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Re: [Groff] Elegant -ms and -mpdfmark documents

From: Larry Kollar
Subject: Re: [Groff] Elegant -ms and -mpdfmark documents
Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2017 22:22:37 -0400

> Kristaps Dzonsons <address@hidden> wrote:
> Hello groffers,
> I have a survey question regarding -ms and -mpdfmark documents.  …
> To wit, I
> wonder if anybody who uses -ms and -mpdfmark has any suggestions on
> settings to improve the legibility of produced documents.

I used ms + pdfmark extensively until a few years ago, when work moved all of 
us to a content management system (not a very good one, mind you). Personally, 
I think everyone does what I did — adds their own extensions to -ms to get more 
control over the output. Sort of like all the variants of Markdown, except that 
Markdown variants are usually documented somewhere public. :-P

But I digress. If you can package your parameter settings and extensions into 
one file, you just need an “.so extensions.t" at the beginning of your groff 

Lowdown looks pretty useful, but I’m a little concerned about the Markdown-hate 
in the documentation. I use this workflow to produce my fiction books:

MultiMarkdown -> XHTML -> EPUB -> (AZW)[1]
                                  XSLT -> *roff -> PDF

One common theme among Markdown variants, they all produce cleaner HTML than 
I’ve seen from any other tool (except for hand-coded). Piping the output 
through “tidy -asxhtml -utf8 -numeric” lets it sail right through xsltproc 
without a hiccup. I’m using *roff (neatroff at the moment, because its output 
is noticeably more beautiful) instead of XSL:FO for a couple reasons:

1) *roff lets me stick my fingers into the output and even up the bottom margin 
on each page. I don’t think any of the FO formatters can do that.
2) XSL:FO is tedious as (use the four-letter word you prefer). I wrote a 
transform just to try it, and it works, but jeez. Set a handful of parameters 
in -ms, add a few extensions as needed, and let it do the work.


[1] Amazon converts a submitted EPUB to AZW format for the Kindle. On my end, I 
only have to worry about EPUB, which is XHTML with a few control files. So the 
same XHTML provides both EPUB and PDF.

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