[texhax] making flow chart with latex

Philip G. Ratcliffe philip.ratcliffe at uninsubria.it
Tue Nov 15 12:37:40 CET 2005

> Hi Philip,
> sorry, I had been angry because things like that happened too often on
> this list and others.  At least I think that Martin knows me good
> enough so that he doesn't feel offended.

Not to worry; I rarely get offended for such things.

> Let me explain why I had been so upset.
> Being polite to people who ask questions here is the best advertising
> for TeX itself, TeX user groups, and free software in general.
> And there are many ideas, we need developers, but we don't get
> developers if the number of users decrease.  No new users, no new
> developers.

Good point and I accept this - the problem though seems to be as to the
levels of politeness required - I'd say that there seems to be confusion
between abruptness and rudeness.  I spend some time answering questions when
I can (not often these days), but I certainly don't have time to take that
much care over wording.  I do avoid giving pure RTFM replies and only reply
if I have some concrete advice to offer, where by concrete I also mean
directing someone to the correct entry in the FAQ (as Robin usually does - I
do hope the tense is correct there, Robin).  Robin's already written it well
once, is it really necessary to rewrite it every time?

> There are some good reasons to ask here, for instance people might
> expect that they get better advice here than from Google.  At least it
> should be so.  Isn't it disappointing and disencourageing for everyone
> on this list if Google provides better results than this mailing list?

No, Google, used judiciously (with a little pracitce it's not difficult) can
get you very quickly to an answer someone already provided - maybe even on
this very list - as a nice example, just try googling latex flowcharts ...
surprise, surprise!

> Also, if it seems that people "did not do their homework", maybe they
> have a good reason.  I can imagine that some people are quite
> impatient when they have to submit their thesis soon and do not have a
> solution for a particular problem yet.  I'd always suggest those
> people to ask here first before running into a one-way street.

I wouldn't and I don't think impatience is an excuse.

> [snipped at lot of intersting stuff on flow and metapost]

I can well imagine that metapost is far better than flow, but it would have
been nice here to see the poster saying something like "I tried flow but
it's rubbish, has anyone got a better suggestion?"  After all the full set
of available packages are listed on CTAN (in all flavours of ordering and
grouping) and, for example, MiKTeX comes with a package manager listing all
packages available within the distro (doesn't have flow in it though!).

> [snip]
> Of course, it is a good idea to tell people how they can find the
> information they need.  This is what Robin always did (and hopefully
> will do in the future).  But it is also true that it is sometimes not
> easy to find a good keyword for a particular problem to search for,
> either in the FAQ or at Google, especially if English is not the
> native language.

I'd say though that 9/10 the poster has the right keywords all there in the

> I don't think that Google always is a good choice.  It often finds
> nothing else but a lot of old stuff.

But it is immediate!  And many pages, especially lists, do have a date on

> I'm wondering a bit that very few people are aware that for (almost?)
> every macro package provided by a TeX distribution there is some
> documentation.

How many people ever read or even glanced at the manual for their car
though, for example?

> Can someone tell me whether texdoc and/or texdoctk are provided by
> MikTeX?  Or does it have it's own tools?

It appears that texdoc is there, though I've never used it.  For WinEdt
users (latest versions), there is a very useful built-in package doc search

Cheers,  Phil

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