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Re: [Nmh-workers] manpage table help

From: Robert Elz
Subject: Re: [Nmh-workers] manpage table help
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2013 11:38:28 +0700

    Date:        Wed, 20 Feb 2013 21:09:02 -0500
    From:        Ken Hornstein <address@hidden>
    Message-ID:  <address@hidden>

Most of this has been answered before, but ...

  | Specifically, what are the \w'/rnd/phyl/Mail/EP ' 

\w is "the width of" - followed by a delimiter, a string whose width
(or length if you prefer) is calculated, using the current font, point
size, etc, and all of that replaces the \w string

  | stuff (it doesn't even appear in the output!),

It is setting the locations of the tab stops, which then defines the
widths of the columns, so it appears, but indirectly..

  | the 'u.

The ' is the closing delimiter from the \w (the space is just a character, not
a field separator), the 'u' is appended to the result of the width calculation,
as that will be in basic internals units (u's) - rather than points, or inches
or something (the default unit for the ta command is probably n's).

  | but I don't understand waht the \0 is for.

\0 is a space, that is the same width as the character 0 (rather than
just however wide it needs to be).  It is useful when lining up columns
of numbers, which have leading zeroes suppressed (which is why \0 is used
as the input) - the space that suppresses the unnecessary 0 needs to be
the same width as the 0 would be, or the numbers don't correctly line up
under the ones in the previous row (or above the ones in the next row.)

  | Also ... why, exactly, do we use \- instead of -?

A - gives a hyphen, which is a very narrow dash, \- is a minus sign,
which is wider and positioned vertically slightly differently.

When you're just dealing with ascii, you don't care, but when things are
being typeset, using a hyphen where you mean minus looks really ugly, and
using a minus (or a n or m dash \(en and \(em, which are even wider) in
the wrong places all look ugly.  The most common gets the easy input
sequence, and in normal text, that's hyphen.

address@hidden (in a later message) said:
 | Ok ... so I guess /rnd/phyl/Mail/EP was the MH home directory of someone at
 | RAND 30+ years ago?

It would be the directory of a a particular folder (+EP in mh command syntax).
Usually that string would appear in the table somewhere, the width for the
tab stops would be calculated using the field from the widest entry in the
column.   Knowing what that is can be tricky... (so ideally one would use
tbl to build tables, rather than doing it by hand this way) - but when doing
stuff like man pages, one can usually select the input so that there's no
real problem knowing which row has the widest entry in each column.


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