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Some thoughts on Latex, troff, and lout

From: Gene Kim
Subject: Some thoughts on Latex, troff, and lout
Date: Tue, 2 Nov 1993 16:53:41 -0500

    Here are some thoughts on Lout -- basically reasons why I haven't
used it, despite my best attempts.  I list two tools that I'd love to
work on that would make Lout my doctool of choice.


    I used to detest Latex, having used troff very happily for 6
years.  I'm currently in a paper writing track right now, and I've
been forced to use Latex to generate these documents.

    The syntax of TeX, IMHO, is detestable.  The first time I saw a
TeX template file, I got itchy all over.  I kept thinking, "How could
a guy like Knuth come up with something so hideous as this?!?"

    Now I use Latex by choice.  The Computer Modern typeface doesn't
seem quite as awkward and goofy as it did six years ago, or for that
matter, three weeks ago.  The Latex style files and Bibtex program
provide simple (if not quite aesthetically pleasing) mechanisms to do
most of what I want.  

    (I can't prove it, but Latex seems very bad at laying out
PostScript text.  I think the vertical spacing is too tight and
horiztonal spacing, too.)

    I was very used to hacking up troff macro files -- odd that I
don't find myself hacking TeX template files (thank God).  I like
'refer' better than Bibtex, but I'm coping.  In short, Latex is
serving my needs well, but I hate to admit it.

    I would love to switch to lout.  It looks full of promise, and I
like the abstractions and syntax.  I haven't used it because of the

        1.  Not enough support for citations.  Hooks for a program like
            bibtex or refer is really essential for writing papers.

        2.  No hook for graphical previewers for X11.  Sorry, Ghostview
            doesn't cut it.  It's very slow compared to xditview,
            xtroff, or (blyeach) xdvi.

        3.  (related to above)  maybe some amount of "device independence"
            is good?  Who really cares about non-PostScript devices,
            but previewing without having to interpret PostScript code
            would be nice.

    (1) could be solved with a bunch of Perl scripts, I think.  I'd
write it, but until (2) is fixed, I probably wouldn't use it!  (It may
be because I'm so used to the paradigm of "write text, preview to
count pages and gratify desire to 'see layout', write text, preview,
write text, preview, then finally print".

    I'd love to hear how people have used Lout.  I'd be very interested
in hearing how often/well/proficiently/exclusively Jeff K. uses Lout!


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