Paul Blaga

In this issue

The 2007-2 issue is not a very big one (is it because it's the busiest period of the year?). We did manage, however to get some interesting and, hopefully, useful material.

The theme of the issue was "TeX for Editors" and I'm happy to see that all the papers are quite closely related to the topic. Two of the articles are related to the bibliographies in LaTeX. One is about a very useful package (for editors and publishers, mainly), pdfpages, and the other describes how an electronic journal, The PracTeX Journal, works.

Next issue

Theme: Tools for LaTeX and TeX Users
Editor: Francisco Reinaldo

In recent years there has been increasing development of text/table/graphic editing tools for LaTeX and TeX. Consequently, easy-to-use tools that can be accessed by a graphical user interface (GUI) are becoming more popular and many are currently available on the web. Tools such as JabRef (Java GUI front end for managing BibTeX and other bibliographies), LyX (a GUI word processor that uses LaTeX for printing and supports structural editing of LaTeX markup), and others are emerging as major players in the GUI tools area.

The PracTeX Journal Issue 2007-3 has the theme, "Tools for LaTeX and TeX Users". The intention is to present ideas on the development of, and experiences on the use of, these tools.

The scope of the issue includes, but is not limited to :
- tools that assist the author in preparing graphics, indexes, bibliographies, and other parts of documents;
- previews, and PostScript/PDF manipulation tools;
- free or almost free tools;
- cross-platform tools.

We encourage you to submit original papers describing your experiences using LaTeX and TeX tools, and also papers on tool development work in progress or completed.

--Submission Guidelines:

If you would like to submit an article or technical note for publication please contact the editors pracjourn@tug.org. We will work with you to prepare the article. Also see http://tug.org/pracjourn/submit.html for the Journal's guidelines.

-- Important Dates (extended):
Paper submission deadline: July 22, 2007
Publication date: August 22, 2007

-- News
PracTeX Journal is receiving papers not only in English but
also in Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, German, Norwegian, Chinese,
Korean, Romanian and Italian languages. Please, contact the
editors in English.

Best Regards,

Francisco Reinaldo
2007-3 Issue Editor

Thanks

Of course, first of all I would like to thank the authors for the time and effort they spent to write such interesting articles.

As for any issue, an essential part of the work was done by the production editors, which, in this particular case, were Lance Carnes, Francisco Reinaldo, Yuri Robbers and myself. Being myself a beginner in all the editing business, I couldn't make it without the constant help and encouragements of Lance, Rei and Yuri. Many thanks for that.

Many thanks also to the reviewers and proofreaders who checked the articles and sent comments and corrections.

Special thanks, also, to Dave Walden who keeps entertaining us with his interesting Travels in Tex Land (this time he's visiting the ConTeXt region).

Editorial: Editing Journals and Proceedings with LaTeX

A common misconception is that if you want to edit a journal or some proceedings with TeX you should absolutely have to be at least a TeXnician, if not a TeX wizard. I don't really think this assumption is correct. Definitely, you do need some expertise, but not much more than that. And you must have a methodical approach.

If the journal is already set to be used with LaTeX, and you have all the class and style files you need, your task is not very difficult. If you have to start from scratch, then you will have to take a number of decisions:

format of articles: Sometimes, the paper size is imposed from typographical reasons, however, the exact dimensions of the text, of the header and footer, margins, separations of header and footer are for you to decide. A very useful package to help you do all that is geometry, available from CTAN.
fonts: By default, the fonts used by LaTeX are Computer Modern. These are bitmap fonts and do not produce a very good result when printed, especially when some sort of scaling is involved. It is preferable, therefore, to use some Postscript fonts. If the journal doesn't have many mathematical formulae, there are several very good free Postscript fonts you can use (Times, Palatino, Helvetica, ...). Unfortunately, usually, when these fonts are loaded, only the text font of the document is changed, while the mathematical font remains the same, namely Computer Modern and, in most situations, the two don't match very well. There are, however, some compromise solutions, for instance using Times for text and Mathptm for math. There are, also, some commercial mathematical fonts to be used with Times, for instance Mathtime, or the fonts designed to accompany the Mathematica software. Finally, there exist complete sets of fonts for TeX and LaTeX, containing both text and math fonts (such as Lucida Bright).
Once these two important global choices have been made, several other choices have to be made as well:
• the layout of the title page of an article, as well as the layout of section titles;
• the layout of tables and figures;
• the layout of the reference list;
• the contents of the header and footer (you can use, for instance, the package fancyhdr, available from CTAN);
• what graphics file formats are acceptable and how to include them.
Once these decisions have been made, is time to prepare the class or style file. First of all, you have to decide which version of TeX is acceptable for the papers submitted. You will, most probably, only accept LaTeX. However, depending on your expertise and available time, you may as well decide to accept other TeX versions, such as Plain TeX or ConTeXt. In any case, LaTeX cannot be excluded. I will assume that the natural choice is to work (at least) with LaTeX.

There are, basically, two roads you can take from here. Either you build your own class file, starting from scratch, or you take a class file which is close to your needs and you modify it. The first way, making your own class file in my opinion, is only for experts; if you don't know the inner mechanism of LaTeX it is quite difficult to get by. I, therefore, strongly recommend the second way, adapting an existing class file.

There are some issues that you will have to deal with before starting to work on the class file. First of all, there is the problem of copyright. It is part of the LaTeX policy to allow the modifications of class and style files, provided they are not distributed under the original name, and that the original source is acknowledged. So, from this point of view, you are on the safe side if you play by the rules. Secondly, it is a good strategy to choose as a starting point a class file that was originally designed for a journal (or several journals), such as amsart. The reason is that you will need an entire series of commands that are not available in the standard article class , for example, commands for volume, issue, year, etc.

And now comes the hard work. You will have to deal with some characteristics of TeX and LaTeX which are not familiar to the casual user, or even to more advanced users, if they only use LaTeX to write articles or books. There is a chapter in LaTeX Companion (by Mittelbach, et al.; see http://www.tug.org/books) explaining the structure of a class file. You may want to read it before you start. Anyway, all you have to do is figure out where in the document is the thing you want to change and how to change it, to adapt it to your needs. An excellent guide on document class internals is the article Rolling your own Document Class: Using LaTeX to keep away from the Dark Side, by Peter Flynn, published in the 2006-4 issue of The PracTeX Journal.

The last step you have to perform is to prepare the interaction with your authors. It is preferable, if you have enough time, to prepare a list of exigencies for the submitters. You have to be as specific as possible. In my opinion, at least the following points should be touched:
• the format of the source file: don't say only "LaTeX", but also mention the version and, preferably, forbid the use of the obsolete LaTeX 2.09;
• general style aspects: avoid the use of non-standard package files, avoid redefinition of commands (even shortcuts: the modern word processors have shortcut keys, so there is no need redefine the commands to save key strokes);
• the use of the sectioning commands should be compulsory; in particular, you should absolutely forbid the redefinition of sectioning commands;
• strongly recommend the use of the theorem and similar environments; try to provide a proof environment and insist that the authors use it;
• forbid the use of vertical spacing commands (\vskip, \bskip, \vfill), as well as commands for line or page breaking;
• when it comes to graphics, as I said, try to be specific: specify exactly what graphic formats are acceptable (depending on the format you are using: PDF or PS); if the authors provide bitmap graphics, be sure they are aware that the resolution should be at least 300dpi to ensure good quality printouts; also, specify what packages should be used to include graphic files; discourage the use of obsolete packages, such as epsbox or others of the same kind;
• don't allow changing the fonts of the document; this is something you do, through the class file you defined.
Many journals have article templates. Personally, I don't think they are necessarily a good idea. I would rather prefer that authors use the standard article document class, which, definitely, they know better, than to try to use a class which is new to them. I have always considered that it is a lot easier to make the (usually small) modifications to adapt a standard article to the rules of a new class, than to try to correct the inherent errors committed by those who attempt to use the template.

Paul Blaga
2007-2 Issue Editor