[XeTeX] XeTeX maintenance

Philip Taylor P.Taylor at Rhul.Ac.Uk
Mon Apr 27 12:39:39 CEST 2015

Joseph Wright wrote:
> On 27/04/2015 07:35, Philip Taylor wrote:
>> Going even further off-topic, but pursuing this one aspect of the
>> thread, is there not only real one problem :  the need to educate users
>> to cease marking up their documents in raw (La)TeX syntax, and instead
>> to express them in well-formed XML ?  I have just finished typesetting
>> (using [plain] XeTeX) a 544pp book marked up entirely in XML, and whilst
>> I have made no efforts to generate PDF/UA, I am convinced that the task
>> of so doing (assuming that the necessary primitives are or were
>> available in XeTeX) would have been 1/1000 of the effort needed to do so
>> had the book been marked up in traditional (La)TeX syntax with its usual
>> accompanying conflation of form and content.
> As Ross says in a parallel message, XML raises different issues and is
> not a panacea. For a start, we can ask if XML is a particularly good
> format not only here or for anything (there's a blog post by Linus
> Torvalds suggesting the answer is 'no'!). Assuming XML is at some level
> a good plan, that still doesn't make it a good plan for the end user nor
> ensure that the end sure will stick to logical structures. There's also
> the business that TeX is useful because sometimes we do need some visual
> adjustment or programming element.

Let me address the last point first, because it is by far the easier to
rebut.  In the 544pp book to which I referred earlier, there are
occasional places where TeX's typesetting system, in the absence of
explicit guidance, produces sub-optimal results.  This is overcome at
the XML level by the simple expedient of attributes (where such can be
restricted to a single element):

<Para indentation="none" vadjust="0,75" hbadness="4000"><image
status="active" vadjust="-1,8" source="FO+78-81-57-1813" repository="NA"
callout="Document_2"></image><foreign language="Greek">Διὰ τῆς παρούσης
μου ἀναφορᾶς ἀναφέρω τῇ ἐξοχότητί της, ὅτι κατὰ τὸ ͵αωαʹ ἔτος

or of pragmats (where they may be required in a more general situation):

<Para><pragmat code="\looseness = 1 \emergencystretch = 0,1 em
\tolerance = 9999 \hbadness = \tolerance \parfillskip = 0 pt plus
0,3\hsize \relax"></pragmat>In April 1813 the then Patriarch of
<place>Jerusalem</place> <owner-individual
(1808–27) wrote to <other-person indexterm="Liston,~Robert">Robert
Liston</other-person>, the British Ambassador in

The former are used fairly frequently to optimise appearance; the latter
are used in only a very few places.

As to whether "XML is a particularly good format not only here or for
anything", all I can say is that in my experience we (humanity, that is)
have not yet come up with anything better; LaTeX 2e, by explicitly
permitting the conflation of form and content, fails abysmally in this
respect (IMHO, of course).

** Phil.

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