[texhax] TeX

Jay Hammond homemade at talktalk.net
Fri Mar 7 15:38:09 CET 2008

On 6 Mar 2008 at 11:40, Thomas Brendel wrote:

> Hi,
> we have to print/reformat some old but voluminous software
> documentation written in TeX. But we cannot find a suitable
> LaTeX.exe  nor a 'converter' say to MS-Windows.
> We are running MS-Office and Win XP on a WINTEL systems.
> Could you give us  a hint how to overcome this problem?
> Thank you and best regards,
> Thomas Brendel

It is possible that there is no suitable LaTeX processor because you 
have (plain) TeX source. New LaTeX processors are used to going into 
compatibility mode - for older LaTeX sources. This is automatic. So 
If you've tried a new LaTeX and it does not work at all, try a  plain 
TeX instead.

If neither works for you, we readers of this texhax list might offer 
more relevant help  if we could see what you tried, and why you 
thought it failed.

The top few lines of your source and what tool you fed it to would be 
useful too.  And/or perhaps you could post the log file(s) with the 
errors in it?

>From the what I know so far, the  cheapest solution  will be to use 
TeX family software to process your source to a pdf.  (e.g. Lyx, 
Winedt  with TeXlive, MikTeX etc as suggested). This rule of thumb 
will weaken as you choose to make your changes to the documentation 
more extensive.  Clearly, by the time you choose to have a rewrite of 
the content, and a radically different format, there's nothing left 
to re-use in your sources. You may then choose whatever publishing 
system suits you and the task.   And your choice will depend on 
whether you already have  expertise in a (sufficiently) appropriate 
publishing system. if none, LaTeX & ConTeXt are worth considering 
again.  I advise against Word for voluminous documentation. It's not 
sold as or designed for producing long or complex documents. From my 
own experience Word  2000 can't cope with 30 pages of publisher's 
catalogue (too complex), and 500 pages of doctoral thesis (mostly 
running  text) will start to break features.  TeX is noted for its 
good support of long documents, robustness when providing complex 
features and especially for its support of mathematical notation.

I believe that any conversion  to Word  that you try  will be only 
partly automatic, error prone (both manual and automatic aspects) and 
may not adhere to the formatting conventions you demand.  You should 
do better with conversion to XML/SGML. That probably won't be 
painless either.

If, as it seems, you no longer have TeX/LaTeX expertise in-house, you 
may prefer to hire someone rather than process the source in house at 
the expense of your  time. TeX consultants are findable. Your local 
TeX user group could perhaps advise on someone local. 

Of course I'd warmly encourage you to  learn TeX/LaTeX, especially if 
the budget is really tight, but it _is time consuming. I think it's 
fair to say plain TeX has a steep learning curve, and LaTeX a 
somewhat shallower one.   Which brings us back to deciding whether 
you have plain TeX or LaTeX source.

I hope these hints move you further forward.

> IDB  -  Dr. Brendel Consultant Engineers 

Jay Hammond
homemade at homemade.free-online.co.uk

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