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Re: [Groff] troff syntax and useability

From: Jim Reid
Subject: Re: [Groff] troff syntax and useability
Date: Tue, 27 Aug 2002 15:05:09 +0100

>>>>> "Rob" == Rob Scovell <address@hidden> writes:

    Rob> I am assuming the syntax is as terse as it is because it was
    Rob> initially developed in the days when disk space was precious.

No, though the available RAM and disk space in those days did have
some bearing on things, just as they had on the UNIX kernel and other
tools. The syntax of troff was derived from roff, a text formatter
used at MIT in the early 70s.

    Rob>  Why can't it be made easier or more obvious? 

Because it's not meant for mere mortals! We're supposed to use macro
packages and leave the experts to write these things in the ugly troff
language. A good analogy is to compare troff with assembly language:
it's powerful, hard to understand or debug, and too messy for just
anyone to use. Now someone could write an OS or window manager in
assembler, but most programmers are sensible enough to realise this is
not a practical way to proceed. For troff, macros are the way to go
because you can focus on the content and structure of the document
rather than what the typesetter underneath is actually doing.

    Rob> If my aim is to produce postscript, why should I have to
    Rob> start with something that is more difficult than postscript?

So don't start there. Use a macro package and have the complexity
taken care of for you.

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