[texhax] Latex: dumbing down? (fwd)

John R. Culleton john at wexfordpress.com
Mon Aug 28 02:25:46 CEST 2006

On Sunday 27 August 2006 19:19, Victor Ivrii wrote:
> On 8/27/06, Philip TAYLOR <P.Taylor at rhul.ac.uk> wrote:
> > Victor Ivrii wrote:
> >
> > [snip]
> >
> > > Still, I am afraid that the fate of Plain TeX is sealed (no
> > > indexing/automatic numbering capacities)
> >
> > A strange misconception : Plain TeX can very easily
> > perform those tasks -- the only obstacle (a very small
> > one, IMHO) is that it does not do them "out of the box".
> > That is, it requires a small amount of work on the part
> > of the user to implement the functionality that he/she
> > desires.  Indeed, if I may deliberately mis-quote Reinhard
> > Kotucha :
> >
> >         "No, there is absolutely nothing you can do in
> >          LaTeX that you can't do in Plain TeX."
> >
> > :-)
> >
> > Philip Taylor
> Well, the absolute majority of people cannot reliably perform the task
> right out of the box. And majority is very reluctant to learn anything
> new. The majority of grad students use preamble of LaTeX files they
> found in their supervisor paper and this is the preamble which the
> latter got from his own supervisor :-(
> On 8/27/06, Karl Berry <karl at freefriends.org> wrote:
> >     > Still, I am afraid that the fate of Plain TeX is sealed (no
> >     > indexing/automatic numbering capacities)
> >
> > What?  Eplain has existed for many years precisely to do such things.
> > http://tug.org/eplain
> I am sure you are right and I apologize for the wrong statement. The
> problem is that an absolute majority of users believe in this.  And I
> am afraid that eplain is not much used. Again "God is always on the
> side of the big battalions".

The biggest battalion in typesetting and layout is made up of
InDesign users. The biggest battalion in the world of operating
systems is made up of MSWindows users. When I began in computing
the biggest battalion of programmers wrote COBOL for IBM
mainframe computers. Most people format their letters etc. with

Today I do none of these. Follow the herd is not always the wisest
choice. And since in my case all choices are personal I have the
freedom to choose what works best for me. My customers receive an
index in ascii text format or a book laid out in pdf format. How I get
there is strictly my business. I am eclectic, using plan +eplain
for this task, a part of TeXsis for that task, Context for
another, and even LaTeX where it seems to fit best. Skill comes
from specialization, so I specialize in pdftex and Context. I
made the judgment that these two tools offered the most bang per
ounce of effort.  

One of the great virtues of Open Source software in general and
TeX in particular is that obsolescence is not a factor. TeX was
stabilized two decades ago. Plain TeX routines written a decade or 
more ago can still be useful. LaTeX2e is by now a pretty old

If you choose to use TeX and thus not follow the InDesign herd you are not
therefore forced to follow the LaTeX herd either.  If it works
best for you fine. Each workman should choose the tools that fit
most naturally in his hand. But don't be afraid to use plain tex,
or plain pdftex or Context if you find them attractive.  One
suite does not fit all.

John Culleton 
Able Indexing and Typesetting 
Precision typesetting (tm) at reasonable cost.
Satisfaction guaranteed.  http://wexfordpress.com

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