# [texhax] help with identifying some macros

P. R. Stanley prstanley at ntlworld.com
Mon Oct 19 01:36:29 CEST 2009

> > >I wonder if we're not better off as we are, with (more or less) a unique
> > >command for each unique symbol.
> >
> > The problem is that the meaning of the expression gets lost, we are
> > doing a visual representaion of an equation, but the underlying
> > meaning is lost.
> >
> > For example where I work some people use the notation
> >
> > X \sim N(0,1)
> >
> > to say taht X is a stochastic variable which has a normal
> > distribution, whereas
> >
> > x \sim\sim N(0,1)
> >
> > is an observation from such a variable.
> >
> > Reading that makes no sense at all, but using better names for
> > symbols it becomes much more readable.
> >
> > X \DistAs N(0,1)
> >
> > x \ObsFromDist N(0,1)
>
>The trouble is, another author might use some other set of names to mean
>exactly the same thing, such as
>
>X \distributedas N(0,1)
>
>X \sampledfrom N(0,1)
>
>At least sighted people can easily look at the typeset output and see
>that these both produce the same notation, which makes it a bit easier to
>guess that they mean the same thing. A blind person might have to trawl
>through many layers of LaTeX code to discover that.
>
>I always try to define "semantic" aliases for notation, for exactly the
>reasons you listed, and others too: it makes it clearer for coauthors, it
>even makes it clearer for myself when I come to read it a few months
>later! And it lets me easily change the notation if I need to, just by
>changing one preamble definition.
>
>But, not being blind myself, I can't really say what whether the benefits
>of better symbol names would outweigh the disadvantage of there being
>many different author-specific variants that mean the same thing.
>
>One thing's clear: it wouldn't be a bad idea if authors put some
>consideration into making LaTeX readable for blind people. (At least,
>it's not something that had ever occurred to me before the discussions on
>this list.)

Paul: The current system of naming control sequences/macros
isn't so much a problem as the lack of comprehensive and descriptive
documentation.

Braille is very similar to LaTeX in a sense that the same
symbols (dot combos) are used to represent different functions right
across the various codes: music, maths, literacy etc.
For example, all six dots, assuming we are using the 6-dot
system,, represent the letter sequence "for" in grade II literacy
braille, the equal sign in grade 0 (computer braille) and the f with
a semibreve or semiquaver value in music. I'm sure there are other
uses that I've forgotten.
Of course, one would identify the specific function of the
symbol based on the context in which it appears.
The point being that most braillists would've been through
the process of adjusting to the idea of an elaborate typsetting
system with overloaded symbols in their formative years.
Regards
Paul