PDF (was publication of IASS papers on CDROM)

Gunthard Mueller gm at ANTHOSIMPRINT.COM
Tue Dec 19 18:01:54 UTC 2000

Dear Richard,
my only issue in the last mail was with people who ENFORCE TeX on others. There
are such people, believe me.

You seem to be somebody who uses TeX successfully. Perfect -- why not use it if
it works for you.
Nobody would deny that TeX is a powerful programming language.
But it is a programming language, something for power users like yourself, not a
tool with which ordinary computer mortals can work. That's a fact. I am not
inventing that. And it's not anybody marginalising TeX, it's TeX itself leaving
the building. Tools have a lifetime, and so have software tools. Factually, TeX
is dead outside of two settings:
(1) Power users who have an affinity to programming.
(2) Some mostly academic computing services.

Reason for its virtual disappearance: usability. With TeX, you have to PROGRAM
footnotes. But normal users (i.e. non-programmers) with a time schedule for
finishing their books don't want to program footnotes. You want to edit them in a
user-friendly way, visually, in a standard software package that doesn't force
you to become an outsider to the computer world just because you happen to write
indological content. If you have already learnt it (like you have, and by the
way, my humble self), then why not go on using it. I for one have found myself to
be so much more productive with powerful packages such as Adobe FrameMaker/SGML
or some other good packages around. These can also be taught to regular users who
don't want to program their text, but write it... Their output can easily be made
compatible with international document norms, without programming knowledge.

Again, if you can achieve that with TeX, why not go on using it. But I am sure
you will agree that many of our colleagues find TeX a user-hostile thing, and
don't want to become programmers.

Anyway, I have no vested interest in fighting TeX, and I was only recommending
that TeX should not be artificially kept alive against the interest of normal
users for reasons that are not technical. The people who are playing this game
will know what I mean...

So please don't force me to talk about TeX. I'd rather read some more on things
like preserving Indian birch-bark and palm-leaf manuscripts, writing usable
metadata for them, digitizing them, publishing them, publishing articles and
books about them. The issue we were discussing was making data exchange easy to
do and safe for the future. Nobody denies you your constitutional right to choose
whatever software tool you wish to create your data with in the first place. What
concerned us was how to present the resulting data to colleagues now and in

Anyway, sorry if I rubbed some TeXies the wrong way. No, I don't think you are
perverse. I just think you are way more computer-savvy than virtually all of us,
and that's without flattery.

Gunthard Mueller
gm at e-ternals.com

My problem is not with (1) the power user, nor (2) the computing services that
for some internal reason cannot take the next step.
My problem is

Richard B Mahoney wrote:

> Dear Gunthard,
> I am not usually one to rise to the bait but your words seem to
> display a certain partiality. I can only imagine that your candour
> reflects a belief that TeX and LaTeX are not entirely redundant.
> It is true that -- in common with all methods of electronic
> typesetting or wordprocessing -- TeX has its
> disadvantages. Nonetheless, for people such as Indologists,
> Budhologists, Tibetologists and the like, who often have to typeset
> heavily footnoted multilingual documents, the use of TeX is not
> without its benefits.
> Faced with the demands of one's work, each person has to decide for
> themselves which is the best approach to take. And of course one
> always has to keep in mind one's ability to share information with
> others.
> Personally, I think it is important for people to have choice. I also
> find the spectre of everyone using the same approach, or the same
> software, a little disturbing. I do not believe it is helpful, then,
> for anyone to attempt to marginalise what is a perfectly legitimate
> way to get one's work done.
> If anyone wishes to emplore these issues further then they might wish
> to follow this link:
>    http://www.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/wp.html
> Many regards,
>  Richard Mahoney
> On Mon, Dec 18, 2000 at 03:15:48PM +0100, Gunthard Mueller wrote:
> [snip]
> > Concerning TEX: I generally discourage using TEX altogether. Only TEXies (a
> > special form of esoteric computer guru scene) favours it, because it has
> > become part of their lifestyle and provides them with a digital survival
> > zone within which they are indispensable and therefore cannot be abolished.
> > There is actually no need to use TEX anymore for anything. I have been
> > involved with writing TEX converters and creating metafonts when that was
> > an interesting technology (about 12 years ago), but the world has moved on.
> > You only find TEX gurus nowadays in artificially preserved biotopes where
> > they can go on playing with dinosaurs without penalty. The rest of the
> > world has moved on to SGML tools and Unicode. The best thing you can do to
> > TEX is to convert it to modern formats and then put it on the shelf for
> > good.
> [snip]
> --
> end
> ======================================================================
> Richard Mahoney                              Telephone: +64-3-351-5831
> 78 Jeffreys Rd
> Christchurch
> NEW ZEALAND                          mailto:rbm49 at csc.canterbury.ac.nz
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------

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