[texhax] Latex: dumbing down? (fwd)

Victor Ivrii vivrii at gmail.com
Mon Aug 28 03:38:44 CEST 2006

On 8/27/06, John R. Culleton <john at wexfordpress.com> wrote:

> 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
> MSWord.

OK, I am a professional mathematician and for me as for majority of my
colleagues TeX is a natural tool to publish (on paper or
electronically). As far as math publishing is concerned MSW is
completely inadequate (and I find that for anything else - letters,
posters, etc (La)TeX is the best for me. I doubt that inDesign can
handle math adequately.

What is more: MSW is not typesetter and inDesign is not a word/text
processor. So the writing and typesetting are disjoint processes
performed by different people. For mathematicians (and many different
scientists) it is completely wrong.

> 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.

Agreed but one needs to define what is covered by "work"

> 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.

If your customers agree with this , good for them and for you. I would
not. This is not a flame but just explanation of my position. May be
there is misunderstanding. I published my first paper in 1969 and
until 1990 when I moved to the West the procedure of publication was
the following: I typed paper on typewriter, wrote formulae by hand,
sent to the publisher and it was either type-setted or photocopied.
Should I mention that I have not a single copy of a single article
published at this period? Not exactly: I digitalized my 20-yold book
in djvu. Some papers were digitalized. However, I cannot make (almost)
any changes [unless I retype them or export textual part, type
formulae and introduce TeX formatting [on the contrary, all my later
articles are under my control]. When your customers get (the
beautiful) pdf they are almost in the same position. What happens if
they want to publish the second edition, corrected and extended few
years later? Or want to use the part of their books as lecture

> 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
> product.

And I found that porting from AMSTeX to LaTeX and especially from 2.09
to 2e is VERY easy.

> 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.

Agreed, but ... there is "worked" which includes not only good pdf but
acceptance in the journal. I suspect that if I send eplain and
especially context source to the journal, the publishers would look at
it like a rabbi on the piece of pork :-)
> --
> John Culleton
> Able Indexing and Typesetting
> Precision typesetting (tm) at reasonable cost.
> Satisfaction guaranteed.  http://wexfordpress.com

Victor Ivrii, Department of Mathematics, University of Toronto

More information about the texhax mailing list