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

Bruno Voisin bvoisin at mac.com
Sat May 8 16:07:08 EDT 2004

Le 8 mai 04, à 16:20, Joachim Kock a écrit :

>> 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.

As much as I agree with you on the fact that input is more important 
than output, I would like to correct what you said in one respect: the 
emphasis on structural markup is a LaTeX feature, not in plain TeX.

For those not familiar with these concepts: TeX is the engine, the 
compiler taking a .tex file as input and producing as output a file 
that can be visualized (to simplify, let's say a .pdf file). This TeX 
engine defines only a basic set of commands, called primitives, such as 
\displaystyle, clearly insufficient for normal usage.

By default TeX is shipped with a format, called "plain TeX", defining 
more commands, such as \centerline, permitting to actually produce 
documents. LaTeX is another format, defining many many more commands, 
such as \begin{center} and \end{center}.

plain TeX has no notion of styles or environments. It works much more 
in a visual way, basically putting boxes above boxes side-by-side to 
other boxes. This makes it rather straightforward to produce party 
invitations, flyers, letters, etc. See, for example, the concert 
program example in Appendix E of the TeXbook.

LaTeX, on the contrary, emphasizes document structure, taking care of 
the visual formatting through styles and letting the user only input 
the matter of the document, not the way this matter will be presented. 
While very convenient for writing journal articles, books, 
collaborative work, this is extremely tedious for writing private 
correspondence, arts documents, in that you have to redefine many 
commands, or write a custom style, or be fortunate enough that somebody 
on the net has written a style for exactly the formatting that you 
need. In this respect LaTeX is stubbornly psycho-rigid and a PITA.

Unfortunately, using plain TeX routinely is not an option, because of 
the multimedia capabilities of LaTeX (graphics, colors, hyperlinks, 
inclusion of movies, etc.), totally absent from plain TeX. ConTeXt, I 
was told, though not totally polished, brings the best of both worlds 
to the user; I'm hoping one day i'll have time to give it a serious 

Bruno Voisin
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