[pdftex] off-topic: OSS Watch Survey 2006 mention of TeX/LaTeX

gnwiii at gmail.com gnwiii at gmail.com
Fri Aug 25 14:23:20 CEST 2006

Not entirely off-topic, as the way TeX is used does matter for the
developers and maintainers.

On 8/17/06, Mick McQuaid <mick at mickmcquaid.com> wrote:

> A few days ago, I saw a discussion on Slashdot about
> the OSS Watch Survey 2006.
> http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/08/14/1819245
> The story said the Survey "... shows rising support
> for Mozilla Thunderbird, Moodle and Octave, though a
> decline for OpenOffice and LaTeX ..." so I read the
> comments on Slashdot and the report, which seemed to
> claim that UK higher ed use of Tex/Latex dropped from
> 41% in 2003 to 20% now.  This claim appeared flawed,
> but remarkable.

This is consistent with my experience (based on encounters with grad
students and recent PhD's in science), but how many systems contain
apps that depend on TeX/LateX to format documentation? In sciences
many popular apps such as R, octave, maxima that run well on Win32 use
TeX (latex and/or texinfo) to format documentation.  Market share
matters to commercial developers, but there are many important niches
where the user bases is too small to interest commercial developers so
you get software development supported by other means than sales.
Problems arise when someone tries to force niche tasks to use
inappropriate tools (e.g., attempts to define a single "corporate
standard" desktop configuration across HR and research groups).  This
means the TeX community has to consider the needs of users who can't
get support from their own admins (or even admit that they are using a
non-approved app!).

Pdftex can be used to produce documents that don't require any
TeX-specific tools for viewing, printing, searching, etc.  For program
documentation, there are benefits to using
the Adobe base fonts, and some care must be taken to ensure searching
works for all languages.  I suspect the majority of people working on
packages like R, octave, maxima, etc. have been relying on a
linux-vendor's tetex package, so this category is at now at risk.
I expect some open source projects will switch to XML workflows using
OOo, but this seems a bit much for packages whose documentation needs

George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia

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