[texhax] Latex: dumbing down? (fwd)

Philip TAYLOR P.Taylor at Rhul.Ac.Uk
Fri Aug 25 19:18:32 CEST 2006

Barbara Beeton wrote:

> i have no intention of starting a flame war,
> so we're even.

I'm used to my contributions starting flame wars,
so what the h at ll :-)))  My greatest sympathy lies
with John R CUlleton, when he writes

> Perhaps LaTeX is not the right version of TeX to be working with.

and I go on to sympathise with the views of Michael Barr
and Barbara Beeton; but I think the real kernel of the issue
is in John's message :

> Until we adopt a base language that allows full use of the
> primitives of TeX, we are working with one hand tied behind our
> backs. 

This surely lies at the very heart of the LaTeX/TeX divide.
LaTeX sets out to offer functionality that TeX /could/ offer
but which TeX does not offer "out of the box".  This is highly
commendable, and Michael and Barabara highlight some of LaTeX's
strengths, but the real problem is that LaTeX achieves this aim
in a monolithic manner, effectively preventing the knowledgeable
TeX user from fully exploiting TeX's intrinsic strengths within
a LaTeX framework.

If only Lesley Lamport (and, following his lead, Frank Mittelbach
/et al/) had implemented LaTeX as a set of orthogonal packages,
each adding to TeX's strengths without in any way interfering
with access to lower-level features, then I suspect that I might
have migrated to LaTeX many years ago.  As it is, I continue
(as does Barbara, and perhaps  increasingly Michael) to use
TeX by choice, but falling back (and yes, the implied value
judgement here is quite intentional) to LaTeX only when forced
to by the dictats (Barbara would say "requirements") of the
organisation to which I am submitting copy.

Philip Taylor

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