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From the Editor: In this issue; Next issue: Best of PracTeX; Editorial: LaTeX and TeX on the Web

Lance Carnes & Paul Blaga

In this issue
Next issue: The Best of The PracTeX Journal 2004–2008
Thanks
Editorial: La(TeX) and the Internet

In this issue

This third issue of 2008 concentrates on an unusual subject: LaTeX and TeX on the Web.

The first article, A gentle learning curve for LaTeX, was written by George Grätzer, the well known author of LaTeX books and a fine mathematician. Here he gives a hint on how to more effectively use his latest book, More Math into LaTeX, for learning LaTeX.

In Writing posters in LaTeX, Tomas Morales de Luna discusses several packages and templates useful for producing poster presentations.

Next, Paul Thompson, in his two articles, Clinical trials management on the internet, I. and II., describes the use of LaTeX and the internet to produce forms for clinical trials management.

The last piece is a paper by Tim Arnold, plasTeX: Converting LaTeX documents to other markup languages, devoted to a software package for converting LaTeX files to other markup languages, in particular HTML and XML.

In this issue we have more in the Columns section than usual.

Dave Walden continues his Travels in TeX Land, describing an effort to typeset a sidebar for a book project.

In a new column, Book Reviews, we review two LaTeX books, by George Grätzer and Vincent Lozano.

In a special column for this Web-themed issue, LaTeX & TeX Web Sites, we provide an Editor's selection of informational web sites. Let us know if we missed your favorite site.

Of course there is the traditional Ask Nelly column, where we answer readers' questions. This time the questions are related to beamer and typesetting ancient Greek.

In the Distractions column we offer a way to have fun by typesetting your own cooking recipes.

We hope you enjoy this issue!

Next issue: The Best of The PracTeX Journal 2004–2008

The editors will present a selection of articles from the first four years of the Journal. New articles will be published as well.

If you would like to write an article for the Journal send your idea or outline to the editors.

Thanks

Many people have collaborated directly or indirectly to the success of this electronic journal: the authors, the production editors, and the readers.

Thanks to all the production editors, and to others who proofread the articles and provided useful comments and feedback.

Editorial: (La)TeX and the Internet

The theme of this issue was: LaTeX and TeX on the Web. In my opinion, there are at least two ways (opposite, somehow) of looking at this subject.

First, the question is: how is the Internet (and, more specifically, the Web) managing to "help" LaTeX? Well, it is quite a complex question to answer. Of course, both TeX and LaTeX were born before the Internet explosion, but I don't think such an important development would have been possible without the Internet. I started using LaTeX some fifteen years ago and I still remember how difficult it was to get a new version, because we had our first Internet connection as late as 1995 and even then, there was a single computer connected to the Internet in the entire university ("Babes-Bolyai" University, Cluj, Romania). It may seem incredible for the younger people, but life was not as "easy" as it is today when you can get everything you want with a single click of the mouse, even from the comfort of your own home. At the end of the 1990's, if you searched on the web for LaTeX, only a very small proportion of the answers actually refered to "our" LaTeX. The situation is, of course, completely changed today. So, what else is the Web doing for us LaTeX users, besides offering access to the latest versions of the executable, packages, and documentation, through CTAN and its mirrors? There is more to come, of course:

The other way of looking at the relationship between LaTeX and the Web is to ask the opposite question: how is LaTeX "helping" the web. The answer to this question is, in my opinion, much more complicated and, to some extent, the definitive answer is still "out there". As the reader suspects, probably, the problem is how to translate properly a LaTeX document into an HTML one. It is not just about putting on the web a typeset LaTeX document (usually a PDF file), but to include, in a natural way, the LaTeX document itself in a web page. There are several programs which perform the translation of a LaTeX file into a HTML file. Some of them are described in the LaTeX Web Companion and I'm not going to list them here.

Nevertheless, most of these LaTeX-to-Web translators have problems with handling the mathematical part of the LaTeX file. Of course, TeX and LaTeX were created mainly for typesetting mathematical documents. Most of the translators handle the situation in a way which, in my opinion, is not the most appropriate: all the mathematics are "cropped" and transformed into graphic files, which are then included into the HTML file. The resulting web page is often less than satisfactory because, usually, the fonts used in the text are not compatible with the ones used in the math part, and, in addition, the quality of the graphics is not that great. In these situations, I think it is preferable to put on the web a PDF file. The alternative, which is so much better, is to use MathML for mathematics. There are programs that allow this, but, as far as I know, they are still far from perfection. Besides, usually, the translation programs only recognize a limited number of packages. In fact, to get the best results, you have to write the LaTeX source from the very beginning with the translation in mind. There are programs, like SciWriter, which include an editor and export both in LaTeX and XML (with the MathML extension). But even here it is difficult to include pieces of LaTeX produced in other ways. So, in my opinion, it is already possible to get good web pages starting from LaTeX sources, but this requires an expertise which is still beyond the reach of the beginning users of LaTeX and HTML. The "poor man" version (with graphics files instead of math) is, nevertheless, available to everyone.

To conclude, (La)TeX and the Web have a happy marriage that, hopefully, will continue to produce new (and better looking) offspring.

Paul Blaga
Editor


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