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Re: [Groff] : ASCII Minus Sign in man Pages

From: Ingo Schwarze
Subject: Re: [Groff] : ASCII Minus Sign in man Pages
Date: Tue, 2 May 2017 15:45:01 +0200
User-agent: Mutt/1.6.2 (2016-07-01)


Steffen Nurpmeso wrote on Tue, May 02, 2017 at 11:50:31AM +0200:

> I now think it is better to revert all those per-macro adjustments
> altogether and be pure; if people use \- to get "nicer" (smoother
> and finer that is) output then pasting from manual is simply
> impossible.

That is clearly the worst suggestion so far.  It is not just a
matter of "if (some) people".  Take, for example, mdoc(7).  It has
been enforcing \- for .Fl since its inception in 4.3BSD-Reno in
1990, and that wasn't a new choice even though man(7) does not
enforce rendering of command line options in any particular way,
but leaves the choice to the author; but standard practice, in
man(7) as well, has been to use \- for command line options since
the first release of man(7) in Version 7 AT&T UNIX in 1979.  And
that made sense at the time because the minus sign was ASCII 0x2d
in nroff(1), you couldn't cut and paste from a manual printed on
paper, and the distinction between Unicode U+002D HYPHEN-MINUS and
U+2212 MINUS SIGN did not yet exist.

So you propose that we break copy and paste from more or less all
manual pages now (including in -Tutf8 output which is the default
on terminals in many systems at this point), even though it has
been working just fine for almost 40 years?  You must be jesting.

No, making the decision at this point in time that \- has to
consistently render as U+2212 MINUS SIGN is not an option at all.
That's one half of the reason why i suggested to make it render
consistently as U+002D HYPHEN-MINUS.

> Distributions like Debian can then still easily apply
> remappings at well-known places and document it in their
> guidelines.

So groff should do something that is unusable and ask downstream
distributions to fix it up to make it useable?  That guarantees
utter confusion and doesn't make any sense whatsoever.  What are
other formatters (like mandoc) supposed to do?  Mandoc doesn't even
have the distinction of "upstream" and "distribution" to implement
such a split in behavior.  Both FreeBSD and OpenBSD use the mandoc
code directly from the HEAD of the VCS.

By the way, in the meantime, i also received support from NetBSD/pkgsrc
for my proposal (\- always U+002D, \(mi always U+2212).  That's
Ralph, Branden, NetBSD/pkgsrc, and one relevant FreeBSD developer
then, and no protest so far from OpenBSD.  I think i'll start
preparing patches and submit them to the groff bugtracker when they
are ready.


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