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 Relay-Version: version B 2.10 5/3/83; site utzoo.UUCP Posting-Version: version B 2.10.2 9/18/84; site phri.UUCP Path: utzoo!linus!philabs!cmcl2!phri!roy From: r...@phri.UUCP (Roy Smith) Newsgroups: net.text Subject: Alternatives to n/troff? Message-ID: <510@phri.UUCP> Date: Fri, 4-Oct-85 17:22:04 EDT Article-I.D.: phri.510 Posted: Fri Oct 4 17:22:04 1985 Date-Received: Wed, 9-Oct-85 06:06:25 EDT Distribution: net Organization: Public Health Research Inst. (NY, NY) Lines: 36 I run an 11/750 (4.2bsd) system which supports about 100 users, most of whom are not computer people. One of the (major) things we do with the system is prepare scientific manuscripts. The users are a mix of Ph.D. biologists, graduate students, and secretarial/clerical people. We've recently gotten a major grant to expand our facility, and will probably be getting some Suns, a laser printer, and an array processor. Enough background. Slowly, we're getting fed up with the whole nroff scene. What are our alternatives? Are there "what you see is what you get" type systems available that will run under 4.2 on a regular ascii terminal? What better tools of this type are there available on the Sun? How well can they integrate text and graphics? Now we just do a ".sp 6i" (or whatever) in the nroff source, and paste the figures in later. It would be real nice to be able to insert graphics right in the manuscript. We're not committed to WYSIWYG; if there are imbedded-instruction systems which are easier to deal with than nroff available, we might be interested in them. I know about Scribe and TeX only from causal reading about them; comments on these would be appreciated. What we don't want to loose are the nice features available under nroff. We make heavy use of neqn, tbl, and bib; to have to live without the functionality provided by these tools would be unthinkable. The current implementation of that functionality, however, leaves a lot to be desired. There are all sorts of strange interactions between the various preprocessors, error reporting is all but non-existent, and the whole thing is generally difficult to master, especially for people with no background in computers. So, does anybody out there have magic answer? -- Roy Smith System Administrator, Public Health Research Institute 455 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016 Relay-Version: version B 2.10 5/3/83; site utzoo.UUCP Posting-Version: version B 2.10.2 GARFIELD 20/11/84; site garfield.UUCP Path: utzoo!utcsri!garfield!...@phri.UUCP (Roy Smith) From: r...@phri.UUCP (Roy Smith) Newsgroups: net.text Subject: Alternatives to n/troff? Message-ID: <3769@garfield.UUCP> Date: Wed, 9-Oct-85 17:47:16 EDT Article-I.D.: garfield.3769 Posted: Wed Oct 9 17:47:16 1985 Date-Received: Wed, 9-Oct-85 21:44:53 EDT Sender: n...@garfield.UUCP Distribution: net Organization: Memorial U. of Nfld. C.S. Dept., St. John's Lines: 36 I run an 11/750 (4.2bsd) system which supports about 100 users, most of whom are not computer people. One of the (major) things we do with the system is prepare scientific manuscripts. The users are a mix of Ph.D. biologists, graduate students, and secretarial/clerical people. We've recently gotten a major grant to expand our facility, and will probably be getting some Suns, a laser printer, and an array processor. Enough background. Slowly, we're getting fed up with the whole nroff scene. What are our alternatives? Are there "what you see is what you get" type systems available that will run under 4.2 on a regular ascii terminal? What better tools of this type are there available on the Sun? How well can they integrate text and graphics? Now we just do a ".sp 6i" (or whatever) in the nroff source, and paste the figures in later. It would be real nice to be able to insert graphics right in the manuscript. We're not committed to WYSIWYG; if there are imbedded-instruction systems which are easier to deal with than nroff available, we might be interested in them. I know about Scribe and TeX only from causal reading about them; comments on these would be appreciated. What we don't want to loose are the nice features available under nroff. We make heavy use of neqn, tbl, and bib; to have to live without the functionality provided by these tools would be unthinkable. The current implementation of that functionality, however, leaves a lot to be desired. There are all sorts of strange interactions between the various preprocessors, error reporting is all but non-existent, and the whole thing is generally difficult to master, especially for people with no background in computers. So, does anybody out there have magic answer? -- Roy Smith System Administrator, Public Health Research Institute 455 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016 Relay-Version: version B 2.10 5/3/83; site utzoo.UUCP Posting-Version: version B 2.10.2 GARFIELD 20/11/84; site garfield.UUCP Path: utzoo!utcsri!garfield!...@phri.UUCP (Roy Smith) From: r...@phri.UUCP (Roy Smith) Newsgroups: net.text Subject: Alternatives to n/troff? Message-ID: <3821@garfield.UUCP> Date: Wed, 9-Oct-85 18:04:58 EDT Article-I.D.: garfield.3821 Posted: Wed Oct 9 18:04:58 1985 Date-Received: Wed, 9-Oct-85 22:29:57 EDT Sender: n...@garfield.UUCP Distribution: net Organization: Memorial U. of Nfld. C.S. Dept., St. John's Lines: 36 I run an 11/750 (4.2bsd) system which supports about 100 users, most of whom are not computer people. One of the (major) things we do with the system is prepare scientific manuscripts. The users are a mix of Ph.D. biologists, graduate students, and secretarial/clerical people. We've recently gotten a major grant to expand our facility, and will probably be getting some Suns, a laser printer, and an array processor. Enough background. Slowly, we're getting fed up with the whole nroff scene. What are our alternatives? Are there "what you see is what you get" type systems available that will run under 4.2 on a regular ascii terminal? What better tools of this type are there available on the Sun? How well can they integrate text and graphics? Now we just do a ".sp 6i" (or whatever) in the nroff source, and paste the figures in later. It would be real nice to be able to insert graphics right in the manuscript. We're not committed to WYSIWYG; if there are imbedded-instruction systems which are easier to deal with than nroff available, we might be interested in them. I know about Scribe and TeX only from causal reading about them; comments on these would be appreciated. What we don't want to loose are the nice features available under nroff. We make heavy use of neqn, tbl, and bib; to have to live without the functionality provided by these tools would be unthinkable. The current implementation of that functionality, however, leaves a lot to be desired. There are all sorts of strange interactions between the various preprocessors, error reporting is all but non-existent, and the whole thing is generally difficult to master, especially for people with no background in computers. So, does anybody out there have magic answer? -- Roy Smith System Administrator, Public Health Research Institute 455 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016 Relay-Version: version B 2.10 5/3/83; site utzoo.UUCP Posting-Version: version B 2.10.2 9/18/84; site ut-ngp.UTEXAS Path: utzoo!linus!decvax!ucbvax!ucdavis!lll-crg!gymble!umcp-cs!seismo!ut-sally!ut-ngp!jjhnsn From: jjh...@ut-ngp.UTEXAS (J. Lee Johnson) Newsgroups: net.text Subject: Re: Alternatives to n/troff? Message-ID: <2474@ut-ngp.UTEXAS> Date: Thu, 10-Oct-85 16:44:58 EDT Article-I.D.: ut-ngp.2474 Posted: Thu Oct 10 16:44:58 1985 Date-Received: Sat, 12-Oct-85 07:54:21 EDT References: <510@phri.UUCP> Distribution: net Organization: UTexas Computation Center, Austin, Texas Lines: 31 > the system is prepare scientific manuscripts. The users are a mix of Ph.D. > biologists, graduate students, and secretarial/clerical people. ... > Slowly, we're getting fed up with the whole nroff scene. What are > our alternatives? Are there "what you see is what you get" type systems > available that will run under 4.2 on a regular ascii terminal? How can a WYSIWYG system on a regular ascii terminal display scientific manuscripts? > What we don't want to loose are the nice features available under > nroff. We make heavy use of neqn, tbl, and bib; to have to live without > the functionality provided by these tools would be unthinkable. It seems to me your choice is between TeX and Documenter's WorkBench (device independent troff). Cost may be the deciding factor. TeX is usually cheaper, especially compared to a commercial license for DWB. TeX has eqn functionality built in to it. TeX has no equivalent to tbl. I'm not sure about bib. Troff has the advantage that it is compatible with nroff and a wider "class" of devices than TeX. The TeX language is "nicer", but basically both TeX and troff are embedded instruction text formatting systems. The pic preprocessor from the DWB package does simple graphics by invoking the line drawing functions in troff. There is supposedly a similar program for TeX. -- James Lee Johnson, U.T. Computation Center, Austin, Texas 78712 ARPA: jjh...@ut-ngp.UTEXAS.EDU UUCP: ihnp4!ut-ngp!jjhnsn allegra!ut-ngp!jjhnsn gatech!ut-ngp!jjhnsn seismo!ut-sally!jjhnsn harvard!ut-sally!jjhnsn Relay-Version: version B 2.10 5/3/83; site utzoo.UUCP Posting-Version: version B 2.10.2 9/18/84; site phri.UUCP Path: utzoo!utcs!lsuc!pesnta!phri!roy From: r...@phri.UUCP (Roy Smith) Newsgroups: net.text Subject: alternatives to nroff; summary of responses Message-ID: <532@phri.UUCP> Date: Thu, 24-Oct-85 17:16:53 EDT Article-I.D.: phri.532 Posted: Thu Oct 24 17:16:53 1985 Date-Received: Fri, 25-Oct-85 01:29:32 EDT References: <510@phri.UUCP> Distribution: net Organization: Public Health Research Inst. (NY, NY) Lines: 361 Two weeks ago I asked about alternatives to nroff for Unix. The gist was that I want a technical word processing system (one that does math/greek/science) which is easy to use for secretaries and other non-computer types. The ability to do automated bibliographies and tables is important. Add to all that WYSIWYG operation (with graphics) on an ascii terminal and you have a nice set of mutually exclusive requirements. What follows is a distillation of the replies, after much editing. I've tried not to take comments out of context, but may not have been totally successful. I got rid of about half the volume without (I hope) altering the content too much. Comments in [square brackets] are mine. I've included some prices. Please take these as ballpark figures only; they are a strong function of configuration, available discounts, and haggling. Thanks to the following for their contributions: Chris Torek Rick Adams Rob McCurley Lee Moore Toni Roth Joe Chapman Carl Shapiro Russell Kathy Hargreaves Sebastian Schmitz ------------------------- There is a relatively simple experiment you can try to find out, to some extent, what TeX is like: read the TeXbook. The original was something like $9.95 in the campus bookstore here [...] It is, at the moment, *the* documentation for TeX. TeX is not WYSIWYG; but I have used one WYSIWYG system (Xerox Star') and that too can be just as awful as n/troff. (Xerox has a new system, ViewPoint', that looks much more reasonable; it is in beta test [...] ------------------------- Check out Interleaf. It only runs on Suns, but is very nice. [It's also expensive. The "Workstation Publishing Software" costs$8k for the first license, $3k for each one after that; the "Technical Publishing Software" is$20k/$10k. As far as I can tell, WPS does everything TPS does except for image scanning and phototypesetter output (WPS drives laser printers). It also runs on VAXstations. Modulo the cost, this seems like an ideal solution to many of our requirements.] ------------------------- I got fed up with the mess [n/troff] and switched to TeX with Leslie Lamport's LaTeX macros. One problem with TeX/LaTeX is that you need a laser printer to get any hardcopy; [but it can be] previewed on some graphic workstations TeX/LaTeX [...] has a more logical structure than troff. [...] good results are obtained with a mimimum of formatting commands. [...] paragraphs are started by leaving a blank line. You also do not have to worry about extra blank spaces in the input causing funny spacing in the resulting output. Floating figures are created with the commands "\begin{figure} ... stuff for figure ... \end{figure}" (the \begin and \end stuff are commands provided by the LaTeX macros). You can [...] do things like connect circles, ovals and squares with lines. I don't know much about doing this, but it seems to be done by specifying positions on a coordinate plane--baroque, but functional. Things can get a little harry [hairy?] if you want to display fancy equations. This was my biggest gripe against troff. TeX does a better job, but things still get messy. I like TeX with LaTeX better than nroff/troff with eqn and any other macro package. Things can still get grungy, and some of the errors that come up when trying fancy things are hard to comprehend without some knowledge of TeX internals. LaTeX purports to be self-contained, but you really need the TeXbook or some other TeX reference to use it. The results are far better looking than with troff. ------------------------- I am pretty happy with LaTeX, a system distributed with and built on TeX. It give you the flavor of Scribe but you still have TeX's mathematics description power. It also has a bibliography mode similar to Scribe. It's real easy to use but like Scribe, it takes some work to create document descriptions that are different from the defaults. I have seen Interleaf run on the Suns and am quite impressed. I don't believe that it will be able to handle alot of your technical typesetting needs, though. ------------------------- One thing is for sure: there's no easy solution available today. My opinion on *roff, TeX and other text formatting languages is that they are far too complicated for the average user. We have our own "markword-language" [...] called EDML (Ericsson Document Markup Language). When we've written a document with EDML markwords, it's converted to DCF, troff or whatever is available on the particular machine you're running on. [contact seismo!mcvax!enea!erix!toni for more details.] There's no good way to make a "what you see is what you get" system on a regular ascii terminal. One problem is that ascii terminals type all letters with equal width. [...] Another problem is the graphics: right now we build our flowcharts with special characters that will be translated to graphical characters when printed on a laserprinter and "+-|<>" when printed on a line printer. Example:$ | [$] +|+ < > =====> < > [ and ] | | =====> | | ~ | {~} +|+ This will look much better when printed on the laserprinter [...] But this is still a very limited way to produce graphics. The only advantages is that this is "what you see is what you get", and you can get it printed on a simple line printer. What you really want is some language that can produce any output on your laser printer without having to bitmap it (if you don't mind bitmapping, Brian Kernighan has developed a system that can produce any output. All I know about it is that he has designed a high-level graphic description language called GRAP. This GRAP is piped through a couple of preprocessors before it's piped to troff, so I guess you may mix GRAP and troff). We're currently looking at PostScript, and it looks promising. PostScript includes high-level graphic commands, but doesn't seem to do any text formatting. [I don't think the PostScript designers intended it to be a user-level language] As TeX does excellent text formatting but doesn't include any graphic commands, a mixture of TeX and Postscript might solve our problem. But there's still a problem with that solution: You have to run TeX before you can convert it's ".dvi"-files to PostScript, so you can't edit your document interactively on a SUN, but as interactiv editing most likely only is interesting when creating graphics, this will not be a big problem. I know of a place (...!mcvax!enea!alibaba!sven) where they've already adopted this way to create documents. They create graphics with macintosh's, that will save the picture in PostScript format. This picture file can then be included in the TeX document with the "\special" command. By the way, TeX is the perfect language for typesetting mathematics! Rumour has it that PostScript will be a new standard for laser printers. There is software, TranScript, that will convert troff, nroff ditroff to PostScript, so you will still be able to use eqn, tbl and other troff features. SUN sells the Sun LaserWriter, which has PostScript. I can't say that TeX+PostScript+TranScript=Solution, we still haven't tested PostScript. [...] Remember that whatever you choose, you'll probably be stuck with it for quite a while. ------------------------- I haven't seen many WYSIWYG systems for regular ascii terminals; the closest thing might be a word processing package. Unfortunately, most Unix word processors are a real pain in the neck from a administration point of view, and support for scientific manuscripts is limited. You might want to look at Scribe---it's extremely easy to use, even for non-computer people, and probably has the necessary scientific power. Its one main drawback is the price [something like$15k for an 11/750 with PostScript support]. Scribe comes with a bunch of drivers for laser printers, crts, line printers, and so forth; although it wouldn't be as cute as a WYSIWYG system I think it'd be a lot more flexible. It's also designed to support standardized document formats, so your users can say "this is a letter" or "this is a preprint for journal x" and not have to worry about margins or point sizes or any of that sort of thing. We use TeX with the LaTeX macro package; it's similar to Scribe in that our users can just ask for a letter or a programmer's notes format and they get it. The drawbacks are that it won't support an ASCII terminal at all (we use a previewer for the Sun II screen for proofing), a lot of people think it's horribly complicated, and the documentation for the LaTeX package (and some of its error messages) border on the obscure. On the other hand, it's cheap ($75), produces beautiful output, and I like it so it's well supported at our site. Both TeX and Scribe have all of the stuff you need from neqn, tbl, and bib. TeX is documented in the book The TeXbook'', by Donald Knuth, published by Addison-Wesley ------------------------- I strongly recommend TeX. It has many, many advantages over egn/tbl/troff. The functions are integrated, so that one particular source of hard-to-debug weirdness goes away. TeX's advances include: Optimal line break choices within paragraphs (the final lines of a paragraph can influence how the first lines are broken) to minimize hyphenation on adjacent lines [and] stretching and compressing of interword spaces. The actual long-sought solution to the hyphenation problem. TeX's hyphenation algorithm, from Frank Liang's PhD thesis at Stanford, finds practically all of the legal hyphenation points in words, with essentially no error, at high speed. [...] also works with foreign languages. Even though TeX's text algorithms are far in advance of the rest the world, they may be overshadowed by its excellence at typesetting mathematics. The combination of power (control) and naturalness of expression is most impressive. The American Mathematical Society has been using TeX to set several of its journals for some time now. While troff has the "Nroff/Trof User's Manual", TeX has the TeXBook, a genuine textbook with instruction, examples, exercises, and a good index. TeX is somewhat interactive, and when it produces an error message, the on-line help is usually adequate to enable one to correct the problem and continue. Metafont, [...] allows users to create entire new families of fonts for use with TeX. It can often supplant the use of traditional graphics approaches to the creation of special symbols, logos, etc. When used on SUNs, the process is highly interactive. Any quick perusal of the troff source code makes it immediately obvious that this is a program that has been extensively hacked at over the years by many programmers, to the point where changes or extensions are almost impossible; the code is extremely contorted. The TeX source, on the other hand, reads like literature. Mike Urban, of the TRW Software Productivity Project, has written an excellent document entitled "A Guide to TeX for the Troff User", which illustrates some of these points. If you're interested in a copy, let me know [contact Carl Shapiro for more details]. When it comes to integrating text and graphics, TeX is only slightly better than troff. Although it has hooks for this [they] are still in the formative stages. It's been said that WYSIWYG really means that what you see is all you get, and this is particularly true on regular ASCII terminals. [...] As distributed for Unix, TeX comes with software to view its output in reasonably accurate form on SUN workstations' displays (and other bitmap displays), and more sophisticated versions are available from commercial sources. The complexity of the document preparation problem always dictates some sort of compromise. Systems are available which are easier to use than TeX, and which have a greater facility with integrated text and graphics, and which can reproduce their output on the screen of an ASCII terminal. Without exception, these systems produce an inferior final result. Although TeX might be considered harder to use than Troff (it has MANY more commands), it has proved to be within the capability of at least some of our secretarial staff. Troff, for us, has become simply the Unix utility for printing manual pages. ------------------------- > Are there "what you see is what you get" type systems > available that will run under 4.2 on a regular ascii terminal? No; there never will be. What you are asking is not feasible. How do you display bold, italics or underlining on an ADM? [...] no ASCII tty can cope with size or font changes. What about justification of the right margin? Since ttys use equal character spacing, and laser printers [...] etc. don't, your documents will always format differently on & off screen. > It would be real nice to be able to insert graphics right in the manuscript. You can do this with titroff anyway; For example, using PIC, I could say | Here is a picture: | .PS | circle "words in a circle" arrow box "words in a box" | .PE | .PP | As you can see from the picture, PIC really does produce reasonable | quality output... One can also include plot output directly, and there is Ideal for more complex stuff. A graph and pie-chart utility is also said to exist, although I've not seen it. > I know about Scribe and TeX only from causal reading about them; > comments on these would be appreciated. I strongly recommend taking a look at Scribe. It may well be too expensive, but it is very good. Output quality is comparable to TeX, and it appears to be very easy to use. I have seen the documentation, which is excellent, and many examples. [Unilogic (from whom you can get Scribe) is willing to give out the user's manual, but won't let me see the "Data Base Administrator's Manual" which describes how to write alternate macro packages. The are willing to let me "rent" Scribe for a month, complete with the DBA's manual for$750! This seems like a pretty steep demo fee to me. Address: Unilogic, Ltd., Suite 240 Commerce Court, Four Station Square, Pittsburg, PA 15219-1119. Telephone: (412)-281-5959.] TeX is very cheap. It has a better low-level syntax than troff, but is quite complex. The fundamental approaches of TeX, troff & Scribe are wildly different. There was a good ACM Survey issue on the subject (#14, 1982 or 3?). TeX addresses itself at those who want precise control over page layout. There are macro packages (eg. LaTeX) which try to simulate Scribe [however] they don't seem to be very good at it! Scribe is for people who want to specify the *logical* structure of the document -- they may say this is the start of a chapter' or this is a new paragraph'; Scribe works out where to put things on the page, using a large ASCII database which can be edited fairly easily. There is good documentation on how to tailor Scribe. There is some info on tailoring LaTeX and TeX, but it is not as clear or as easy. Scribe can do Bib and eqn. TeX can do Bib, eqn, and a limited subset of pic. Neither even begins to compare with tbl. And neither does pie-chart printing, or bar graphs. ------------------------- TeX can be made to look like Scribe (except better). The TeX code to do [this] is called LaTeX, written by Leslie Lamport, . The documentation for TeX, the program itself, and using it all seem to me to be orders of magnitude better than nroff. I have yet to come across anything that nroff can do that TeX cannot do at least as well. TeX [...] is not supported on normal ASCII terminals, not because it would be impossible to write such a thing [...] but because Professor Knuth [...] want[s] TeX output to be exactly the same on all machines at all times. Since your 80 column 24 row CRT can't possibly do typesetting, no official program to do that has ever been written (and possibly never will be). Bitmapped devices, both screens and hardcopy, are another matter. Many device drivers, as they're known, have already been written, and writing another one is a matter of some weeks, given some familiarity with the system. Not a big deal. The Suns already have several programs written for them. TeX itself [doesn't support graphics], because the pictures and so forth are usually highly device dependent. [...] TeX does, however, have the capability to produce output which can be locally defined. "Specials", as they are called, are part of the DVI definition, and they are as general as you could want, I think. It is extremely easy to use them. One final rave for TeX is actually not about TeX at all, but Metafont, a program for font design. (The fonts, of course, can be used with TeX.) It is still under development (version 0.93 is the latest, I believe.) but it is still very useful now, and pleasant to use. [As I understand it, the way PostScript describes fonts fits in very nicely with the way Metafont does, so I would guess the two are a natural match for each other.] ------------------------- Well, we also got fed up. So we forked out plenty of cash and bought scribe with a Talaris laser printer. Works very well, and we are happy, also with all the mathematical stuff. -- Roy Smith System Administrator, Public Health Research Institute 455 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016
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