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Re: [Groff] Mission statement, second draft

From: Steve Izma
Subject: Re: [Groff] Mission statement, second draft
Date: Wed, 19 Mar 2014 23:58:57 -0400
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.21 (2010-09-15)

On Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 07:01:48PM -0000, Ted Harding wrote:
> Subject: Re: [Groff] Mission statement, second draft
> On 19-Mar-2014 05:11:33 Steve Izma wrote:
> > But even besides this, TeX is not a filter (so it does play well
> > with other filters) and is very noisy. Groff is clean and agile
> > compared to it.

Oops. I hope it's clear that I meant "it does *not* play well
with other filters".
> > Quality typesetting requires not just good tools but lots of
> > experience. That hasn't changed since Gutenberg. I don't think
> > the idea is to create a typesetting tool that looks fashionable.
> > Adobe's got that market cornered.
> Again heartily agreed! I'm still using wooden ploughshares pulled
> by horses, but I can plough beautiful furrows in any shape I wish.
> But my neighbouring farmer, who is into modern mechanical tractors
> steered by SatNav, all too often ploughs up part of his fruit orchard
> or his wife's flowerbeds. Of course, he doesn't think he needs to
> look where he's going, nor at what he has done.

This is a great analogy. It makes a clear distinction between
craftwork and mass production. This applies, for example, to the
hurried kind of text rendering built into browsers and
spreadsheets. The typical print output from a browser is so
clumsy (and wasteful of paper) that it seems intended to make one
prefer to read on a screen. Fine for a screenful, but not for a
serious piece of writing.

I prefer to scrape the text of a lengthy Web-based article and
run it through a simple script for finding paragraph breaks, then
groffing it into two columns, using up the space on a piece of
paper the way it was meant to be.

It's not too hard to write a script that converts a .csv
spreadsheet into tbl input -- that's because, fortunately and
relevantly to this discussion, a spreadsheet is highly structured
data. In both cases one is using an "old" but appropriate
technology to achieve the kind of quality that everyone on this
list has surely become accustomed to.

> And, finally, a comment about PDF. Some people have deprecated
> it. But, if you created a carefully formatted document to
> send to someone else, then usually this needs to be in PDF.
> UNIX/MacOS and Linux users, if they know what they are doing,
> can access PS. But many do not know what they are doing, and
> they -- and of course Windows users -- will only be able to
> cope with PDF.
> ...
> I think PDF is here to stay for quite a long time, and is
> needed, and I do not admit "anti-PDF" as arguments for not
> needing groff->PS->PDF capability.

PDF is the de facto standard for supplying pre-press materials to
printers these days. Working in publishing, I see very clearly
from sales figures that print books still dominate, especially
for anything other than mass-market pulp fiction.
But with the growing realization that source files for printing
need to be in a format other than the proprietary ones (Quark,
InDesign), the idea of an XML-first workflow (where the XML files
become the canonical source for whatever output format exists now
and in the foreseeable future) is catching on. Quark and InDesign
are proving seriously constrained, because of their basic design,
for producing structured (i.e., semantically coded) documents and
are increasingly seen as incapable of producing good ePubs, for
example -- at least without a lot of hard, frustrating work.

The fact that few people feel like writing in XML is irrelevant to
this process. Eric has mentioned asciidoc, and other systems like
markdown and wiki markup provide a range of choices for much more
intelligent text inputting than a word processor. It's after you
finish writing and editing that you produce the XML, which is a
trivial process from the above markup systems. And it's not all
that hard to make changes to XML-coded text anyway.

XML to PDF processing will become increasingly important because
it will become a tremendous timesaver relative to the current
WYSIWYG systems. But this will only work well for those who take
the time to learn the craft -- for groff users it means being
able to read and adjust (not necessarily invent) macro sets.

        -- Steve

Steve Izma
Home: 35 Locust St., Kitchener N2H 1W6    p:519-745-1313
Work: Wilfrid Laurier University Press    p:519-884-0710 ext. 6125
E-mail: address@hidden or address@hidden

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