RE: support for 'macro' formatting languages

Subject: RE: support for 'macro' formatting languages
From: Pieter Rijken <pieter.rijken@xxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1999 14:22:01 +0100
Hi Sebastian,

I'm sorry if my reply wasn't put friendly. This certainly was not
my intention. I just cannot express myself as good in english
as i can in dutch...:-)

>  > Has anyone ever tried to format a 6 page formula? (Please 
> do not tell
> that depends on the page size, doesn't it. 

The point i was trying to make was that when the (SGML) content
crosses multiple lines or even pages, it is hard for formatting
tools to figure out how to display it nicely. I know TeX does a
really good job at this and probably has a lot and complex rules
for this. With tables too large for one line and crossing page
boundaries the formatter can somehow guess what to do to display it
rather nice, since the cells already 'group' information.

But, for instance formula's are worse because the formula itself
does not 'group' terms. This information is absent and thus hard
for the formatter to do right the first time. The author has to
help the formatter. Being the author you know which terms making
up the expression are 'logically' connected and must not be split
across lines.

>  > typed the entire formula in LaTeX. But figuring out how to split
>  > the formula across lines and keeping terms together in this process
>  > such that the displayed formula still is understandable. 
> That is the
>  > real problem with formula's.
>  > This you cannot get right with SGML, MATHML and DSSSL. 
> I agree that current systems have not reached the level of TeX. Is
> that a good reason to stop trying?

No. I hope i did not gave you this impression. I'm interested precisely
in how the author could pass 'formatting hints' to DSSSL, i.e. the
backend in jade.

> I might argue that with full semantic MathML the formatter would have
> more information telling it how to break up a formula into lines. 
>  > In such a case
>  > one has to know the formatting language (rtf, tex, etc.) 
> and somehow
>  > specify in SGML what the formula should look like. 
> Formatting instructions,
>  > architectural forms,.....
> you can use processing-instruction `hints' or "rend" attributes  as
> much you like. I don't see the problem. The good thing is that the
> formatting hints will clearly be visible as what they are, and not
> tied up with the markup language as they are in LaTeX.
> some people would argue that decoupling the page makeup 
> engine from the 
> abstract formatting (as DSSSL XSL do) is fatally flawed, unless you
> have a two-way conversation between the two (which is what TeX
> has). Frank Mittelbach (Mr LaTeX) tends to this view, for instance. I
> have some sympathy with it, but my answer is that in the 
> short term we 
> will revert back to poor typography. 

I think both views have merits. Depending on the particular document
and formatting requirements one would tend to one view or th other.
(Doesn't this apply to almost all languages....... ;-)

> TeX took us to previously unknown heights of automated typography in
> the 80s, but I would argue that the web revolution means that people
> will be willing to sacrifice typography to other concerns. In 
> the case 
> of math, that means being able to search and symbolically manipulate
> their formula.

I agree with you. One may also take the following view. Since TeX, people
are accustomed to very high quality formatting and printing and
would like to achieve that same high quality standard with SGML and DSSSL
as well.....

> but thats just my view of where the world is going; don't jump on me
> and says it's bad, because all I will do is agree with you.

I did not mean to. I think all input is welcome and i know for certain
that i'm no expert on SGML, DSSSL, and TeX If i react to something
someone on this list says, it is merely because i don't understand it well
enough and am trying to understand what i read.

I would like to thank all of you for the reactions (via this list
and private email) i received. For now you gave me a lot to think about!
Little by little i'm beginning to understand sgml a little more....



P.S. I think the combination SGML + DSSSL is incredible powerfull and
     don't think it is bad.

Pieter Rijken                          E-mail: pieter.rijken@xxxxxx

CMG Telecommunications and Utilities B.V.
Division Advanced Technology
Nieuwekade 1-19
P.O. Box 8038                 Phone: +31 30 2339300
3503 RA Utrecht               Fax:   +31 30 2339495
The Netherlands

DISCLAIMER: This statement is not an official statement from, nor
            does it represent an official position of, CMG
            Telecommunications and Utilities B.V.


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