Subject: Re: support for 'macro' formatting languages From: MARK.WROTH@xxxxxxxxxxx (Wroth, Mark) Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 15:47:16 0800 
Rather than quote the extensive discussion on MathML versus TeX as a language for mathematics, I'll just throw my own two cents worth in. TeX was designed, in part, to handle mathematics by someone who spent a great deal of time and effort trying to design algorithms which would produce pleasing and correct mathematical displays. But Knuth in essence admitted defeat on the issue of breaking multiline formulae, despite some very heavy duty work on breaking lines and pages. His comment It's quite an art to decide how to break long displayed formulas into several lines; \TeX\ never attempts to break them, because no set of rules is really adequate. The author of a mathematical manuscript is generally the best judge of what to do, since break positions depend on subtle factors of mathematical exposition. For example, it is often desirable to emphasize some of the symmetry or other structure that underlies a formula, and such things require a solid understanding of exactly what is going on in that formula. (in The TeXbook) points out that there are frequently issues related to the underlying meaning of the formula which affect where it should be broken. MathML has some potential for helping in this regard, but I suspect we're a long way from being able to completely specify this oneand the idea of including hints on how to break the formula, which is natural to TeX, seems foreign to an SGML based system. The second point is that TeX notation was designed with the typist in mind; the typesetter does quite a bit of work based on minimal notation in the input file. As long as we're typing ASCII input files at moreorless ASCII terminals, I'll vote for TeX over MathML any day. But this is not necessarily the way the world is going. When (if) there's a standard way to "type" quasiGUI material in the editor, I'll stop caring so much about how the input file is structured. MathML might offer such a potential, if it truly catches on as a standard and there's enough demand for the ability to do good mathematics in SGML/XML editors. But I'm not hopeful; Microsoft's Equation Editor seems about as far as we're likely to get, and we may be lucky to get that. TeX's status as a quasistandard has, by the way, lead to something very like what I've been describing, based on (La)TeX; TCI's Scientific Workplace is a GUI front end to LaTeX, with Maple thrown in for good measure. I've found it to be very useful in this regard, although I've also been known to start there and convert to "pure" LaTeX for continued editing. (No, I don't work for, or get a commission from, TCI. But their product seems relevant to this discussion). DSSSList info and archive: http://www.mulberrytech.com/dsssl/dssslist
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