[OS X TeX] Focus (was: Various TeX programs on Mac)

Graham A. Niblo G.A.Niblo at soton.ac.uk
Sat May 8 10:38:37 EDT 2004

While there is much in what Joachim there are situations where the 
linear text editor input gets in the way of good communication. The 
principal area where this seems to be a problem is when using tex to 
produce presentation slides where the nesting of slides and overlays 
quickly gets confusing, and where the emphasis on paragraphs and pages 
is inappropriate. The TeX engine is of course designed around the 
concept of boxes and these are more natural units when designing and 
manipulating slides, and a non-linear editor that enabled one to layout 
boxes on the page then ask TeX to fill them with specified content 
would be a big leap forward. AN interactive system that allowed one to 
adjust the box sizes and get Tex to reset the content on the fly would 
be even better. This does go against the philosophy of focussing on 
meaning rather than appearance, but too little focus on appearance can 
cloud the meaning, as anyone who has sat through a presentation 
consisting of pages from a paper will attest.

My ideal would be a window or pane in which one uses drawing tools to 
specify containers (boxes) and a text input window where one enters tex 
code. Selecting a container allows one to edit it's shape using drawing 
tools, or to specify its content by typing tex into the input window.

Having said all this much of this functionality is offered using 
Equation editor (or pdf cut and paste) together with Keynote and better 
integration with Keynote might be a better solution. A Keynote plugin 
that rendered text using the TeX engine would be the perfect solution.


On 8 May 2004, at 10:20, Joachim Kock wrote:

>> The *main* focus is the output, not the input.
>> The object being the PDF, its data being the code.
> I disagree.  The main focus is the text you are writing.  The text 
> *is* the
> source: it is the content and it is the clear expression of its 
> structure.
> The form is secondary.  You submit your paper to one journal, you 
> change
> the sty file and submit it to another; you copy and paste from one 
> document
> to another without worrying about the layout; you change notation 
> throughout
> the document by changing a single definition in the preamble.  The main
> philosophy of TeX is to concentrate on content and structure and let 
> form
> be a secondary issue.
> If you put emphasis on the pdf then you open up for bad tex habits:
>   "Let {\it x} be a point in {\it M}"
> will seem to be as good as
>   "Let $x$ be a point in $M$"
> because the output is identical.
> While I welcome current efforts on this list to popularise TeX on the 
> Mac
> and to make it more accessible to the novice, I find it extremely 
> important
> also to educate the newcomer, who most likely has been corrupted by 
> practice.  The crucial message to the novice should be about the idea 
> of
> TeX --- explain the benefit of markup language.  TeX is not about how 
> to
> produce a pdf document, it's about structuring your writing, and 
> ultimately
> your thinking.  Of course you cannot start a tutorial with this sort of
> highbrow advice --- you realise all this only after years of 
> experience ---
> but at least care must be taken not to hide the philosophy and not to 
> lead
> the new user in the wrong direction with superficial 'friendliness'.  
> This
> goes for front-end design as well as for tutorial writing.
> Concretely, one thing that receives very much attention is the ability 
> to
> see the pdf (or other output) all the time.  But wanting to see the 
> output
> all the time is the new user's bad habit.  In fact it is very 
> consuming to
> switch from typing to viewing, not only in terms of computing time but 
> also
> mentally.  It is all too easy to get distracted by some formatting 
> detail
> while in fact you were formulating your deep thoughts.  If you bake a 
> cake
> you don't want to taste the dough each time you add a new ingredient.  
> If
> you knit a sweater you don't want to try it on each time you finish a
> needle.  Why do so many new tex users press 'Typeset' or 'ViewPDF' all 
> the
> time?  Partly because they are too focused on the pdf, partly it is too
> easy!  (But of course I don't want to blame the software designers for 
> this
> --- at the final stages of redaction and typesetting the ease of 
> switching
> between .tex and .pdf is crucial for your productivity.)
> The bottomline: back to the source.
> Cheers,
> Joachim.
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