[OS X TeX] overview of what TeX is producing

William F. Adams wadams at atlis.com
Tue Mar 1 08:25:59 EST 2005

On Mar 1, 2005, at 7:30 AM, Jason Davies wrote:

> I have been trying to explain exactly what TeX does to people - not the
> technical stuff but the principles that it enacts typographically. Does
> anyone know of a good source? For instance, I know it calculates the
> spaces between the letters optimally. But are there proportions in the
> defaults that mean the margins are the right size in relation to text,
> in the way that the bottom part of a picture frame is always about 10%
> bigger than the top?

Somewhat. The memoir manual has a good discussion of page proportion,  
as well as providing documentation on some memoir macros to support  
such. Other packages more strictly intended for similar things are  
classics and octavo.

I list it and some other on-line tex documentation at:


Not listed yet, but really needing to be added is the booktabs  


> in other words, *why* is TeX output so elegant to the human eye?

Because Knuth studied typography carefully before attempting to create  
a typesetting system.

> any answers will help.I am being leant on (as ususal) to justify why I
> am not sending people Word documents and have decided to go on the
> offentsive (ie giving up on 'it works better for me') and trying to  
> sell
> them the idea that they are using an inferior set up There's no hope
> that they will adopt TeX - they find Word tricky enough - but I might  
> be
> able to convince them that my results justify the means...

Idris S. Hamid did an interesting paper on this:


And of course there's Allin Cottrell's article ``Word Processors:  
Stupid and Inefficient'':


Here's a list of things which I found awkward on a recent large Word  
project, YMMV:

  - no way to search for and insert index terms automatically (say a  
vessel name is called out in small caps and one wants to generate a  
list of vessels)
  - master / sub documents are said to be buggy and prone to corruption  
--- I have found that they'll change the pagination of a document under  
certain circumstances
  - auto correct interferes w/ search/replace and can result in really  
bizarre results (say if one is trying to set up directional quotes)
  - no typographic ligature support to speak of
  - whether or no character kerning works depends on the minor sub  
version (they break it, they fix it, they break it again.... this cycle  
has been going on since Word 2.0a)

You'll find some pretty cool stuff at http://www.tug.org/texshowcase


William Adams, publishing specialist
voice - 717-731-6707 | Fax - 717-731-6708

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