[nSLUG] Learning TEX

George N. White III gnwiii at gmail.com
Wed May 30 12:53:35 ADT 2007

On 5/30/07, Jeff Warnica <jeff at coherentnetworksolutions.com> wrote:

> I personally avoid TeX and LaTeX entirely, but the consensus is that
> just about everyone should avoid straight TeX and use LaTeX (or one of
> the other "high level" macro packages).

If you need non-trivial mathematics, (La)TeX is almost certainly the best
tool.   If you want the best line-breaks and appearance (micro-kerning
and optically aligned margins) (La)TeX can be every bit as good as the
best commercial tools such as InDesign.  My wife used (plain) TeX to
create a simple fan-fold brochure.  Her printer remarked  that he hadn't
seen anything as nicely done in years (this was a few years ago, before
InDesign was released).

> If you are looking to make documents that look reasonable, multiple
> output formats, automatic ToC, indexes, sections, pagebreaks, etc...
> Use Docbook. If you need formulas, you can use MathML, or just make
> images from very small (La)TeX sources.

There are tools to translate MathML to TeX for high quality layout.   The
big issue for using MathML today is still finding and configuring math fonts.

If you use (La)TeX today, your best bet is to use TeX's original font machinery
(e.g., .tfm -- TeX Font Metrics) files with PostScript Type 1 fonts.
All that is about
to change, but the bugs are going to be plentiful for a few years.

Apple, Adobe, and Microsoft are all implementing the Open Font Format
standard, and linux gets support for the fonts from Freedesktop/xorg,
I don't think anyone has actually implemented and used everything in
the standard. XeTeX (which can process LaTeX documents) was originally
developed on Apple OS X to use native fonts but has been ported to
Windows and linux.

What makes things interesting for open source is that the people who
really need the new features are doing the work, so the center of mass
amoung developers is shifting to the far east.  Many long-time users in
the west have a "if it works for me, don't fix it" attitude, but the reality is
that the number of people interested in maintaining and supporting the
original TeX font code is declining.

George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia

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