[texhax] TeX v. Word, etc.

John R. Culleton john at wexfordpress.com
Fri Aug 25 02:27:22 CEST 2006

On Thursday 24 August 2006 13:11, Juergen Fenn wrote:
> AFAIK, ODT by now is a must in all public invitations to bid,
> especially by the European Union. MS products mostly do not fit these
> requirements because MS has always declined to support any standards.
> In these cases OOo indeed already was chosen by many public
> administrations in Europe. The last case was the administration of the
> Spanish region of Extremadura. Many German city administrations and
> public bodies already have switched to OOo, some on Windows, some on
> Linux, some are in the midst of migrating. MS struggles hard not to
> lose yet more market share. License fees for employees of companies
> that decide to keep to MS Office are as low as never before (one
> poster recently told us of 12 Euros per employee for a personal
> license of MS Office pro). So ISO certification for the ODT format was
> an important step that has really hurt MS. And the turn towards
> XML-based formats is a real turn-around for the MS-dominated
> market. MS Office now has to support ODT, and remember that at least
> in Europe when it comes to office suites there is *nothing* left
> besides MS Office and OOo (Word Perfect has disappeared from the
> market years ago).
> So with ODT step by step becoming the standard for data exchange, what
> really matters is how good LaTeX converters from and to ODT are. This
> far there is only one I know of, viz. tex4ht that has a new command
> named oolatex, but I have not yet been able to try it out because I
> didn't manage to install the new version on my machine and it does not
> work in my MiKTeX 2.4.
> Converters between LaTeX and office-suite formats unfortunately are
> not as good as they should be. Eg, I just realised that latex2rtf does
> not support the jurabib package, so when you write a paper in LaTeX
> for a German legal journal that encourages submissions in doc or rtf
> format (they all do because DTP programs can import these formats good
> enough) you cannot use BibTeX... don't know whether oolatex can cope
> with this properly...
> Regards,
> Jürgen.

Perhaps LaTeX is not the right version of TeX to be working with.
Rephrase the questions substituting e.g. pdftex and see
what the answers will be.  

The TeX primitives (or pdfetex primitives) offer the broadest
reach of possibilities for adaptation. Plain TeX and plain pdftex
constrain things somewhat, but still keep all the primitives
around. LaTeX predfines so much and redefines the rest so that
the range of possiblities is constrained still further. Plain
assumes a paper document but still allows for fine grained
variations. LaTeX lessens the range of action still more. This
makes expected documents and formats easier but unexpected ones

Until we adopt a base language that allows full use of the
primitives of TeX we are working with one hand tied behind our
back. It is a bit like using a spread sheet for maintaining
accounting records. The easy becomes still easier but the
unusual becomes much harder. 

Now I am not suggesting we go all the way back to "assembly
code." But I do suggest that harder tasks require cutting away
some of the superstructure and getting closer to the guts of the
TeX language.  And pdftex is closer to that base than LaTeX. 

John Culleton
Able Indexing and Typesetting
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