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News from Around:
     Conferences in Pisa and Cluj (Romania);
     LaTeX workshop in Berkeley; Helvetica — the movie

The Editors

Recent events

Italian TeX User Meeting
Transylvania TeX Conference
LaTeX workshops in Berkeley
Helvetica — The Movie

GuIT logoPisa view
The 4th Annual GuIT Meeting
By Lapo Mori

The Fourth Italian Conference on TeX, LaTeX, and digital typography, organized by GuIT (Italian TUG), was held in Pisa at Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna on October 13, 2007. The success of the meeting, with over 80 people attending the morning session, is a clear sign that the Italian LaTeX community is growing. This is certainly due to the activities promoted by GuIT, including a semiannual journal (Ars TeXnica), the annual meeting, the website, the forum and LaTeX courses.

The talks, which were all open to the public for free, were held both in the morning and in the afternoon. They covered a wide range of topics, and were chosen to appeal to all levels of users.

Lapo Mori talked about the curriculum vitae, first from a generic point of view and then showing the available LaTeX packages and how to customize them. Claudio Beccari and Andrea Guadagni presented their experience in preparing with LaTeX both the paper and the electronic version of a technical manual (il Prontuario dell'Ingegnere, published by Hoepli).

The following session was all about graphics (and in particular PSTricks) in LaTeX. The three talks regarding graphics were of different difficulty. Massimo Caschili reviewed the basics of PSTricks, Luciano Battaia showed some advanced application that he carried out with his high school students, and Agostino De Marco presented some amazing 3D drawings that he created with Sketch/LaTeX/PSTricks/Tikz.

Stйphane Matiz and Gianluca Gorni presented a package that they developed to include LaTeX fonts into figures made with Mathematica.

The following session focused on using fonts with LaTeX. Claudio Beccari presented the new edition of the Type1 fonts that are used by the slide class. Massimiliano Dominici showed some advanced typographic adjustments that he used to reproduce a seventeenth century document with Fell Types.

As usual, many talks were given by international spokesmen. Klaus Hцppner (DANTE e.V.) spoke about tables with LaTeX, Norbert Preining explained some innovations in TeX Live, and Jean-Michel Hufflen talked about automatic references in LaTeX. Kaveh Bazargan, from River Valley Technologies, recorded the talks which are now available at the GuIT web site.

The meeting coincided with the end of the term of the GuIT presidency. Maurizio Himmelmann gave his final speech as president and Massimiliano Dominici took charge. Despite the good results obtained by GuIT in the past few years a lot of work lies ahead: mainly with the LaTeXpedia project and with the organization of EuroTeX 2010, for which GuIT is a candidate host. As regards LaTeXpedia, a task force of GuIT members has just started to work on the software infrastructure and we hope to go public in a couple of months. We will keep PracTeX Journal readers informed about the developments.

(Recently, GuIT published the third annual issue of their journal, Ars TeXnica. Contact GuIT to order a copy of this nicely typeset journal (in Italian).)

Cluj, Romania

The Transylvania TeX Conference, and the founding meeting of the Romanian TeX Users (GROTeX)

The first Transylvania TeX Conference was held in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, on September 1, 2007. It was attended by colleagues from several universities in Transylvania. The aim of the meeting was twofold:

  • to discuss some specific TeX topics: Paul Blaga and Horia Pop talked about problems related to the LaTeX curriculum, and Sandor Horvath spoke about the hyperref package;
  • to discuss the creation of a TeX Users Group in Transylvania, and establishing a journal dedicated to TeX and friends.

We decided to proceed with the formal aspects creating the group, writing a charter, and the legal issues of registering the organization. As for the TeX journal, we decided to ask for support from the "Babes-Bolyai" University from Cluj-Napoca and Cluj University Press, the publishing house of the university. We also decided to create a CTAN mirror at "Babes-Bolyai" University in the near future.

UC Berkeley

LaTeX workshops in Berkeley

Four LaTeX workshops were held October 12, 2007 at the UC Faculty Club on the University of California, Berkeley campus. The topics were: Introduction to LaTeX, Document Structure, Graphics and Tables, and Typesetting Mathematics. The presenters were David Auslander, Richard Cottle, and Lance Carnes. The first two speakers are experienced university professors and long-time LaTeX users. The event was sponsored by PCTeX.

There were 20 attendees, each with a laptop computer and a LaTeX system installed. Most attendees had less than three months experience with LaTeX.

Each of the four 90-minute workshops was to follow this format: the speaker would present a topic for about 15-20 minutes, then pause to allow attendees to do exercises based on the new material. Each exercise was to be followed by an explanation and a Q&A. Each 90-minute session would have three of these 30-minute segments.

Attendees reported that they learned a lot and that the workshops were useful in getting past that uncomfortable start of using a new software system. At the end of the day they had enough LaTeX skills to compose a document with figures, math, a table of contents, bibliography, and index.

Future workshops are being planned. Based on this first one some adjustments will be made. Having two workshops in a day rather than four will be more effective, and more time will be spent with exercises and Q&A.

Helvetica — The Movie

In the spring of 2007 Helvetica, a movie about the popular typeface, was released. It has been shown in a number of theatres around the world and been well-received. Check the web site for screening locations and DVD availability.

Below are some comments on the movie by Charles Bigelow, co-designer of the Lucida fonts, Professor of Typography at Rochester Institute of Technology, and a film enthusiast. This spring he will introduce a screening of the film at the Dryden Theatre in Rochester, NY.

It's an enjoyable, informative, and interesting movie, though by focusing on contemporary personalities - which is natural for a movie - it creates a misperception. If your knowledge of Helvetica came only from this movie, you might think the face is a unique creation of the mid-20th century, instead of just one of several competing faces in the "grotesque" genre, such as Univers, Akzidenz Grotesk, Folio, Venus, and related sans-serif designs of the 19th and 20th centuries.

That quibble aside, it is true that Helvetica (originally named Haas Neue Grotesk) is the grotesque design that became the most famous of its genre (excluding its various clones, plagiarisms and close imitations), and the reasons for its success are entertainingly discussed and debated by the various talking heads in the film.

I particularly liked Wim Crouwel's lucid explanation of Helvetica's relationship to modernism.

(The generic name "grotesque" used for a subset of sans-serif typefaces dates back to 1832, when the Thorowgood typefoundry in England issued sans-serifs named "Grotesque". The first sans-serif type was issued by the Caslon foundry in 1816, under the name "Egyptian.")

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