[OS X TeX] Re: TeX books in general (was Re: TeXbook)

Doug Fields dfields-macosx-tex-0205 at pexicom.com
Mon Feb 28 20:32:22 CET 2005

I found this post to be extremely helpful. If anyone has any pointers  
to a summary of current TeX and LaTeX related books, as well as a  
"learning" or "reading" map, I'd welcome the input.

I just ordered yesterday (the post came too late) four books (of which  
two were compilations of books) on the subject, after wading through  
about two dozen candidates on Amazon. It seems that many books were  
published in the 90s, and not too many recently. My prejudice was  
toward the more recent books, but that may be a misplaced prejudice.  
You gotta love "same day delivery" from B&N.

*) LaTeX Companion (ISBN 0201362996)
*) A Guide to LaTeX (0321173856)
*) Computers and Typesetting (I always like another Knuth library; he's  
like a CS Feynman) (0201734168)
*) LaTeX Companions Set (0321269446)

I'm about 2/3rds done with my first LaTeX document, which is currently  
22 pages. It's a business document (I don't do much math) but so far  
I'm so much happier with this than I ever was with Word, despite the  
fact that my Word documents were always extremely highly structured  
(proper use of styles, etc.).



On Feb 28, 2005, at 10:04 AM, Andrei Sobolevskii wrote:

> Roger,
> At 20:00 -0500 02/26/2005, TeX on Mac OS X Mailing List wrote:
>>  > Is this TeX, documented in Knuth's TeXbook? If so, I'll purchase it
>>  > right away.
>> The TeXbook is the definitive source of information on TeX. Be warned:
>> it's not easy to learn: IMHO it's written more with quality of writing
>> (= quality of prose) than efficiency in mind. Everything's there, and
>> enjoyable to read, but generally it's difficult to find out where to
>> look for a specific piece of information. You need to make heavy use  
>> of
>> the index, and generally you need to have first read the book once,
>> without understanding much, and then upon successive re-readings you
>> manage to find your way through it.
> Yes, you'd rather have Knuth's TeXbook, even if you will not be  
> reading it daily.  I also found the following book quite helpful as a  
> clear explanation of plain TeX internals and subtleties:
> David Salomon
> The advanced TeXbook
> Springer-Verlag, 1995
> <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0387945563/ 
> qid=1109601277/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/104-4214173-9010360?v=glance&s=books>
> The LaTeX Companion is certainly a must for anybody doing heavy LaTeX  
> typesetting.  It's the most worn out book on my TeX shelf (including  
> also Salomon's book and, in Russian translations, Knuth's TeXbook,  
> Spivak's The Joy of TeX, The LaTeX Web Companion, The LaTeX Graphics  
> Companion, and a Russian analogue of Lamport's book -- which has never  
> been translated into Russian itself -- L'vovskii's The LaTeX  
> Typestiing System).
> The LaTeX Web Companion is rather useful (its chapters on hyperref,  
> LaTeX2html and TeX4ht were quite helpful for me).  The LaTeX Graphics  
> Companion has a useful chapter on graphics and graphicx packages.  
> However these books are mostly a compilation of the original  
> documentation coming with the packages (with some examples added), and  
> I second Bruno's recommendation to look into .dtx and if necessary  
> .sty files.
> The LaTeX Companion is also of the compilation kind, but what makes it  
> outstanding is the choice of material  -- having all that printed  
> under one cover is much more convenient that looking for documentation  
> in your texmf trees.
> People say that Kopka and Daly is a very good source on LaTeX that can  
> replace Lamport's book, but I never checked that.
> Andrei
> At 20:00 -0500 02/26/2005, TeX on Mac OS X Mailing List wrote:
>> Alternative sources of information:
>> - TeX by Topic (donationware) <http://www.eijkhout.net/tbt/>: very
>> thorough and technical, the same information as in the TeXbook but
>> presented more like a software manual.
>> - A Gentle Introduction to TeX (free)
>> <http://www.ctan.org/tex-archive/info/gentle/gentle.pdf>: plain TeX  
>> for
>> the beginners.
>> - TeX for the Impatient (GPL) at
>> /Library/teTeX/share/texmf.tetex/doc/plain/impatient/impatient.dvi and
>> also <http://www.tug.org/ftp/tex/impatient/> (there's a French
>> translation too at this site): another technical introduction to the
>> inner workings of plain TeX, but more oriented towards a specific
>> extension called Eplain (plain TeX + some functions of LaTeX like
>> counters and cross-referencing - LaTeX taking over the presentation of
>> your document), written specifically for this book.
>> The problem is all these sources only document plain TeX, the original
>> TeX format, and none of the functionalities added by LaTeX and the
>> various LaTeX packages like graphicx. TeX itself knows nothing about
>> graphics, multimedia contents, etc., it was written before these  
>> things
>> came into widespread use.
>> For these packages, the only source of information is the documented
>> code, in the form of accompanying .dtx files, not included inside  
>> gwTeX
>> but available from CTAN or the TeX-Live CDs. Sometimes, too, these
>> files don't even exist; in that case the only solution is look at the
>> code inside the .sty files, and try to figure out what it does.
>> You may also try the LaTeX Companion 2nd edition (I've not got it  
>> yet),
>> it might tell more on these things.
> -- 
> ==============================
> Associate Professor
> Physics Department,
> Moscow State University
> ------------------------------
> Visiting Scientist
> Laboratoire Cassiopee,
> Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur
> ------------------------------
> ansobol at obs-nice.fr
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