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Old 10th November 2008
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Originally Posted by drhowarddrfine View Post
These are the sort of discussions that leave me confused as to what to study. On my list of things to learn is troff/groff/nroff/tex/latex and I'm not sure what to choose or where to start.
I will second Dr. and J65nko. You have to have clear idea of what your long term needs are before you getting deep into the business of typesetting.
Bare in mind also that you can not learn typesetting system by reading manuals. To paraphrase Dennis Ritchie and Brian Kerringan from their famous book C programming language:"The more you use particular typesetting system the more you will learn it".

I am a mathematician. Since the start of my undergraduate studies in 1991 LaTeX was and is de facto standard for publishing in Mathematics, Physics, and Astronomy. Many professional Journals will not only insist that the content is submitted in LaTeX but will also provide a mandatory templates. So if you are interesting in those subject you will naturally start with LaTeX. LaTeX is actually a set of macros and document styles which were written in late eighties by Lesly Lamport (professional mathematician) in the desire to simplify the use of TeX which much like row Troff is very capable but somewhat difficult to use. Think of LaTeX as macros for TeX.

Once I started using LaTeX soon I started understanding that for real mastery you must know pure TeX so I started more and more hacking pure TeX. Since, I am doing it from 1991 (actually since 1988 to be honest) I got a hang of it. LaTeX is presently the huge set of different macros which will enable you to do anything. As with all big things chances are small that you will explore all different corners.

There are also less know macros. The most famous general purpose (means sucks with Math) is ConTeXt. If you are trying to typeset a middle ages religious book you should probably start with Memoir class.

As Dr. J suspected my road to Troff was in some sense in the backward direction comparing to his. Once I started learning Unix in systematic fashion from the textbooks I started wondering what were all those strange chapters at the end of every serious Unix book about Troff. Also it was very strange that the authors didn't have any words of gratitude for Knuth for using his typesetting system to write the book. They claimed that those beautiful pages were written in Troff.
I got so curious that I started learning Troff. The truth of the matter is that I probably do not need to know any Troff do conduct my professional life but I like to use it when writing Exams, memos, and letter. It is just very elegant and so small that I do not have to worry if it will be available on any Unix or Unix like system. It will also work blazingly fast on any hardware no matter how old it is.

If you were computer developer who needs to write man pages probably the statement will be reversed. You do not need any TeX/LaTeX.

If your objective is to write a single page long letter than I am afraid that
M$ got it right and you will probably not need anything except word.
But if you want ever to write anything serous even a cook book better get something serous on your computer.

Most kind regards to everyone for this interesting discussion.


Last edited by J65nko; 10th November 2008 at 02:35 AM. Reason: I don;t want to found by google ;)
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docbook, groff, latex, tex, troff, typesetting

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