[texhax] Latex: dumbing down? (fwd)

John R. Culleton john at wexfordpress.com
Sun Aug 27 22:00:20 CEST 2006

On Saturday 26 August 2006 17:36, Karl Berry wrote:
>     Nothing he said in the past had been helpful for anyone.
> Please, let's keep things civil.  John has helped on many occasions in
> the past, here and ctt and others, especially with *non*-latex questions.
> Best,
> karl
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Thanks for the kind words. Often I suggest a Plain TeX or even a
Context way to do x or y just to jolt people out of their rut.
All those tools and more are available to all of us. 

Last week I needed to print up some name badges (labels) with
oversize numbers. There is a plain tex package in the midnight
collection that can do it but I figured for a one time job the
labels.sty package would be easier for me to adapt. So I used it.
I have preferences but they do not rise to the level of religious

 One of the things I like about Context is that it is easier to
fit some primitive/plain  stuff in. But even there the font handling is
too rigid for my taste (and way too complicated) in many
situations. More often than not you will find the \font primitive
in use in my documents, no matter what fmt or macro set I am
using. I do my invoices using a template I developed  that calls
the TXSRuled.tex macros from TeXsis, It is less trouble than the
Context equvalent and more flexible than the thingie in _The

The LaTeX approach in some cases falls between two stools. There
is the do-it-by-the-book approach that says the application person
should either stick to styles already created or else learn the
intricacies of creating styles themselves. I live in the middle
ground. I can create a simple macro or modify one, but I am not of the
caliber of those TeXperts who in fact create styles. I'm an
applications guy creating documents for customers. 

Different pieces of TeX often conflict with one another. If I use a
\vskip in the middle of a Context document I may upset the page
making routines, so Hans pleads that we avoid that command. And
if I want to use the more capable index-making routines of eplain
in Context I discover that there is one piece of code in eplain
that Context won't digest and flags as an error. Bummer. 

But in LaTeX it gets worse, at least for me. One sty can confict
with another.  There is no Hans Hagen to play traffic cop to
ensure that all the pieces play nicely together.  And when in the
real world of page layout and typesetting I find many who
encountered LaTeX in college or in aerospace industry and
developed a lifelong hatred for the whole TeX family. My e-book
in process on the use of TeX for laying out novels and memoirs is
titled "Can You Type \Bye?"   You can grok my approach from the

I don't mind getting yelled at. I am after all a married man and
a newspaper columnist. And I freely admit that more often than
not my reach exceeds my grasp. But when I see these simple little
problems that tie up people in double bow knots sometimes I give
in to temptation. 

In the words of another miscreant, Rodney King, ``Can't we all
just get along?''

John Culleton
Able Indexing and Typesetting
Precision typesetting (tm) at reasonable cost.
Satisfaction guaranteed. 

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