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Re: Colons in indices

From: Robert J. Chassell
Subject: Re: Colons in indices
Date: Thu, 6 Dec 2001 17:58:53 +0000 (UTC)

   Karl sent long ago the following mail, precisely addressing these

Thank you.  I see how it would be done.  This would enable you to use
periods in node names, too, but not commas or apostrophes.  (Commas
are needed to enable you to write an Info file, like the one for
Emacs, that does not have the form of a hierarchically organized,
printed book; apostrophes are forbidden by TeX.)

Presumably, you plan to enhance Emacs so that a person writing an
Info document, or converting a Texinfo document to Info, will be able
to see (or hear) the separators, as he or she can now, to debug problems.

For backwards compatibility, we would need:

    * a program to convert existing Info files, including compressed
      Info files.  (You cannot depend on a Texinfo converter because
      some files are still written directly in Info format.)

For the rest, we would need:

    * a revision of makeinfo

    * perhaps, a revision of other to-info converters -- I understand
      that DocBook has one that some people use instead of converting
      DocBook to Texinfo first.  Or perhaps by not supporting these
      programs we could drive them to the death they so richly deserve.

    * a revision of the Info reader in GNU Emacs

    * a revision, as needed, of Texinfo mode in GNU Emacs

    * a new minor mode for viewing Info files in GNU Emacs for
      debugging purposes

    * a revision of the standalone Info reader

    * a revision of other Info readers and Texinfo modes -- I think
      there are some, but may be wrong.

    * Some way to make sure that people do not inadvertently try to
      incorporate commas and apostrophes, or @-commands.

This is a great deal of work, but if others want to do it, I am not
against it.   Double colons are fairly standard OO syntax.

Indeed, this may help with the primary goal: keeping Texinfo

It is interesting to note that even after all these years, Texinfo is
still the best system for producing documents that are

  * printed and read by sighted people,

  * listened to by someone driving a car or permanently blind, or 

  * read on-line by sighted people.  

This is surprising, but no-one has come up with anything better:

  * LaTeX is too oriented to printed matter.  It fails when converted
    for on-line use.

  * DocBook tends to encourage non-driving, sighted authors to
    incorporate too many images that car drivers and the permanently
    blind cannot look at.

  * HTML cannot be searched readily because it does not distinguish
    between links to another node within a document and links to an
    outside node.  Put another way, HTML is broken instrinsically, in
    contast to Info, which provides for good regular expression
    searches within the document.

So, having said that, I am not against extending the number of symbols
that people can use in Texinfo.  I only worry whether such a big
change can be successfully carried through.

What are the various downsides to the proposal?

    Robert J. Chassell                  address@hidden
    Rattlesnake Enterprises   

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