alternatives to the concept of a page, Gutenberg press vs LCD screen

Mike Marchywka marchywka at
Fri Aug 30 19:01:41 CEST 2019

On Thu, Aug 29, 2019 at 08:10:51PM +0100, Peter Flynn wrote:
> On 29/08/2019 10:12, Mike Marchywka wrote:
> > All the dvi language and generally latex and typesetting seems stuck 
> > on the idea of "setting" fixed pages that may as well be images like
> > jpeg. HTML and I guess PDF can be more flexible in how they are viewed
> I don't think many people use DVI any more: PDF has been the default for
> many years. TeX *IS* a typesetting program, so it's not unreasonable to
> expect it to set type in a fixed way — but PDF can always be read and
> indexed and converted to plain text (so can DVI, but rarely done).
> LaTeX can be converted to HTML (eg Pandoc) but that's going backwards:
> the optimal workflow is to create XML or HTML, and then generate LaTeX
> from that, which I *much* more reliable. But HTML does not have the
> formatting scope of LaTeX, so it depends on your application.
> > (this is for ignoring things like data entry by user, just cases 
> > where a publisher wants to publish a specific document or work for
> > a reader and options for the viewer to nagivate). Someone here 
> > indicated that companies like this approach as they know what the
> > document will look like when the viewer gets it
> Yes, most publishers treat appearance as the single most important
> thing, because they believe their reputation is based on appearance
> rather than content. They are convinced that they need to control
> appearance first, before anything else. They are wrong, of course, but
> changing their minds is VERY DIFFICULT.
> > although in the past anyway that may not have been the case with pdf
> > IIRC.
> I'm not sure I understand that. It has always been the case, back as far
> as Gutenberg, all through the metal-type days, and through the
> Postscript era into the days of PDF.

I just meant earlier IIRC the PDF viewers didn't always seem to work consistently
but I'm not sure where they are now- I just use evince. 

> > Computer generated documents can be structured or at least
> > repetitive and lengthy compared to attention span of audience. But
> > mashing the logical structure to fit a fixed page layout seems less
> > important when you don't need to literally etch the result in stone.
> Who is mashing the logical structure to fit the page layout? I have
> only seen this for ephemeral documents (eg 1–2 page brochures etc).

That is a large part of what Tex does and then complains about badness
or something trying to add whitespace as best it can to accomodate
page break for floats. 

> > Scrolling and paging sound like easy natural ways to navigate but if
> > you have played with collapsible sections in html documents it
> > sometimes seems easier to just remove a logical section rather than
> > scroll or flip pages.
> You mean to hide it from sight (not physically remove it completely)?
> Yes, it's attractive to start with. But when you are reading a complex
> document, having to reveal and hide sections is just as annoying as
> flipping pages or (worse) scrolling). The lack of pagemarks is a serious
> problem: on paper you can use the little coloured sticky tabs for all
> the places you want to refer to — it's technically possible in a PDF but
> much less usable.
I guess I saw  expand/collapse first on some html and thought the idea was nice.
It is easier to collapse inline rather than going to a table of
contents, then to some fragment surrounded by the other junk,
and then back etc. Flipping pages is just that, but often you
want to flip through logical groups- maybe like the paragraphs
someone else mentioned in legal citations. My play code actually
does that, it sets up groups numbered in order ( I have thinks like "title"
and then the dvi has things like "title1" "title2" etc but they could
just as easily be paragraphs). If you can change the visibility that
way at the right granularity you can even end up with a small amount
of stuff to scroll through without contrived paged breaks for
a meaningless geometry ( that the viewer software  probably struggles to accomodate too ).
 And when you are done, just looking at what you want, it may even be
easier to copy/paste or otherwise cite/share.  

> > I guess my question is how to "typeset" logical structure into the
> > compiled latex output- dvi or pdf or even html.
> I'm not sure I understand this either: LaTeX already has logical
> structure markup (eg \section, \subsection etc), and this can be exposed
> as links in a PDF using the hyperref package. This can be extended to
> provide all kinds of other links.
As I understand it, these are just link to fragments not blocks that can
be manipulated as a whole but I 
could be wrong especially about PDF.  

> > I was playing with my own "special" macro's and modifications to the 
> > xdvik viewer to indicate logical sections and it seems like a nice 
> > thing to provide in the output. Dealing with things like BOP/EOP was
> > a bit of a problem I bypassed for now by using scroll size paper ( I
> > think it was 8 x 100 inches lol ).
> Nice idea. But I think there are lots of developments like this,
> including the current vogue for 'endless' HTML pages (not really
> endless, of course, just very very long) with smooth, accelerated
> Javascript scrolling, and LOTS of cross-reference links
Thanks, I thought there might be and it will take me a while to look
at those that have been suggested in these replies but at this
point I was just curious about what people even find desirable-
I was even suprised by the page turning graphic lol. 
Personally, I don't see a need for proporational space fonts
except for things like math but if you have it there it 
may as well be used everywhere. 
> > Has anyone had a reason to typset a scroll or other unnatural page 
> > formats?
> [Be careful using 'scroll' because it means something else to developers
> of reading systems for pre-book documents (scrolls).]
I was going to mention papyrus :) 
> Not to typeset (my work is mainly with books and journals) but on the
> web there is an experimental development for the CELT project
> ( where documents are no longer served in
> section-based chunks but as very long 'pages' with links and scrolling.
> It's not finished yet, so not everything is working, and the metadata
> still needs cleaning, but it does reflect the nature of early documents
> which often had no visible logical structure because it was left to the
> reader to work it out (even though the CELT transcriptions are taken
> from Victorian printed editions). This is unnatural to us, but it was
> very natural to the reader in the 6th–14th centuries.
Thanks, these are the kinds of things I'm curious about.  The page
though, with a physical size specificed in the latex document,
sounds irrelevant now. The viewer ends up having to accomdate the
viewing window anyway and that is all that matters without having 
to consider a legacy page notion AFAICT. 

> Peter


mike marchywka
306 charles cox
canton GA 30115
USA, Earth 
marchywka at
ORCID: 0000-0001-9237-455X

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