[texhax] making flow chart with latex

Reinhard Kotucha reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Tue Nov 15 02:40:48 CET 2005

>>>>> "Philip" == Philip G Ratcliffe <philipratcliffe at tiscali.it> writes:

  >> > Please, next time do your research yourself.
  >> What a crappy response...  Sorry, Martin.

  > Oh dear, here we go again. [...]

Hi Philip,
sorry, I had been angry because things like that happened too often on
this list and others.  At least I think that Martin knows me good
enough so that he doesn't feel offended.

Let me explain why I had been so upset.

Being polite to people who ask questions here is the best advertising
for TeX itself, TeX user groups, and free software in general.

And there are many ideas, we need developers, but we don't get
developers if the number of users decrease.  No new users, no new

There are some good reasons to ask here, for instance people might
expect that they get better advice here than from Google.  At least it
should be so.  Isn't it disappointing and disencourageing for everyone
on this list if Google provides better results than this mailing list? 

Also, if it seems that people "did not do their homework", maybe they
have a good reason.  I can imagine that some people are quite
impatient when they have to submit their thesis soon and do not have a
solution for a particular problem yet.  I'd always suggest those
people to ask here first before running into a one-way street.

  >> Some time ago, a colleague of mine produced a lot of flowcharts
  >> for his thesis using metapost.  He was absolutely new to TeX so
  >> nobody can say that metapost is only good for experts.

  > Good for him, but he sounds like the sort of person who does do
  > their own research.  I really can't imagine that metapost is
  > actually easier to use out-of-the-box than flow.

Another colleague told him to use metapost because he used it himself.
It is quite easy to use, metapost already provides various kinds of
boxes with labels inside.  He used \parbox'es as labels.  And metapost
also provides arrows.  So everything was straightforward.

  >> The result was amazingly good and metapost provides a vast amount
  >> of flexibility.  I think that this is the preferred way to do
  >> things like this.

  > This you've just got to explain: either you're saying that the
  > "flow" package is not up to much (I don't know it so I can't say)
  > or your claim counter to the philosophy of making style files
  > generally available as a contribution to the comunity.

More than a decade ago I saw people using it and they had problems
centering the diagrams.  I remember that they tried several things
like putting the whole stuff into a box or so, but I don't remember
whether they succeeded.  The current version is from March 1993, which
predates LaTeX2e, though it contains a line

\ProvidesPackage{flow}[1989/09/05 v2.0 Flow macro's.]

which is a LaTeX2e macro, so someone edited this file later.  Don't
know whether the problems had been fixed, at least flow.sty is an
unmaintained LaTeX-2.09 package.

flow.sty uses LaTeX's picture environment. That means that oval boxes
are composed from from quarter circles from a font and \rule's.  This
leads to bad results in Acrobat Reader because fonts are displayed
differently than graphic objects.  Maybe this can be overcome by using
pict2e.sty, which avoids such workarounds.

I think that metapost is a good choice.  It is quite straightforward.
It is also a good idea to consider pstricks, which is probably the best
maintained package today, at least it is amazing how often Herbert
Voss uploads things to CTAN.  Quite unlikely that flowcharts are not
supported yet. 

  > Personally, I use google and/or search the pdf version of Robin's
  > FAQ and find the answers to virtually all of my problems in
  > next-to-no-time, I often just flick through the package list on
  > CTAN; it all depends on how I feel and whether or not I'm on line.
  > Anyway, it really shouldn't hurt to suggest that people do this
  > sort of research on their own first.

Of course, it is a good idea to tell people how they can find the
information they need.  This is what Robin always did (and hopefully
will do in the future).  But it is also true that it is sometimes not
easy to find a good keyword for a particular problem to search for,
either in the FAQ or at Google, especially if English is not the
native language.  

I don't think that Google always is a good choice.  It often finds
nothing else but a lot of old stuff.

I'm wondering a bit that very few people are aware that for (almost?)
every macro package provided by a TeX distribution there is some

Can someone tell me whether texdoc and/or texdoctk are provided by
MikTeX?  Or does it have it's own tools?


Reinhard Kotucha			              Phone: +49-511-4592165
Marschnerstr. 25
D-30167 Hannover	                      mailto:reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Microsoft isn't the answer. Microsoft is the question, and the answer is NO.

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