[texhax] Using XeTeX to select fonts

Reinhard Kotucha reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Tue Jan 29 00:30:03 CET 2013

On 2013-01-28 at 18:32:13 +0000, Philip TAYLOR wrote:

 > William Adams wrote:
 > > David Kastrup I think it was, had a great analogy
 > > about using Plain TeX like to controlling a car using
 > > sets of reins attached to a car's engine and steering
 > > and brake systems so that one couldn't close the hood
 > > lest one cut them off)
 > Whereas using LaTeX is like trying to drive a racing car
 > with flat tyres, an automatic gearbox with no manual
 > override, a steering wheel that decides for you where
 > it thinks you want to go, with the brakes permanently
 > half-engaged, and all this whilst wearing a Michelin-man
 > inflatable suit.

Admittedly, I enjoy such conversations, though I don't think that they
are overly helpful.  If you really want to have full control, you
shouldn't write your macros on top of Plain but upon TeX, the program.

LaTeX isn't as bad as you think.  There are many inconsistencies and
even bugs in the current version, most of them were inherited from an
older version.  I'm convinced that LaTeX 3 will be much better in this
respect.  But it's a good thing though.

Writing everything from scratch is often simply impossible.  If I
would recommend anybody to write his thesis in Plain TeX, you can be
sure that he'll use Microsoft Word or OpenOffice instead.

The LaTeX macro packages are usually quite powerful and flexible.  I'm
using Plain TeX occasionally and I once wrote something directly on
top of TeX, the program (aka pdftex -ini).  Well, there are only very
few situations where it makes sense.  In most cases it's absolutely
impossible to write everything from scratch, just because I don't have
enough time.  Let's take UTF-8 support as an example.  It's supported
by LaTeX for a couple of years.  AFAIK you wrote your own macros in
order to use UTF-8 with Plain TeX.  But people usually don't have
enough time to start at such a low level and there is nothing on CTAN
they can use.

Phil, I know that when you suggest using Plain TeX, you're thinking
about education.  I'm convinced that in a Microsoft dominated world
it's much more important that students learn more useful programming
languages like GNU Octave rather then Plain TeX.  It's quite bizarre
to see that most young engineers don't know anything else but a stupid
office tool like Microsoft Excel, which is just good enough for a
beverage billing in an allotment club.  They are even quite unfamiliar
with text editors, and so on.

The question is not Plain TeX vs. LaTeX but *TeX vs. Microsoft Word.
This is what I've observed.  It's a pity.  But we have to live with
the facts.  I encountered many strange things recently.  Young people
don't read books anymore.  Today one asked me what to put into the
bibliography of his thesis, he gathered all information from Google.

Phil, do you really believe that you can convince a student to use
Plain TeX nowadys and provide appropriate support?  I can only provide
support for LaTeX.  My (and especially his) time is limited.

It also doesn't make much sense to compare Plain TeX with LaTeX at
all.  They are two completely different things.  Plain TeX is a
programming language, LaTeX is a markup language.  Of course, a
helicopter is much better than a dish-washer and a rabbit is
undoubtedly better than a nuclear power plant.

Anyway, without the enourmous number of LaTeX macro packages we have
on CTAN, nobody would use TeX anymore.  It's not my personal opinion,
it's a matter of fact.


Reinhard Kotucha                                      Phone: +49-511-3373112
Marschnerstr. 25
D-30167 Hannover                              mailto:reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Microsoft isn't the answer. Microsoft is the question, and the answer is NO.

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