[texworks] Beginners' needs (was: Lua scripting)

Stefan Löffler st.loeffler at gmail.com
Thu Jun 18 07:39:17 CEST 2009


On 2009-06-18 00:01, Reinhard Kotucha wrote:
> On 16 June 2009 David J. Perry wrote:
>  > a. The manual that Alain wrote does a fine job of teaching people
>  > how to actually use the TeXworks front end.  True beginners need
>  > some additional information to get them started in the TeX world.
>  > One example: it took me a while to understand the differences
>  > between the various "dialects" of TeX, which is obviously a very
>  > important piece of information; until you understand that you have
>  > no idea what those options in the Typesetting dialog are all about.
> But people don't install TeXworks before they know what TeX actually
> is.  Is 
>    http://tug.org/begin.html
> not sufficient?  I agree with you that it's senseless to duplicate
> things.
> However, I've already seen files called "install.texi".  If you ever
> found out how to install a particular program, then you are able to
> read the installation instructions.  Of course, there is always a file
> called "INSTALL" in the top level directory and you actually don't
> need anything else.  At least not "install.texi".
> Similarly, I don't think that a document describing different TeX
> dialects should be part of the TeXworks distribution.  People have to
> read it *before* they install anything.  And it's not related to
> TeXworks at all.  People also don't install TeX Live if they don't
> know what it's good for.

I tend to agree with the others on these points. Today, must "newbies"
won't go around and say "hey, it would be cool to learn word processing,
where can I found a book about it?", they much more likely say "hey, I
heard about that MS Word program. I bought it, I opened it, now what to
do?". Of course this issue is a little less pronounced in the *nix world
(or so I think), but this is mainly because the system itself is still
less user-friendly. IMHO, the unfortunate truth is that the easier it is
to install software, the fewer people will learn about it *before* they
install anything. And since TeX now comes in nice, easy-to-install
distributions, people will more likely install it because they heard
somewhere that it's cool without reading the TeXbook or even the "not so
short introduction" (which got me started long ago, btw).

One more thing to consider: it may not be the user himself who installed
the software for one of the following reasons:
* The system is preinstalled on the computer. this will most likely
happen if there is a system administrator, e.g. in companies or
universities. Should TW come with TL one day people will just find TW
lying around on their hard disks (or mounted from the network :P), so
they might try it without knowing what it is exactly.
* The average user may ask somebody else to do the installing. Being a
computer (semi-)pro myself I've often been in the situation that someone
asked me to install some software for them. Now imagine again a newbie -
having heard about how cool TeX is - asks his friend to set up
everything he needs to TeX. That friend will probably give his
techno-babble speech which the newbie - not understanding half of it -
will just ignore. So again he ends up with TW without knowing much (or
anything) about TeX.

This is not the ideal way of diving into the TeX world, and it's by no
means the only one. These are just some of my experiences from the past
years. In short: people may stumble about TW without having learned TeX
properly (which probably is a life's effort ;)). If we don't deal with
that (e.g. by pointing people to tutorials and places where they can
find more information), we won't be lowering the barrier.


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