[OS X TeX] Who should use (La)TeX - who is able to use it?

Arno Kruse arnokruse at macnews.de
Sun Nov 14 08:21:46 EST 2004

Dear members of the list,

For years I read the articles which are announced in this list with
great interest; I got  many suggestions and a lot of help - please
accept my best thanks.
But during the last months a worrying feeling was arising more and
more, especially when reading the lot of sometimes extremely
complicated questions and answers: Is a "normal" user generally capable
to use  LaTeX?

A "normal" user:
I simply think of a person without absorbed interest in:
operating systems;
typographical rules;
installing questions;
learning commands;
and so on.

A "normal" person, using w… or a comparable WYSIWYG-program.

A person that
- is accustomed to click an icon in order to format text is now
constrained to write \emph{} or \textbf{};
- uses tabulators has to dive into the difficulties of \tabbing or
\tabular;
- applies a handful of fonts TeX does not know about must deal with
difficulties only few persons in this universe understand;
- and so on…

I hope you understand what I mean. Now and then a colleague - I am
teacher at a grammar school in Germany - indicates interest in my
latex-texshop written worksheets, and when I tell about LaTeX, there is
a lot of attention. But nobody is willing to learn what is necessary,
they continue working with w… or Ragtime.

What to do?

It is easy to criticise, but tedious to make things better. Let me give
some ideas what we might do:

1. Most important: It must be much easier to use LaTeX. This begins
with the installation. Thanks to Gerben (next year in january I shall
finally transfer an amount to him, he is doing a great work) it is
quite easy for us, but not for a normal user, who is used to
double-click an icon, the rest is done without  pains.

2. People do not like to learn abstract commands, specially when they
get older; they need visual helps. The meaning of an icon they
understand and keep in mind, the correlating command they forget. So
Richard K. and Jérôme L. should end their quarreling, start working
together and concentrate on improving "iShop", making it usable easyly
for a normal user.

3. There must be a version of TeX that is suitable for the majority of
users - something like "Standard-TeX". This  "Standard-TeX" should
satisfy about 95% of the needs of all users. All relevant packages must
be included, the user ought to find them without difficulties; the
icons and helps other programs apply must exist in a similar way.
The experts may then customize their installation the way they like.

4. The  future frontend "iShop" must  offer tabulars; Jérôme und
Richard are qualified to solve the intern difficulties when they
utilize the tabbing- or the tabular environment.

5. The problems concerning  fonts cannot be solved immediately, I know,
but the present state is completely beyond the pale.

Enough.
I hope the reader understands my motivation and my sorrows (and looks
after my decent ability to write English in a good manner). I fear TeX,
LaTeX and Co. are in danger to die out whether they do not match the
needs "normal" people are asking for.

arno

P.S.: I have tried out Lyx, and Lyx fulfils some of the points I
mentioned. But I do not like it, it is not mac-like.
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