Re: support for 'macro' formatting languages

Subject: Re: support for 'macro' formatting languages
From: Norman Gray <norman@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 13:14:56 +0000 (GMT)

I think it's at this point that I rein in the hyperbolic horses, and
rescue at least some of the hostages to fortune, before any more get


> > (though this is the American _Mathematical_
> > Society, who might be expected to be fussier about layout than their
> > more applied cousins, and thus even less enthusiastic about MathML).
> Aha. Thus proving there is a fallacy in your argument somewhere;-)

Aha, indeed.  Hrumph.

> XML validators don't try to check the maths for correctness
> they just try to check you haven't done something equivalent to
> $ a + \section{b} $ to get a bold `b'. You might say that no one
> would ever do that. You'd be wrong. If (like Sebastian) you work for a
> while for a publisher accepting author written TeX you find that
> authors will put _anything_ in their TeX files, and scroll past any
> number of errors, if the output looks OK.

Don't I just know it.  I spent a large chunk of this year saying very
rude things about barbarities like that, and developing an SGML
replacement for a LaTeX system, largely to avoid such things.  I _am_
on the side of the angels, here.

It occurs to me that things like $a+\section{b}$ could be at least
frustrated by suitable \ifmmode tests, and linebreaking hints added
fairly cheaply with things like `\let\topleveloperator\relax $$a
\topleveloperator{+} b$$', but neither is something I'd like to be asked
to implement.  Also, it might be rather off the point.

Sebastian mentioned VHS versus Betamax.  Possibly contrarily, I wonder
if LaTeX might not be the VHS analogue here.  I can imagine it surviving
beyond its natural life as a notation, not because it's technically
better (from a relevant point of view) but because the folk providing
the publishers with their copy simply refuse to use anything else.

Since David invoked the longer term future of markup, I might as well say
how _I'd_ like to tell the gadget about maths.  Forget angle-brackets,
forget equation editors, forget casual use of computer algebra; I want
a graphics tablet, where I can write and jostle the maths (my maths
handwriting is a whole lot more consistent and legible than my text
handwriting) and the machine turns it into MathML.  Since there are real
mathematicians directing MathML, it seems likely that the markup buried
invisibly beneath that will indeed be able to cope.  For that, I would
drop \fraction{}{} like a hot coal.

Many thanks for a fine dispute.

Have a good new year,


Norman Gray              
Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow, UK     norman@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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