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[Fcp-general] Algebra Text and Authoring Tools

From: Peter Hutnick
Subject: [Fcp-general] Algebra Text and Authoring Tools
Date: Tue, 27 Apr 2004 11:03:45 -0600
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Ladies and Gentlemen,

If you aren't _too_ shy, please step on up and introduce yourselves. Mike (http://mail.gnu.org/archive/html/fcp-general/2003-08/msg00001.html) and I (http://mail.gnu.org/archive/html/fcp-general/2002-12/msg00001.html) have already done so.

I have posted my Algebra text at http://hutnick.com/writings/fcp/ainh.pdf. There aren't any figures yet, so it is a small download. I am open to suggestions and edits. Oh, and chapters. I'd love to find some chapters in my inbox. (If I'm going to dream, I might as well dream big . . .)

I have collaborated a bit with the Free High School Science Text (http://www.nongnu.org/fhsst/) folks. They are trying to produce printed books for South African students. They are going in a somewhat different direction with their "Maths" text than I am with my Algebra text, but as it progresses I might cannibalize some of it. (If that sounds weird to you, let me know. We can have a discussion about how the FDL works.)

I have made considerable progress on the goal of coming up with a suite of Free software for generating our materials. Sadly, this progress is exclusively in that I have discovered a lot of things that won't work.

LyX on Windows is still not ready for Joe the History teacher or Sue the Physics instructor. LyX's output is problematic anyway.

I can't seem to learn Emacs, so I certainly don't expect anyone else to.

LaTeX seems to be the right thing for textbooks, but I don't expect non-geeks to write LaTeX in a text editor.

OpenOffice.org is Free. It has a much shallower learning curve. It has PDF output. It lacks is print-quality typesetting capabilities. Figure placement, TOC generation, and cross-references are generally more difficult, if not impossible. (As is the case with any word processor.)

The best solution I can see is to prefer large contributions in LaTeX or OO.o and small ones in plain text. (Preferably with UNIX line endings.) It is then a simple matter of training legions of mutant monkeys from outer space to re-create the OO.o generated PDFs with LaTeX.

In any case, I think that TeX (and TeX derivatives, like LaTeX) are the only game in town if we are going to produce credible textbooks.

AbiWord has LaTeX output, but it has only rudimentary figure support. After my experience with LyX I am leery of automatically generated TeX code anyway.

For reference, here's what we're looking for:

A. Good (ideally press photograph ready) quality final output in PostScript(<->PDF).

B. Submissions can be generated with tools that are Free and usable by non-tech types.

  C. Minimal effort on the part of our space monkeys getting from B to A.

Ooh-ooh, Eeh-eeh, long live the FCP!

Peter "Space Monkey Alpha" Hutnick

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