[OS X TeX] Preparing A Textbook Using Mac/TeX

William Adams will.adams at frycomm.com
Fri Sep 29 09:00:25 EDT 2006

On Sep 28, 2006, at 7:58 PM, Jeffrey Weimer wrote:

> This is a query about the use of TeX on MacOS X for preparing a  
> college level textbook. I apologize if it is too off-topic. I am  
> gathering information, and this list seemed like one place to post.  
> Recommendations for other resources would be greatly appreciated.

First off, this would probably be better for TeXhax or comp.text.tex.  
I'll post some quick notes below and you can then let us know where  
the follow-up would be.

> Background
> ----------------
> After teaching an engineering course for over 10 years, I have  
> accumulated a wealth of practice/exam/homework problems (TeX) with  
> solutions (Maple/Igor Pro/Excel), a mass of lecture notes  
> (PowerPoint), images (some in ClarisDraw on Classic!), reference  
> URLs, and text notes (TeX). I am now running around with a strong  
> desire to put this all into a complete, coherent package to sell  
> somewhere.

One thing you'll need to do is to get the graphics into some  
standardized set of formats suitable for pre-press production if  
you're going to be typesetting this yourself.

> Outcome
> -----------
> The outcome I foresee is a self-contained textbook/CD with  
> interactive, hyper-referenced text, images, and problems.

Interesting, but a thorny difficulty here is that each publisher has  
their own preferences / expectations for a CD-ROM version, so this  
may be a hard sell, or you may find a publisher who's willing to turn  
the CD-ROM over to you in its entirety. Have you read any of the  
``get your book published'' books?

> Plan of Attack
> ------------------
> I am investigating OmniOutliner as a starting point for the  
> organization of all the "stuff". I see it is scriptable and has a  
> LaTeX converter, which means Outlines -> TeX/LaTeX might be  
> possible as an efficient, rapid way to compose the document  
> skeleton and then compile the document content. I also know Maple  
> exports to LaTeX, and it has an internal "problem creating"  
> environment as well. I am also querying book publishers about their  
> "on-line" problem development tools as a way to create interactive  
> quizzes and study sets of problems (we use the OWL system here for  
> our Chemistry courses as an example). I have also just found the  
> exerquiz package at CTAN, suggesting that I can get away from  
> "proprietary" publisher specific tools (such as OWL and/or  
> MapleSoft) to make interactive, self-contained problem sets.

Sounds good, but see above.

> The Questions
> --------------------
> 1) What TeX implementation would be "best" for all this? Right now,  
> I use TeXShop with LaTeX. I am open to learning a different setup  
> (ie, ConTeX???) for the advantages of better integration with all  
> the document management tasks.

Well, if you're using exerquiz you'd seem to need to stick to LaTeX  
(which is fine).

> 2) What TeX packages are recommended to help me better integrate/ 
> oversee the "stuff" when it needs to be compiled (perhaps this is  
> answered in the above question). For example, I remember mention of  
> a "problemset???" package that allows one to keep problems  
> organized in folders with sub-folders, but I cannot seem now to  
> find the reference. The exerquiz package looks like it could be  
> useful. What else would be useful (TeX or non-TeX)?

Dave Walden has done some nifty articles for TUGboat / Practical TeX  
on this. My suggestion would be to start out by joining TUG, reading  
through the old issues and checking through archives of various  
mailing lists and comp.text.tex --- it's been a rare book I've worked  
on where every difficulty I've encountered wasn't solved either in  
the FAQ, by using a package on CTAN or finding just the right post  
here, on texhax or on usenet:comp.text.tex.

> Any other pointers from someone who has traveled this road would be  
> greatly appreciated. I welcome any and all feedback and suggestions.

Well, one thing which hasn't been mentioned is the idea of the form  
your submission to a publisher will take --- Peter Wilson's memoir  
has a draft mode which matches the traditional form for this quite  
nicely. If you don't find a publisher you'll need to cover all the  
bases which they do, editing and proofreading, a design, pre-press  
issues, CD-duplication &c.

Here's a .pdf which does an excellent job of noting what should be  
done when in book production and may spur you to think of some things  
you've neglected:



William Adams
senior graphic designer
Fry Communications

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