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Re: [Groff] Eric Raymond on groff and TeX

From: Meg McRoberts
Subject: Re: [Groff] Eric Raymond on groff and TeX
Date: Thu, 3 May 2012 15:57:53 -0700 (PDT)

Hi, Eric,
Nice to know that you're still monitoring this list...

I was involved in converting some documents from a home-grown
version of eroff/mm to Docbook back before Eric's tools were available
and I agree that there is a LOT more to it than just .EMPH.  For example,
strings were identified as commands, files, structures, etc and then the
style sheet defined whether they were bold, italics, monofont, etc.  And
after living through a few episodes when the "style" people decided that
commands should be italicized rather than bold, then a few years later, back
to bold, then monofont, I can certainly see the advantage of that!

The most challenging discipline when writing in Docbook was that each
entity had a beginning AND AN END -- and you had to stick to the rules.
No more nesting an H5 directly under an H2 just because you like the way
it looked!  

I suppose it is theoretically possible to turn troff into a structured system 
it would be a very different beast than the troff we know...  


> From: Eric S. Raymond <address@hidden>
>To: Tadziu Hoffmann <address@hidden> 
>Cc: address@hidden 
>Sent: Thursday, May 3, 2012 10:41 AM
>Subject: Re: [Groff] Eric Raymond on groff and TeX
>Tadziu Hoffmann <address@hidden>:
>> > I think esr is emphasizing (!) that in a structural-markup
>> > language the tags can have no typographic meaning whatsoever.  
>> Correct.  What Anton was considering unfair is the implication
>> that troff only does presentational markup, while it is entirely
>> possible to use structural markup (with an appropriate macro
>> set) as well.
>Surprise, I'm on the groff list.  I've actually done a fair amount
>of work on this suite, including for example adding support for eqn
>to generate MathML and writing the pic documentation.
>The rift between troff and DocBook-XML is that in troff, structural
>markup is a rather strained and unnatural style that can never really
>cover over the fact that the interpretation engine underneath is a
>*typesetter*.  This is particularly clear near, for example, font
>Because I wrote doclifter, which translates troff macros to DocBook
>structural XML, I understand the width of this rift probably better
>than *anyone* else. It is not a minor crack that can be papered
>over with clever macro definitions, it's a huge gaping chasm that has
>swallowed hackers whole in the past.
>It took a couple of layers of compiler technology and about 200
>cliche-recognition rules for doclifter to bridge that chasm; the
>result is over 8000 lines of very dense Python.  So trust me when I
>tell you that defining .EMPHASIS would only solve the least difficult
>part of the problem!
>        <a href="";>Eric S. Raymond</a>

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