[XeTeX] Babel

John Was john.was at ntlworld.com
Fri May 4 17:29:24 CEST 2012

Well that gives me a lot more technical information than I had before, but 
as an end user I don't think I need to manipulate things too much.  To use 
my \latin macro, for example, all I have done is add a line to the file 


And so on for other languages.  (Never US English though - perisca il 

I haven't got involved in microtypographical features and don't *think* I 
ever require them (I'm open to correction!).  They seem to involve dynamic 
expansion and compression of a font within the body of a paragraph (is that 
right?) without manual intervention by the user.  Since I was brought up in 
a hot-metal typographical tradition, I absorbed with my mother's milk the 
notion that a font was an artistic creation that shouldn't be interfered 
with, so this all looks very suspicious to me, at least in the kind of work 
that I do (I'm sure it has its uses).  That said, I can remember compositors 
getting out a knife to cut the right-hand edge off a Van Dyck italic V or W 
if it happened to fall at the end of a line and created a crooked effect; 
these highly talented gentlemen would also keep a stock of emtpy cigarette 
boxes and even the foil packaging of the cigarettes so that the right-hand 
column of two-column footnotes could always be feathered to end up at the 
bottom of the page depth even if the column was naturally a line shorter 
than its left-hand neighbour...

I see I've fallen into a nostalgic reverie...


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Zdenek Wagner" <zdenek.wagner at gmail.com>
To: "Unicode-based TeX for Mac OS X and other platforms" <xetex at tug.org>
Sent: 04 May 2012 16:11
Subject: Re: [XeTeX] Babel

2012/5/4 John Was <john.was at ntlworld.com>:
> I'm not going to get involved in the polemics of this thread (which, as 
> has
> been well pointed out, has tended towards the puerile), but I am a user of
> (so-called plain) XeTeX, so far without any strong incentive to move over 
> to
> a LaTeX flavour of the program, and I do appreciate having the hyphenation
> algorithms immediately accessible so that I just need to type \latin,
> \greek, \russian, \irish or whatever to ensure good word-breaks (I despair
> of finding an English one which suits my preference for the old Hart's 
> Rules
> conventions, so I have a rather gigantic exception \hyphenation list, 
> which
> one day will no doubt hit the program's maximum).  In the early days of my
> transfer to XeTeX, I think someone said that these algorithms were 
> supplied
> to XeTeX by Babel, so I very much hope that it does continue to be a 
> feature
> of plain XeTeX at least, and don't see why anyone would want to prevent a
> member of the TeX community from enhancing and maintaining it if that's 
> how
> the person wants to spend his time.  XeLaTeX users have a choice of
> alternatives, and polyglossia is clearly of enormous use in some 
> contexts -
> I would happily learn it if a project came my way that would be difficult 
> to
> realize without it.  But until then, I'm very happy with what's on offer 
> in
> XeTeX, and I deplore the suggestion that modules should be abandoned,
> banned, etc. - especially when couched in the unpleasant terms that I've
> been reading in these emails.
Hyphenation algorithm is the integral part of the TeX engine. If you
want to switch to another language, you have to assign a proper value
to the \language register, set values of \lefthyphenmin and
\righthyphenmin and if non-english characters are set on the old
(La)TeX, you should also set \catcote, \lccode and \uccode of these
characters. Babel came with user friendly interface that allowed to
specify the language using a macro that is portable across
installations (US English is always \language 0 but if I install
Czech, Slovak and Hindi, in my TeX Hindi will be \language 3 while if
other person has Hindi, Sanskrit and Urdu, Hindi will be \language 1
but \hindi will do the same on both computers). Polyglossia is based
upon the same idea so that both packages can coexist in the same TeX
distributions, users may use both in XeLaTeX documents and the syntax
is very similar so that conversion of babel-based documents to
polyglossia-based ones is quite easy. What is not easy is emulation of
microtypographical features in XeTeX. Such emulation was described
before pdfTeX existed and PK fonts were used. It was based upon a perl
script that analysed the log file, then decided which lines should be
typeset with expanded or compressed fonts, modified the tfm files and
the source files, and if the paragraphs were optimized, created the
expanded and compressed fonts. It would be slightly easier in XeTeX
because font expansion can be given as a option in \fontspec (if I
remember the manual well) but still it is not as easy as in pdftex.

If you need anything else than US English and you consider Babel dead
and unusable, you can only use XeLaTeX+Polyglossia, you cannot even
use Luatex. Lua as a scripting languages offers to solve certain
problems in a better and easier way than it is done in nowadays Babel,
bu there is a question: should it be done in Babel, or in Polyglossia?
I think there is only one person who has the right to vote: the person
who volunteers to do it.

> John
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Juan Francisco Fraile Vicente
> To: Apostolos Syropoulos ; Unicode-based TeX for Mac OS X and other
> platforms
> Sent: 04 May 2012 15:19
> Subject: Re: [XeTeX] Babel
> Although I don't use babel nowadays, I would like to thank to Javier Bezos
> his effort and time in maintaining and improving it.
> That's one of the best things of the *TeX world, that you have options to
> choose what it is better for you. Perhaps XeTeX is great for some of us
> today; perhaps tomorrow again LaTeX+babel, LuaTeX or whatever.
> Keith J Schultz said it better, but I agree with him.
> Let's see what Javier and others can do.
> My congrats again, Javier.
> -------------------------------------------
> Juan Francisco Fraile Vicente
> -------------------------------------------
> 2012/5/4 Apostolos Syropoulos <asyropoulos at yahoo.com>
>> >
>> > Well, when you compare a LaTeX package to a TeX engine you either don't
>> > know what you are talking about or deliberately committing a logical
>> > fallacy, pick your choice.
>> Do you think I don't know the difference between a typesetting engine
>> and a package? When I talk about babel I mean obviously LaTeX and the
>> package and when I talk about XeTeX I obviously mean XeLaTeX and some
>> package.
>> A.S.
>> ----------------------
>> Apostolos Syropoulos
>> Xanthi, Greece
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Zdeněk Wagner

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