[texhax] Was Re: pagestyle{empty}; Now is LaTeX documentation

Philip G. Ratcliffe philip.ratcliffe at fastwebnet.it
Thu Mar 30 23:09:05 CEST 2006

> I think that the following are well-intentioned, but they might be
> misconstrued as off-putting remarks:

I'm not sure these discusions are ever particularly useful to anyone, but
here goes: lessons are often hard to take but a student with a minimum of
maturity accepts them.

> > Check your documentation and read the FAQ.
> >
> > Please get a new book on LaTeX. The \bf command has been
> > deprecated for more than a decade.
> >
> > There is also a lot of documentation in the texmf/doc directory.
> > It's a pity that most people don't know, though they spent a lot of
> > time downloading all this.
> >
> My opinion is that, as LaTeX changes and new packages are added, it
> becomes more difficult for beginning users to find appropriate
> documentaton and this difficulty creates an impediment.  Many users
> will copy an old working example and modify it because it works;
> thus, the continued use of \bf.

Yes, but ten years is an awfully long time - I'd bet that any of your
average LaTeX users is perfectly happy with, say, a cellular telephone ...

> A case in point: Suppose I am interested in the parallel package and
> want to know about *all* of its features.  How do I know that I
> should look at TeXLive/texmf/latex/doc/parallel?

Come, come, everything under the sun these days comes with some sort of
instruction manual - but, of course, knowledge doesn't pass merely via

> Moreover, it gives
> me only examples and I still am not sure if I know if a feature I
> might want is there but doesn't appear in an example.

Yes, but this doesn't correspond to the typical situation.  I've said this
before, but I'll say it again: most of the answers I give on this and other
lists don't come out of my head, they come out of a manual.

> Because I am
> in a hurry, I try to parse the information by looking through
> parallel.sty. This is not for the timid.

But why?  There's a perfectly good manual explaining commands, options,
limitations and (in this case) even a to-do list.

> I can't imagine how all documentation could be made accessible to a
> spectrum of users and don't offer a solution.

I'm not sure I understand the point here.  Anyway, surely, the point is that
the documentation IS there.  Does it really take so much imagination to find
it?  For example, I can do a file search for "parallel.*" and it will come
up with parallel.dvi relatively quickly.  In fact, an editor like WinEdt
allows you to double click on the usepackage command and then makes a
thorough search for any and all available info.

> However, a list like
> this does serve the purpose to a large degree. It would be a shame
> to discourage new users.

Yes, but it would also be a shame to reduce the list to "I need to do X,
what package can I use?"  After all FAQ's were invented just to deal with

Cheers,  Phil Ratcliffe

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