Re: Documentation (was Re: [OS X TeX] Kanbun (漢文) and French...)

Alex Ross alex at
Sun Jan 4 01:59:05 EST 2009

On Jan 3, 2009, at 10:39 PM, Jean-Christophe Helary wrote:

> On dimanche 04 janv. 09, at 14:00, Alain Schremmer wrote:
>> On Jan 3, 2009, at 8:54 PM, Jean-Christophe Helary wrote:
>>> If it uses the default Computer Modern (for whatever reason)
>> The reason, I think, is historical. Computer Modern was developed  
>> by Knuth and, to quote Companion 2ed, "until the early 1990s,  
>> essentially only those fonts were usable with TeX". As far as I  
>> know, it is what I am still using. (But then I don't really care  
>> about fonts.) Page 346 of Companion 2 ed, though, has a subsection  
>> entitled "Changing the default text fonts".
> Ok so, this is a software design choice that is almost 15 years old.
> (If typesetting is so much about how the result looks, you'd surely  
> agree that putting the "changing the default text fonts" on page 346  
> is also an interesting documentation design choice.)
> But I am not here to complain. Really. I do a lot of volunteer work  
> in other areas of the free software world (test/bug reports/user  
> support/documentation) and I fully understand the difference in  
> point of view between developers and users, especially when seen  
> with such a historical distance.
> Still, Unicode has been around for some time already, and since, for  
> example, some engines like XeteX are meant to provide better support  
> for it, including OSX fonts support, it seems to me that a good  
> start would be to use a default font that covers more Latin  
> characters...
> I have just found this reference to "Computer Modern" on my HD:
>> A beginner's introduction to typesetting with LaTeX
>> \LaTeX{}'s default font is Computer Modern (based on Monotype  
>> Series†8: see the table on p.\thinspace\pageref{fontable-mf}), not  
>> Times Roman, and some people get upset because it `looks different'  
>> to Times.
> The file dates from 2005.
> But as a 1995-2008 Mac user (and we are on a Mac list here, aren't  
> we ?), I'd like to say that the issue is not how the font looks, but  
> how much characters it covers (besides for the fact that I have no  
> idea where Computer Modern is located on my machine so I can't even  
> check what it supports by using the system provided tools). In that  
> respect Times New Roman is a much better choice because it supports:
>> Afrikaans, Albanian, Azerbaijani, Basque, Belarusian, Bulgarian,  
>> Catalan, Cornish, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English,  
>> Esperanto, Estonian, Faroese, Finnish, French, Galician, German,  
>> Greek, Hawaiian, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian,  
>> Kalaallisut, Kazakh, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay,  
>> Maltese, Manx, Norwegian Bokmål, Norwegian Nynorsk, Oromo, Polish,  
>> Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Somali,  
>> Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Uzbek, Vietnamese,  
>> Welsh
> by default.
> So, instead of having to explain new users that their language is a  
> problem so they need to specify something to override the defaults,  
> just using TNR (for example) in XeteX (for example) would solve a  
> major documentation issue for that many languages !
>>> it _is_ making a design choice.
>> I beg to disagree. It is just a default value. By your logic, a TeX  
>> installation ought to come without any preset font. I sure would  
>> have hated that when I first started with LaTeX. There was enough  
>> that I didn't understand without having to deal with fonts.
> A default value is a software design choice. And by "my" logic, the  
> default should be what is most adapted to users at the time of  
> release. In a predominantly "Latin" environment, a font that covers  
> the most of Latin languages should be the default.
> Without using XeteX, if I try to use the information found here:
> My text (plain) does not work. I find that the problems start at the  
> use of French "« " quotation marks.
> Similarly, the French translation of « The not so short Introduction  
> to LaTeX 2e » (where French quotation marks are used on the HP)  
> proposes a simple template that will not accept those quotation marks.
> Even the paragraph about "guillements" (p 19) does not provide  
> correct information: "ou bien utilisez directement « et » si vous  
> disposez d’un moyen de saisir ces caractères." That did not work  
> (and I checked the encoding etc...)
> I just learned in the MacTex documentation that this translation is  
> not up to date, but the September 2008 version of the original only  
> proposes similar escape sequences to type French...
> I mention the 2 above links because on my side of Google they are  
> the top 2 links. Where else am I supposed to find relevant  
> information ? The Readme file in the MacTex packages does not point  
> to anything readily useable for my purposes...
>>> It seems to me that making things uselessly obfuscated to be able  
>>> to type a few French accents (or other latin characters, since  
>>> Latin seems to be the default in Computer Modern) is also a design  
>>> choice.
>> This is the first time I hear about anyone having difficulties with  
>> accents in French or Italian or Spanish. For that matter, I tried  
>> to read Companion 2 ed on the subject but didn't go anywhere. The  
>> setting of the default language would appear to be somewhere deep  
>> down. But what I don't understand is that LaTeX is used in France  
>> fairly widely and I can't believe that everyone there went through  
>> the same hassle.
> My understanding is that most of the people who have used LateX for  
> a while use the default settings and type things like:
> Mon num\’ero de t\’el\’ephone va changer. \‘A partir du 18 octobre,  
> ce sera le \mbox{0561 336 330}.
> They probably have macros that convert "properly" typed French to  
> those escape sequences.
> After all, that is what the available documentation tells them to do.
> People who have used Latex for a while and who follow the  
> developments, would know about recent evolutions, encodings, font  
> settings and would have changed their default settings accordingly.  
> But from a software development perspective, you'd expect the  
> software to take such new defaults into accounts so as to ease the  
> burden on the user.
> How many times will it have to be said that "the encoding, the font  
> and the engine must be properly selected" to get a proper display ?  
> And to how many languages will that information have to be  
> translated (55 if you take into account the languages supported by  
> TNR and most probably not supported by Computer Modern). That is a  
> huge amount of energy on the part of user support list members.
>> Whatever is wrong though, and if I understand your frustration, may  
>> I say that letting it show doesn't exactly entice people to try to  
>> help you.
> Well, I have properly renamed that subthread to indicate issues with  
> the available documentation.
> My frustrations with the package comes from that and exclusively that.
> Haven't I downloaded close to 2gb of data only to find that the  
> documentation was not really "user friendly" ?
> And the remarks about the XeteX pages may read as rants, but please,  
> take the time to look at them with an objective eye, along with the  
> rest of the documentation that is. I am not accusing XeteX to be  
> especially obscure. I am just saying that people who would have some  
> use for the package (multilingual writers familiar with OSX, among  
> others) may not be familiar with this whole TeX thing and deserve  
> that the 2 or 3 lines that address their issues be displayed a  
> little more prominently on the relevant pages.
> Besides for that, thank you for all your comments and hints. That  
> did help me a huge lot.

Well, I see you are frustrated by (La)TeX.  Welcome to the club.


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