# Re: Word processors for Mac - the verdict

Peter Ceresole <peter@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Tim Streater <tim.streater@xxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Aside from that: yes, one reason I love LaTeX is that since you don't
see the output version of your document until you ask to see it, you
completely ignore all practical details of how the layout will look when
you're composing.

That advantage on its own means LaTeX is a winner for me.

That's exactly why I would never use it.

I agree. In the first days when I made programmes, tape editing was on
2" Ampex machines. There was no slomo or still frame viewing. You had to
decide on your cuts, make then and then see what you'd got. I used to
call it 'editing with your eyes poked out'. Using a markup language like
that feels similar to me.

I can't see any connection myself.

The fact that one does the two jobs one after the other using LaTeX
doesn't result in any loss of control - how could it? - it just means
you can do each job to a higher quality and in less time overall because
when you're working on one job, you're not distracted by the other.

I'd say you /obviously/ get more control, and it's /obviously/ easier to
do the writing and easier to do the layout if you split the jobs into
the traditional way: writing first, then typsetting. It was how the
work was always done[1] until computers took over in typesetting.

So why are you arguing as you are, Peter? Is it just you being
dishonestly contrary in order to wind me up, or what?

This is how it works:

With a markup language, you specify exactly what you mean exactly where
you mean it, and there's no doubt about anything at all - it's much
clearer and more straightforward than using a wysiwyg method and as
utterly unlike editing video on mag tape by dead reckoning and guesswork
as eating an orange.

The astronomers my other half knows gave their secretaries proper
training in how to use LaTeX - they now all use it in preference to MS
Word because it does what they want and doesn't give them any trouble,
unlike MS Word. The choice of what to use was entirely down to them.

To my mind, the degree of imprecision and lack of user control attendant
on using wysiwyg text processors is problematic - indeed, I find that
what you claim you would find wrong with a markup language is what I do
find is wrong with wysiwyg.

Consider: once upon a time, many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away
(okay, Manchester, 40-odd miles down the M62 or M56 from here), where
was I? Oh yes, I was doing an MSc. We all had a dissertation to write.
I wrote mine using LaTeX. Almost everyone else used MacWrite II. Well,
so did I - I used MacWrite II to write my LaTeX input a lot of the time
for reasons that are too tedious to explain.

On deadline day, the main lab used by the course was full of students,
all busily checking their draft printouts sorting out the final details
of the formatting in the way that you have to when dealing with a
wysiwyg system.

told LaTeX to typeset, and gone for a bath. Then I told BibTeX to do
its thing, told LaTeX to go again, and made breakfast. After breakfast,
I told LaTeX to do its thing the final time (to sort out the
cross-references: can't do that until run 3, because only then are the
was a Mac Classic: total machine time was about 45 minutes (15 mins per
run).

Total amount of human time spent by me on checking that morning: none.
I'd sorted out all the things that TeX couldn't quite do on its own some
time previously, and the fixes stayed fixed as they do with TeX. By
typesetting each chapter separately, I could reduce the machine time per
run down to levels that weren't a problem - this was a standard
technique explained in the manual (actually, still is - but we don't
need it for speed reasons any more).

So I strolled in to the department, stuck my disc in the disc drive of
the LaserJet equipped Macintosh IIfx, and told the machine to send the
prepared PS file to the printer (which took bleedin' ages because it was
using the 9600 bit/s serial link rather than 230,400 bit/s LocalTalk and
I had a couple of PS level 1 bitmaps that needed to get down that bit of
wet string).

Many of my peers who saw the result expressed jealousy two ways:
firstly, because it looked better than everyone else's dissertation;
secondly, because I'd had no struggle with last-minute checking.

Of course I was unbearably smug about it - well, I wasn't going to get
clobbered for being smug, and they'd been sneering at all that messing

My opinions on this subject are from experience. How about you, Peter?
Your opinions seem based on ignorance - I suspect you've not learnt how
to use LaTeX and tried it, have you? I have. And I learnt to use
wysiwyg tools before I learnt to use LaTeX.

Here's a very simple specific example. Let's assume you want to
emphasise some text by making it italic.

You, Peter, would have to grab your mouse, select the text to italicise,
and then either put your hands back on the keyboard and recall the
invisible key combo (invisible, because it doesn't appear in your
document when you press the keys unlike with LaTeX commands, and thus is
hard to recall) for italics', or use the mouse again to select
Italics' in a menu somewhere. Very, very slow - especially on a normal
screen with normal eyes and normal founts: I've always had to peer
closely to ensure that I've italicised exactly what I want and only
that. Takes a zoom in at times and no there's nothing wrong with my
eyes and that's what it was like when I was in my early 20s.

Once you've done all that, you are left with a problem: at the end of
the italicised section, the space before the upright text will look too
small. Most wysiwyg WPs do not permit the addition of the required
small amount of space to correct this, and even if they do it's a bit of
a fiddle *AND* you have the job of making sure you grab that sliver of
space if you should want to cut-and-paste the italicised word or phrase
somewhere else.

It's very slow, it's hard to see exactly what's what, and you're
unlikely to get adequate results even if you can apply a small sliver of
space - so the wysiwyg way is always slow, and either gives you shoddy
results or takes a signficantly slow bit of fiddling on top of the very
slow basic process to get sorted properly.

If you had been using LaTeX, you'd've just typed:

\emph{text to emphasise.}

Not only is that at least an order of magnitude faster than the wysiwyg
method, but it automatically provides you with the italic correction you
need. Faster, easier, better results. Wysiwyg is all downsides by
comparison.

If you don't like italics for emphasis, just re-write the \emph command
(not hard - why not change to bold sans serif for emphasis? Works in
*that* documentclass I wrote for me). If you want no italic correction,
these are the obvious incantations:

\itshape It's all in italics from now on.

\textit{Only this text italicised}

(there are other ways of doing it, but you don't want to know about the
guts of LaTeX's New Fount Selection Scheme, do you?)

Because you don't have to fiddle around selecting text with the mouse,
there's effectively no risk when using TeX in any flavour of not
italicising precisely the text that you want to have in italics - and
anyone who's spent any time using a wysiwyg rig knows that it's very
easy to miss a character at the end, one way or the other, when you're
playing with that sort of thing on screen. The LaTeX method gives you
more control and it gives you easier control - and it's faster to use.

Win, win, win - all the way. Right up to the point where you want to
lay out a magazine page or similar and then you realise that's exactly
what wysiwyg is *for* - but otherwise, wysiwyg is the lesser way of
producing text output.

Other people have similar experiences to me:

<http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/wp.html>
"The word processor is a stupid and grossly inefficient tool for
preparing text for communication with others."

The Seybold Report on Publishing Systems
Volume 26, Number 2 -- September 30, 1996

<http://xml.coverpages.org/taylorWYSIWYG.html>

"FOR ELEVEN YEARS I have been an enthusiastic participant and
propagandist in the DTP revolution. But now I want to reflect on how we
were seduced by WYSIWYG's illusion of control and how we lowered our
expectations and typographic standards and became deeply confused about
who in publishing is supposed to do what."

And he goes on to do that... The above are very much worth a read
Seybold's the bloke (not the author of the above) who came up with the

And TeX gives you higher quality than MS Word no matter what you do,
really:

<http://www.ctan.org/documents/zen/zen.pdf>

From:

<http://www.ctan.org/what_is_tex.html#whytex>

*If the layout matters*, then you have to be able to see it as you
compose the piece. Otherwise, you're simply not in control.

Throughout most of the history of printing, the job of composing the
work and the job of typesetting the work were carried out separately.

I cannot imagine how it's possible to suggest that when using the
traditional process, the author lacks control over the content, or that
the typesetter lacks control over the printed matter. Both stages are
firmly and fully under the control of the person doing them - of course!

Now we've got computers on the job, it's possible to do both at the same
time, but LaTeX was written with the idea of continuing to do things the
traditional way: writing first, layout last.

The fact that one does the two jobs one after the other doesn't result
in any loss of control - how could it? - it just means you can do each
job to a higher quality and in less time overall because when you're
working on one job, you're not distracted by the other.

There are and have long been many systems for providing instant previews
with LaTeX - on-the-fly typesetting to show you the document so far.
Most LaTeX users prefer not to use them.

If the layout can be described by logical structure, then it works out
to be very easy and very efficient to use a markup language to describe
that logical structure. This method has the advantage of wysiwyg of
showing you exactly what you *mean* in a very clear way - much clearer
and easier to work with than any of the show me the structure' displays
that I've seen in wysiwyg WPs (those that permit structure, that is).

Using logical structure markup means it's trivial to make radical
changes to the loyout of the document which you can guarantee will be
totally consistent across the document - so when you enter the
typesetting stage of the work, you have more convenient control over the
precise layout than with a wysiwyg setup - even if the wysiwyg setup
allows the same sort of control, it's more convenient to play around
with that sort of thing using LaTeX.

Where wysiwyg wins hands down for the layout stage is when you have a
visual layout job to do - that's when LaTeX is pure masochism. But if
the job involves anythign that can be described by logical structure,
then LaTeX beats wysiwyg hands down every time in terms of ease of use
and ease of control provided you have a good document class to lay out
that structure.

Rowland.

[1] Aside from a few mad artists.

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