[texhax] Plain vs. Latex

Michael Barr barr at math.mcgill.ca
Wed Oct 28 16:19:44 CET 2009

I don't disagree with what you write.  As I said, the journal I help edit 
uses latex excusively--in fact latex 2e.  Where I part company is with 
people who criticize me for not using "pure" latex.  My gripe with the AMS 
is that they disable standard tex things to no particular purpose.  I have 
a book that was published in an AMS series (the Centre de Recherche de 
Montreal series, to be exact).  When I wrote it I had no particular 
publisher in mind and I made extensive use of the plain \matrix macro.  I 
was familiar with it and it was easy to use.  When it was accepted by the 
CRM, I tried putting it in amslatex.  I had no gripe with the style specs 
(well one, I had used \raggedright, which the AMS wouldn't accept--ok, it 
that's they way they are, I can live with it.  But the \matrix macro, 
which I included since it is not in latex, just caused an error message. 
Eventually I was able to get amslatex to accept it.  But I certainly 
wasn't going to redo 224 matrices just because someone at the AMS decided 
that Knuth's macros weren't good enough.  It is that attitude, "My way or 
the highway" that I am objecting to.


On Wed, 28 Oct 2009, Barbara Beeton wrote:

> michael barr writes,
>    I would like to add my 2c to what Pierre MacKay and others have said. Let me
>    begin by pointing out that nearly all of plain can also be used in latex.
>    There are exceptions, but not many and mostly not important and you can
>    always add them to your own file of macros.  This is not true of amslatex,
>    incidentally, which has gone to a lot of trouble to make it quite difficult,
>    although not impossible, to use plain macros.  I don't understand their
>    philosophy, but then that was why I quit the organization 40 years ago.
> although i personally prefer plain tex,
> at least partially because i learned it
> first, there compelling reasons for the
> adoption of latex by ams.  this is a
> production shop, publishing many thousands
> of journal pages a year.  in order to
> make this a successful enterprise,
> uniformity is needed, and the ability
> to process as much as possible with as
> little human intervention as possible.
> the philosophy is that human effort is
> best spent on ensuring the mathematical
> accuracy and intelligibility of content
> as opposed to fine-tuning idiosyncratic
> macros submitted by authors.  the latex
> packages spoken of provide the necessary
> uniformity while enabling generation of
> identical versions in both print and
> electronic form, the latter with full
> hyperlinking provided by hyperref.
> with books, more flexibility is possible,
> and authors can submit their files using
> ams-tex (a structured interface to tex
> more closely aligned to plain tex) or
> latex, or even plain tex, preferably
> using an author package that provides
> the "look" of the particular series in
> which the book is to appear.  as the
> person who has the duty of answering
> tex-related questions for authors, i
> definitely appreciate it when authors
> follow our guidelines.  we do receive
> a number of books that have been written
> to some latex document class other than
> one from ams, and it usually requires
> many hours of technical effort to adapt
> these styles to the local requirements,
> which include such basic things as
> making sure the text block fits in the
> specified margins so printed material
> isn't either cut off at the outside
> trim or made unreadable in the binding
> gutter.  (the number of authors who
> modify the page size to fill a sheet
> of letter paper is truly staggering;
> i know many authors refuse to read
> instructions -- they're brazen enough
> to say so -- but if they just looked
> at a copy of the journal or book
> series to which they're submitting
> their manuscript, it should be obvious
> that a text block that fills a letter
> sized sheet just won't fit withint
> the trim of the target publication.)
> more time spent by the publisher means
> higher cost.  while it may seem shameful
> to push this work onto authors, it's a
> fact that an author understands the
> material better than any editorial
> person or texnician, so a careful and
> responsible author can help to ensure
> both a valuable document and an
> affordable price.
> the bottom line for the person who originally
> asked is, choose plain tex or latex as you
> find you prefer, but if you're submitting
> a manuscript for publication, please read
> what the publisher recommends and follow
> these instructions.
> 						-- bb

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