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

Alain Schremmer schremmer.alain at
Sun Jan 4 09:30:04 EST 2009

On Jan 4, 2009, at 1:39 AM, Jean-Christophe Helary wrote:

> On dimanche 04 janv. 09, at 14:00, Alain Schremmer wrote:

(tha's a funny mix)

Basically, of course, you are 100% correct and so was Ross'

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

In particular I suppose that, indeed,

> They probably have macros that convert "properly" typed French to  
> those escape sequences

Even though we never stopped speaking French at home, I rarely write  
in French and never French in LaTeX. So, last night, I tried. I was  
wrong and you are right.

But the question is much larger than that and, in fact, is perhaps  
THE fundamental question in Open Source.

A few years ago, I started using Carsten Heinz's polynom.sty for long  
division but it does not do long division in ascending order and so I  
wrote to Heinz but it eventually seemed that Heinz had disappeared  
from the face of the earth. polynom was eventually taken over as a  
maintainer by Hendri Adriaens who explained to me that he couldn't do  
any developmental work on it because "It redefined some internal of  
keyval, making it crash with any package using xkeyval."

But the problem is even deeper than that.

A very long time ago, I developed a text as a substitute for an intro  
course at my school. A number of people there used it but one said  
"The new one is not perfect and so I will continue to use the old  
one"—the irony of course being that the old one was terrible. At the  
time, the term "open source" had a long time before it would even be  
coined and it didn't occur to any of us that the colleague could have  
tried to improve the text and I had other things to do. But even now  
that open source exists, things remain the same. It is usually  
difficult to get people to work collaboratively on open source and  
the utter truth is the Hestenes dictum:

"Early in my career, I naively thought that if you give a good idea  
to competent mathematicians or physicists,they will work out its  
implications for themselves. I have learned since that most of them  
need the implications spelled out in utter detail."

And the reflex is still with us: "It is not perfect" —sometimes far  
from it, but then the question is "who is going to make it so?"  
Obviously not the user who barely understands the package enough to  
use it. Obviously not the creator who wants to create some more.

As far as I know—but I don't really know much in this case, XeTeX is  
the work of only a very, very few people. Obviously, being aware of  
all that there is to do on XeTeX, the documentation is not foremost  
in their mind. And, by the way, that too is a general problem.


When I started with LaTeX, a few years ago, in English, just getting  
an installation took me several very painful weeks. (It had been so  
painful that I got incensed at an "introductory" article in PracTeX  
and wrote to the Editor … who deftly conned me in writing one  
myself.) And, today, there is MacTeX.

So, things do change for the better and even documentation issue  
might have found a solution with the wiki in that this might be where  
people might place the result of their own experiences and where  
incrementation would make it that the wheel would not have to be  
constantly reinvented.

Sympathetic regards

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