[texhax] TeX for anything [was "... critical text edition]

Uwe Lück uwe.lueck at web.de
Sat Jun 20 13:02:53 CEST 2009

... continuing on the "philosophical" aspect of Pierre MacKay's posting for 
"typesetting of a critical text edition" (nothing new, rather fun):

At 01:41 20.06.09, Pierre MacKay wrote:
>Another way of looking at it ( perhaps an all-too-obvious Unix way) is to 
>avoid forcing system A to do what is much better done by system B.
>When I have something that is an obvious case for emacs, I use emacs.  I 
>do not try to get TeX macros to simulate emacs.  When Perl seems the right 
>choice, I use Perl.
>The argument against this chain of programs is the one that Microsoft 
>constantly blares, that every utility should do everything, including 
>combing one's hair, in one massively complex slushy effort, no matter how 
>inappropriate or incompatible various parts of the  the task are.

Indeed Uwe Lueck constantly blares that TeX should do everything! 
"Microsoft" may (like, e.g., "the poster") be a polite expression for 
people like me who hope that everything could be done with TeX, cf.:

>I just don't think that it is a wise use of resources to try to make TeX 
>pretend that it is Bash, or Perl, or emacs.

In a different thread I already posted


on programming a Mars rover controller with TeX.

>Someone once did a passable Basic interpreter with TeX macros, but I don't 
>think he ever claimed that it should be used in place of Basic, if that 
>was what you needed.

This refers to

     BaSiX (with the emphasis on SICK!) by Andrew Marc Greene

in basix.tex on


TeX forever!

     Uwe Lueck.

P.S.: To contribute something serious, I am trying to summarize arguments 
held elsewhere: The philosophy of the docstrip program: A TeX user may have 
difficulties with some variety of software, either with installing or with 
understanding, or both. And especially a student working at a thesis that 
is a critical text edition may know little on UNIX tools. We can assume 
that she has a working TeX installation, so just use this program, not 
another one. And she has to learn something about TeX and LaTeX anyway, so 
build on this knowledge and practice in reading LaTeX instructions.

Even portability may be better this way since some other utilities are 
called by the same command but work very differently on different 

But Pierre MacKay is quite right if

>The Microsoft black-box solution, cramming every task into the same 
>gargantuan utility, no matter how inappropriate, produces constant 
>frustration, because the resultant programs become so complex that even 
>their authors can't trace the errors.

is interpreted to address implementing features of UNIX utilities in TeX.

On the other hand, a TeX user must learn to live with constant frustration 
regarding some TeX packages anyway ...



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