# [texhax] Latex: dumbing down? (fwd)

Reinhard Kotucha reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Tue Aug 29 02:26:33 CEST 2006

>>>>> "Philip" == Philip TAYLOR <P.Taylor at rhul.ac.uk> writes:

> Indeed, if I may deliberately mis-quote Reinhard Kotucha :

> 	"No, there is absolutely nothing you can do in LaTeX that you
> can't do in Plain TeX."

I dont't disagree.  But that's not the point.

There are two points:

1.  It is pretty counterproductive to try to convince a LaTeX
user who almost finished his work and has a question about a
minor formatting detail to throw away everything and start
from scratch using plain TeX.

2.  Even worse, convincing people to insert plain TeX code into
LaTeX files is misleading.  It simply doesn't work.  Did you
look at the definition of \@ifundefined?

Let me say it again:  You can use plain TeX code in LaTeX
if, and only if you exactly know how LaTeX works.

If people ask which system is best I would say that they should look
into LaTeX and Context and find out which one is better for their

I cannot recommend plain TeX because so much is missing.  Phil, maybe
you are not missing LaTeX's \usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}.  You
certainly can live with 8-bit encodings like VISCII because ASCII is a
subset of VISCII and English does not need more than ASCII.

Everywhere else in the world things are not that easy:  We need UTF-8.

You said that plain TeX can do everything LaTeX can do, but do you
really want to do everything yourself, also the very nasty things
already solved by Frank Mittelbach?  And do you expect that someone
who writes his thesis is able to do this, at least in a reasonable
amount of time?

And do you really think that there is really good literature about
plain TeX?  The Texbook describes everything but I doubt that it is
accepted by people who have no programming skills.  Even hardcore
programmers might be shocked.

I'm happy that I got the last copy of

Raymond Seroul, Silvio Levy: A Beginners Book of TeX.

That's really a great book for an end user.  And it's not only good
for beginners.  It's a pity that it's not available any more.  It's a
really good book about plain TeX.

Of course, plain TeX makes a lot of fun but you really don't want
to re-invent everything yourself, or not?

Regards,
Reinhard

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