[tex-live] Did you ever try "texdoc latex"?

John Murdie john at cs.york.ac.uk
Fri Jan 23 16:35:05 CET 2009

On Fri, 2009-01-23 at 14:56 +0000, Robin Fairbairns wrote:
> which shows, perhaps, a general weakness of tex as a whole (not just
> latex) -- there are too few documenters.  we have a high-powered group
> of people putting distributions together (not just the tl crowd), and
> almost no-one who spends signficant time on "general" documentation.
> as a result, we have no coherent plan about documentation, and it's no
> great surprise that a un*x man page turns up on phil's widnoze computer,
> and that something else discouraging turns up on keks's.  (note that
> there are people who swear by un*x man pages, but i've always considered
> they were things written by geeks for geeks.  as a grey-haired old geek
> myself, i often find they let me down.)
> so what is to be done?  i work on a faq, but i fear developments are
> running away from me.  i don't know of anyone else in the tex world, who
> considers his/her main contribution is documentation.
> any suggestions?  or shall i work up a tugboat paper appealing for
> support in a new push?
> robin

I've long thought that, unfortunately, it's the developers who are best
placed to write the documentation. True, they then have to obtain
feedback from less-experienced users, but this is a far better approach
than having the users write the documentation, only to have the
more-experienced users tear their hair out at the inaccuracy and naivety
of what is produced. (Been there, suffered that. Once worked with a
computer-illiterate English graduate who thought he could write a user
manual explaining an operating system to users as inexperienced as
himself. Now balding.) I wish I had the time and energy to learn enough
to be able to help you.

I'm a greying old geek, and I like traditional Unix manual pages. They
were originally intended to be just a page each. They were never meant
fully to document the entity each described, but instead to act as
adverts or dictionary entries which refer the reader on to the full user
and reference manuals. With the rise of complicated-to-explain GUI
applications, it makes less sense for them to be quick reference sheets
any more. I can separate in my mind the excellence of the abstract idea
of Unix manual pages from the archaism of the technology used to typeset
them - and, yes, I was a troff user. I've recently used the Unix manual
pages and other information gatherable on my Department's Linux systems
to produce an automatically and incrementally updatable web-interfaced
software catalogue - which isn't generally available, sorry.

John A. Murdie
Department of Computer Science
University of York

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