[texhax] syllabus (fwd)

Philip TAYLOR P.Taylor at Rhul.Ac.Uk
Fri Oct 1 16:13:11 CEST 2004

tom sgouros wrote:

> I'm not sure the original question has been answered well.
> How about just to say that TeX is all about putting letters on pages
> and LaTeX is all about putting paragraphs into documents?  
> TeX is designed to make typesetting work well.  It knows how to
> justify a paragraph and set an equation, but that's about as
> high-level as it gets.  You don't ask for a heading in TeX, you just
> make the type bigger or bold.

With respect, I disagree.  If you are using TeX properly (as opposed
to using it naively), then you most certainly /do/ "ask for a heading
in TeX".  Whether you do this through

	\Heading {...}


	\Begin {Heading} ... \End {Heading}


	<H1> ... </H1>

is entirely up to you (I use the last form, but that's just a personal
preference).  It is then your responsibility, as the TeX user /cum/
programmer, to ensure that

	\Heading or \Begin ... \End or <H1> ... </H1>

is appropriately defined and robust.

What LaTeX does is to provide such commands /without/ requiring
that you define them for yourself.  Unfortunately it does so
in such a way that if you /like/ how it typesets headings,
then it's fine; if you /dislike/ how it typesets them, then
it can be pretty tedious (and difficult) to work out how to
make them look good to you.

On the other hand, if you choose to define

	\Heading or \Begin ... \End or <H1> ... </H1>

for yourself, using a (Plain) TeX environment, then you will not
only know, a priori, what the typeset heading will look like,
you will also know exactly how to change your definition if
you would prefer it to look different.

TeX v. LaTeX is basically horses for courses; if you like LaTeX,
and like the results it produces, then use it; if you dislike LaTeX,
or dislike the results it produces, then define your own high-level
markup and use that instead.  But don't /ever/ write something like

	\topglue 1,0 true in
	\leftline {\font \thisfont = cmbx12 scaled \magstep 4 \thisfont My very first heading!}
	\vskip 0,2 in
	\leavevmode \hskip 0,3 in And this is my very first paragraph.

because that is the very worst of both worlds ...

** Phil.

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