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

Ross Moore ross at maths.mq.edu.au
Tue Nov 16 18:47:01 EST 2004

On 17/11/2004, at 9:54 AM, Mark Smith wrote:

> Chris Goedde wrote:
>> TeX very clearly separates content from formatting.
> ...but not with this.

The OP should have said:  "LaTeX very clearly separates content from 

> Separation of content from formatting is not really what TeX is about. 
> That's more the domain of XML.

XML is quite new technology.
The concept of separation has been around for much, much longer than 
both in LaTeX and in SGML (and doubtless elsewhere, as well).

Lamport's original LaTeX was mostly a set of macros that he devised for 
his own
convenience and that of his colleagues and secretarial staff.
It has grown enormously since then, especially with LaTeX 2e and its 
package mechanism.
That revision tried to place emphasis on the "separation of content 
from formatting".
However, many authors fail to even recognise this aspect, since they 
can use TeX-isms
to force the appearance to be something other than what LaTeX naturally 

Mostly these things need to be ripped-out of manuscripts submitted for 
or combined with other people's work in a Journal or Proceedings volume.
Thus these manuscripts that do not follow "separation of ... " are 
actually much worse
for the author's efforts, rather than being improved by it.

>> In a typical GUI, the separation between these two is much less clear.
> Not really.
> Any word processor COULD make use of an XML file format upon which you
> could run various transforms each of which produces a different style
> variant. Some do (e.g. SendStory or InCopy (allowing that we bunch 
> these in with WPs) or Mellel (which has named styles and (last I 
> heard) was moving towards XML).
> Tex and LaTeX offer a diluted and incomplete separation of content and 
> style, but so do word processors.

LaTeX allows for complete separation, provided the author is prepared 
to do so.

Since the underlying typesetting engine is TeX, then macros and 
need to be defined using TeX, if existing LaTeX structures do not 
Often authors don't bother, and just put the TeX coding into the body of
their document. Here's a recent example from the LaTeX2HTML list:

>> Normally, when I want to indent a paragraph, such as a quotation, I 
>> use
>> {\leftskip=0.75in \rightskip=0.5in Text indented \par} and it works
>> fine

... which of course fails to give an indent in HTML.

LaTeX2HTML cannot interpret this to mean "apply an indent style tag to
that particular paragraph", since it isn't clear where the paragraph 
and ends. Besides, the TeX adjustment is to margins, not the indent,
so how can it "get it right".

>> This has important consequences for usability.
> This is true, but its not particularly relevant to the distinctions
> between TeX and WPs IMO.

Sorry, I disagree.  It's a core aspect.

Haven't you ever seen someone code an equation as:
     $a$ + $b$ = $c$  ?

Some early versions of GUI front-ends to TeX did similar things
to much of the mathematics.

It is important to handle the "context" of the information as well
as its appearance.

This has to be correctly handled when you move bits around
via cut and paste, so that such idiocies are not generated 
In particular it should not be done in a way that redundant 
remain invisible to the user, who then just sees atrocious formatting 
tries to fix it with extra spaces  \,  \;  \!  or \space  etc.
(i.e. by putting more things in, rather than taking things out!)

Now copy/paste that to somewhere else.
The spacing will change again to adapt to the new context.
It's not hard to see how this snowballs and causes frustration.

The difficulty in devising a 'Lite' version of a LaTeX application
is in knowing what to leave out, without restricting too much what
an author can actually do.

Too simple cripples the App, and forces an author into bad habits
that look terrible anyway -- that'll most likely lead to switching back
to  M$ Word.

Too complicated makes it hard to use effectively, without some
guidance from an experienced user, or studying good books.

TeXshop is meant to be an attempt at a reasonably simple interface.
It's certainly friendlier than most that have gone before it.

If you have ideas to make it easier still, without crippling any of its
abilities, I'm sure Richard Koch will be receptive.

Best regards,


> mark.
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