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From the Editor

Lance Carnes


Judging from reader comments, the first issue of The PracTeX Journal was a success. Thanks to all of you who wrote. As you read the articles and columns please use the response links to send us feedback. The PracTeX Journal is still evolving and your feedback will help us as we strive to improve it.

The articles in the Table of Contents are ordered by experience: articles for beginners are at the top, and as you move down the list there are more challenging topics.

The first two articles are by Issue 1 readers who wrote to us that they were LaTeX beginners and had difficulties getting started. They were courageous enough to write about their experiences, and they also provided suggestions to assist new users. Peter Flom wrote an insightful article, A LaTeX fledgling struggles to take flight, and A. Schremmer wrote a how-to guide for Mac users who want to install and use LaTeX. Both articles are recommended to everyone, not just beginners, as they point out some of the difficulties we all faced when first using TeX (and perhaps are still facing). If the TeX community can solve more of the problems these two authors wrote about, it will help increase the popularity and usage of TeX. For an insightful and well presented opinion on this topic, see Arthur Ogawa's In my opinion in this issue.

The other authors contributing to this issue have presented a wide array of useful and well-written articles. You can learn how to install and use fonts with ConTeXt (Schmitz, Lindsay), how to produce LaTeX slide presentations, how to manipulate the array package, and how to design and give an online exam with LaTeX. Peter Flynn wrote an introduction to XML, and Don Story presents some preliminary results of an ongoing TeX/LaTeX user survey.

A new feature beginning in this issue is Christina Thiele's News from Around. Christina has been a long-time TeX and TUG supporter, and from 1991-1995 she edited a printed newsletter called TeX & TUG News (TTN). One of the features in TTN was News from Around that contained items about TeX user groups from around the world, new TeX developments, and anything else fit to print. It's appropriate that she is repeating this useful column for The PracTex Journal in both name and content. If you have news send a note to Christina.

Our regular columnist for \begin{here} % getting started, Douglas Waud, has had to withdraw for the time being because of health problems. We wish Doug all the best. Doug's co-author for the first column was Tim Null, who will be writing the column single-handedly for now.

Steve Peter's column deals with ConTeXt Text Editors, and in David Walden's Travels in TeXLand he describes some of the issues that might go into choosing a TeX for Windows environment. Ask Nelly answers questions about TeX Live discs, math matrices, TeX fonts, and LaTeX slide presentations.

This summer TUG is holding its second annual PracTeX conference at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. This is a chance to meet other LaTeX and ConTeXt users, get some valuable training, attend presentations, and enjoy an area the locals call the "Southern Part of Heaven". Hope to see you there.


The Editorial Board and I want to thank the authors, columnists, and Ask Nelly answerers for their excellent pieces which make this journal possible. We also want to thank those who worked behind the scenes:

Reviewers and copy editors: Barbara Beeton, Karl Berry, Jon Breitenbucher, David L Elliott, Michael Guravage, Jim Hefferon, Baden Hughes, Richard Leigh, Jenny Levine, Adam Lindsay, John O'Rourke, Steve Peter, Tarcisio Praciano-Pereira, Will Robertson, Maarten Sneep, Juan Luis Varona, and David Walden

Web site support: David Walden.

Technical support: Karl Berry and Brian Carnes.

The PracTeX Journal project and numerous other TeX-related projects are sponsored by the TeX Users Group. Please show your support by joining TUG and participating in TUG conferences.

TeX Usage

As this issue was coming together, a few articles caught my attention. These were pieces that related directly to user acceptance of TeX and the future of TeX. Peter Flom's and A. Schremmer's articles reveal that it's difficult for beginners when first using TeX and that there are ways to make this easier. Don Story's TeX/LaTeX Survey results, and especially the long responses, point out similar difficulties. (Be sure to take the TeX/LaTeX survey.)

As a result of discussions of these issues among the Editorial Board, the TUG Board, and other groups, Arthur Ogawa wrote an opinion outlining TeX's Interface Challenges and offers a path to correcting them. Arthur has also set up a PracTeX forum to discuss this and other issues. Once you have read his opinion piece and some of the other articles mentioned above, feel free to join the forum and offer your insights.

Positions open -- high job satisfaction!

Would you like to work with an enthusiastic group of editors and authors to produce The PracTex Journal? We can use some assistance:

Articles editor -- this person will assist authors during the review and copy editing process, and also help with copy editing and TeX formatting. Requirements: Enthusiasm and a willingness to work with authors. Editing experience and a knowledge of LaTeX and/or ConTeXt are a plus. Send us an email if you are interested in being an Articles editor.

Specials editor -- this person will compose the Ask Nelly column, the reader Feedback, and any other special features (perhaps a puzzles column?). Requirements: some experience with HTML coding and web page formatting. Send us an email if you are interested in being Specials editor.


A play called The Typographer's Dream by Adam Bock ran in San Francisco recently. It's billed as a comedy, and you have to admit it's not often you see 'typographer' and 'comedy' together. There are three players who discuss their jobs: a typographer, a geographer, and a stenographer; and as the play develops they get beyond the mechanics of their jobs and offer humorous and sometimes biting insights about each other. The typographer noted that her job sometimes involves making lies look like the truth! I enjoyed it -- worth a night out.

Here are some puzzles involving the QWERTY keyboard and English words, from Jon Carroll's Xmas Quiz, 2004, in the San Francisco Chronicle.

1. What singularly amusing yet real 10-letter word can one type on the keyboard using only the top row of letters?

2. I am thinking of a two-syllable word that is plural. If I add an "s" to the end of the word, it becomes a three-syllable word that is singular. What's the word?

(Answers in Ask Nelly)

Feel free to contribute puzzles and games. Let us know if you would like to edit a puzzles column.

Lance Carnes


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