[texhax] could/should I have used TeX/LaTeX? (long post)

Frauke frauke at brandeis.edu
Thu Sep 15 21:43:21 CEST 2005

I just finishind my dissertation (also in the humanities) in TeX (plain) 
and am just finishing a parallel-columns translation in plain, so I have 
responses to a few of your points.

James Miller wrote:

> The first segment of my dissertation would not have posed particular 
> problems, I think. There, I give a narrative description of the 
> problem and how I intend to address it. Occasional Greek (both the 
> uncial as well as a more regular polytonic Greek font with 
> diacriticals) text appears there, as well as a bit of Hebrew (no vowel 
> pointing). Some French and German is cited on occasion and there are 
> various tables, some of which have images inserted in them. The first 
> part of the dissertation seems like it would pose less challenges 
> trying to learn and utilize TeX/LaTeX.
> The second part, however, utilizes some unusual page layouts. In 
> addition, a large portion of this second part (in terms of megabytes 
> on disk) is comprised of images inserted into tables--about 75 pages 
> of this. The images are photographic reproductions of a manuscript I 
> worked with. Other parts of this lengthy second section are 
> landscape-oriented pages with either a table of four columns and 100 
> rows, or two pseudo-columns containing Greek text in two different 
> font faces.
I had lots of landscape tables: I simply made them as a separate TeX 
file without page numbers, and had blank pages of the correct numbers in 
the main document. Then I ran the blank numbered pages through the 
printer again, and printed the tables on them. Crude, but effective. I 
know that LaTeX lets you rotate stuff within one document, but I didn't 
really have the time or inclination to switch to LaTeX.

> A screenshot of the part with the table of four columns and 100 rows 
> can be seen here: http://cmiller.sdf-us.org/Exh-A.png . I had to 
> landscape orient the pages so all the data I wanted to present in the 
> table would fit on a single horizontal line. The layout there is not 
> as complex as in the next 2 sections, so trying to do this sort of 
> table with TeX/LaTeX might not be so much of a challenge.
> A screenshot of the next section--the one containing alot of Greek 
> text in two parallel pseudo-columns, one of which uses the uncial font 
> I described earlier--can be seen at 
> http://cmiller.sdf-us.org/Exh-B.png . I refer to the two columns of 
> Greek text as "pseudo-columns" because they are not really columns: 
> the column starting on the right half of that page is not a 
> continuation of the column on the left, but a continuation of the 
> column on the right hand side of the preceding page. Likewise with the 
> column on the left: it picks up from where the column on the left hand 
> side of the preceding page left off. This is what could be referred to 
> as a "parallel text," though that usually refers to a text with 
> translation (like in the Loeb series) while this is simply the same 
> text rendered in different fonts and with some minor formatting 
> changes. This section should have been done as one long table of one 
> row and two columns. It could not be done like this however, owing to 
> OpenOffice's inability to make table columns span pages. I had to 
> apply a hack using various tabs and macros to get this sort of 
> parallel appearance: I didn't like having to do that, but since I'd 
> already cast in my lot with OpenOffice, I carried through with it. 
> Note that there is even a sort of third pseudo-column at the right 
> margin with some numerals bracketed by arrows.
I don't know about parallel columns under LaTeX, but I believe they are 
problematic. I have a nice little macro for this in plain (from my dad) 
that I can send you if you like.

> A screenshot of the third part of this second section, the one with 
> all the images of the manuscript, can be seen here: 
> http://cmiller.sdf-us.org/Appfull-17.png . This was probably the most 
> problematic part of the dissertation: I had to essentially recreate it 
> 3 times owing to problems with OpenOffice. The problem has to do with 
> positioning of the images on the page. The images vary somewhat in 
> size, and I wanted them centered to page. 

This isn't so hard to do, if I understand correctly what you needed. 
I've done similar things with MSS pictures for presentation slides: 
import them as cropped .eps, and then you can manipulate them in the 
usual ways.

> I'm going to stop my summary there, since it's probably already become 
> tedious enough. I want to ask in closing whether I might have expected 
> to use TeX/LaTeX to create this document. Would there have been 
> advantages over using it as opposed to the WYSIWYG program I chose? 
> Specifically, how would I have dealt with the uncial font issue? Would 
> I not have needed to convert that truetype font to something TeX/LaTeX 
> could use first? What kind of advantages might I have had in creating 
> the second part of my document with the weird page layouts using 
> TeX/LaTeX? For the part with all the images I'm guessing that, to get 
> the right placement of the numerals down the right side I would have 
> needed to take a quite different approach: I would probably have 
> needed to insert those numerals right into the jpgs using Gimp or its 
> lousy commercial counterpart :), then insert the whole image, right?

You could have placed the numerals precisely in TeX, and then stuck the 
image beside them: this probably would have taken a few rounds with xdvi 
to get the placement right, but not really that difficult.

> I can't imagine how the right alignment could be accomplished without 
> some form of WYSIWYG tool. And how about getting the right alignment 
> for the text in the pseudo-columns of part 2 of the second section? I 
> suppose that would be done by introducing & symbols for the column 
> divider, then stipulating a line end with \\ at the end--that is, if 
> the font issue could be surmounted. Since the presentation in this 
> second part is highly visual, perhaps it demands an overall WYSIWYG 
> approach?
I think you have a general theme underlying your questions, and that is 
a certain level of discomfort with imagining the layout of a page in 
your head as you write. These days, you can afford a bit of a 
trial-and-error approach, i.e. running a file many times and looking at 
it in xdvi or gv or whatever you like, while you get a feel for it. 
After a while, your TeX-eye-co-ordination will develop.

> I may end up writing other large documents like this and I'm still 
> attracted by the mark-up approach and feel I have a much better 
> understanding of it now. Input on how/whether I might have done those 
> things I ended up doing with the WYSIWYG program will be appreciated 
> and will help me decide whether to invest any more time and effort on 
> TeX/LaTeX. I keep getting the impression that it's for natural science 
> people or technical/engineering types more than for humanities 
> scholars like myself, so input from other humanities users would be 
> especially valuable.
Hope this helps!
Frauke Jurgensen

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