# [texhax] Obsolete \centerline command used in amsbook class (Uwe L?ck)

Michael Barr barr at math.mcgill.ca
Mon Sep 24 22:48:51 CEST 2012

Very interesting letter from Pierre MacKay.  Of course, I agree with him,
even if most of what I do does involve mathematics.  There are a couple
points I would like to add.

The reason that I chose to harp on \over (and its relatives,
\atop(withdelims)) is that it is tex primitive.  Here is what Knuth has to
say on the subject:  "Control sequences names that are preceded by an
asterisk (*) in this index are primitives of tex; i.e. they are built in.
It may be dangerous to redefine them."  Indeed.  If a control sequence is
made underfined, you can just copy the definition, but if a primitive is,
you are stuck.  I consider that unpardonable.  Okay, it wasn't truly
undefined, but it took work to find it again.

The reason that the journal I do the tex editing for (which uses
exclusively latex 2e) looks a bit careless as mentioned below is that I
just get tired of fighting with authors.  Also we have made a decision to
allow small extrusions into the margins.  Yes, I know that these would
probably not be allowed in the old days, but it just doesn't seem worth
the effort.  If the authors only learned to use our public cls file, they
could fix those themselves, but all too often they don't.  And there has
been at least one paper that I felt strongly about publishing (much more
strongly than the author, oddly enough) that couldn't be published if I
insisted on following our format.

Michael

On Mon, 24 Sep 2012, Pierre MacKay wrote:

> On 9/24/2012 1:25 PM, Michael Barr wrote:
>> I couldn't agree more.  I suppose that, for some values of "undefine",
>> amslatex doesn't undefine \over.  I mistakenly thought it did since I got
>> the error: \over undefined control sequence.  Eventually, by tracking down
>> the definition of \frac, I did find \@@over.  Yes, it never occurred to me
>> to first let \let\OVER\over before loading the file and then \let\over\OVER
>> after.  It is a useful suggestion actually.
>>
>> If Latex3 really disallows things it doesn't like, I am afraid the tex
>> community will fork and one branch (perhaps a very small branch) will not
>> adopt it.  Is that what the implementers want.  I get intimations that they
>> are seriously thinking of disallowing \def and \let.
>>
> Michael is making a very significant point here. and if the Latex3 branch
> were actually to redefine or disable such primitives I suspect that Don
> Knuth's particular interest in archival stability might end up disappearing
> too.
>
> The argument is accepted in this thread that LaTeX in its most extreme forms
> is "more sophisticated," but I am not sure that it is.  The LaTeX interest
> always corrects me when I suggest that LaTeX's penchant for making simple
> things difficult makes some things virtually impossible.  Michael,  however,
> has given a good example of this failing.  I suppose, but am not absolutely
> sure, that most of the things I need could be done with \newcommands and a
> level of nested parameters that would make even a C++ programmer blench, but
> why should I bother.  I hardly use math mode at all, and I find, quite
> frankly, that a great deal of what I can identify as LaTeX formatting in
> journals that presumably impose fairly rigid limits on what a contributing
> author can get away with, is rather slovenly in some regards.  Scientific
> articles may require speed even more than the sort of things I do typesetting
> for, but there is pressure even in humanities publishing for on time
> delivery.  There is also a strong requirement that a design specification
> dating from many years earlier (lead type) be respected except in rare
> instances.  Some of the most desirable features I have not even yet managed
> to make function really correctly, but I am working on them.  Considering the
> trouble I have had with a simple invoice letter, which is one of the only
> places I actually use LaTeX, I am left to doubt whether I could ever hope to
> get such sophistications into shape in a syntax that hides from me almost all
> the values I need to track.
>
> By all means advocate LaTeX in production environments where it is
> appropriate, but please be kind enough not to exile those of us who have
> different requirements for different kinds of beautiful books.
>
> Pierre MacKay
>

--
The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in
moral philosophy--the search for a superior moral justification
for selfishness.  --J.K. Galbraith