community by declaring
requests on accessibility of TeX for the blind to be very welcome.

>What does the text in {\tt } look like? Is it fixed width? The
>definition just says "typewriter typeface".

\tt generates fixed width, as you guessed.

For additional explanations of "typewriter typeface", it may be
useful to know about "antiqua" and "grotesque" kinds of typefaces.
The "Computer Modern Roman" fonts standard for TeX belong to the
"Antiqua" type, \sf generates a font of type "Grotesque".
"Antiqua" has serifs, "Grotesque" does not.
Moreover, the thickness of lines clearly varies in "Antiqua",
upright lines are thick, horizontal lines are rather thin.
Serifs are horizontal and thin (in \sf/"sans serif" this is
less clear to see).

Comparing the English and the German Wikipedia,
it appears to me that the English version interpretes "Antiqua"
too narrowly, in my view e.g. "Times" is a kind of "Antiqua".

"Typewriter typeface" has serifs like "Antiqua",
but all the lines have the same thickness.
The letters thus look like being composed just of vertical and horizontal
strokes and of half circles, all of the same lengths (apart from `v' and `w').
By contrast, displays of simple computer text editors use typefaces
with only few serifs, only to achieve fixed width without "horizontal wholes",
these are "filled" by the few serifs.

However, all this are just my impressions, I haven't attended
any courses to learn these things properly.

Now for the *practical* point of view. To best of my knowledge,
\tt is useful for nothing than for referring to "code", one kind of 
is documentation of software, another is typesetting URLs.
Its existence in TeX stems from the fact that the TeX program
and its macros from its beginning onwards were used for typesetting
their own documentations. But this means that \tt is useful only for
a few inline words or for short "quotations" from software code
(or for code listings). There is a different application for
"typewriter typeface" I have been interested in:

I find it silly or somewhat too bold to send letters that are typeset like 
(while I still want to use TeX for typesetting letters). Also, the typefaces
of those "letters" nowadays typeset in "Times" etc. may be difficult to
read for many people even not outright blind, they are too small and narrow.
Moreover, if you typeset a letter on the typical paper (DIN A4 or letter 
the lines are much longer than in books, thus they tend to contain too many
characters than would be appropriate from a typographic view or for
readability. Therefore, official letters from public offices in Germany
quite often have used a "typewriter typeface" although typeset by computer.
For this purpose however, hyphenation is very important
(especially since German words are so long ...). \tt doesn't allow 
- I wrote this assuming you considered *using* \tt,
and this may be a difficult matter.

Hope this helps,


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