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Re: [seul-edu] Re: perl or......

Chris Hedemark wrote:
> S. Barret Dolph said:
> > How well does Latex work for formatting entire books?
> Argggh!  I starting writing a book using KLyX (the KDE front end to Latex).
> Forget it.  I hate it.  I'd rather use MS Word (really!).  I've not been
> very impressed with any of the word processors I've seen on Linux yet
> compared to MS Word.  And I *have* written 200-300 page books in MS Word
> without difficulty.  It's actually pretty nice as it sets up your TOC,
> Index, footnotes, etc. all very easily and largely automatically.  Not
> tooting MS's horn here but just pointing out a big gaping hole that possibly
> exists in Linux tools.
> I've also offered to write documentation for Linux projects in the past and
> quickly lost enthusiasm when I found the best tools for writing DocBook
> documents are emacs and vi.  I want a WYSIWYG GUI so I can see what my
> readers will see.  Anything else is a waste of time, IMHO.

I have to agree with Manuel about the virtues of Latex. But I also
sympathize with Chris.

I would like some 'clickable' interface for Latex but decided against 
KLyX/LyX because the documents are not saved in a standard, simple 
Latex format that works with other applications I use. For instance,
I cannot use latex2html to convert documents created with Lyx into 
html. I must also explain that latex2html is not just a 'conversion' 
tool, but a very powerful - I don't know what to call it - 'web 
document production' tool. If you have your Latex markup set up 
correctly you can run latex2html on it and all of the sections are 
automatically split up and organized for you with navigation 
buttons. Any math notation that can be rendered with html markup
will be converted and anything else is automatically converted
to a gif, or png file. The documents load very quickly, and there
is a minimal amount of extraneous html code generated. If you want
to put a WebEQ/LiveMath/proprietary applet in the web page then you 
can do that once your basic document structure is set up. Because 
Latex is text markup, if you have your document source in 
Latex you can convert it to a wide number of formats. Also, text
documents are much easier to work with for programming and cgi 

Almost every math department at every major university in the world 
uses it, but that's not true at the community college and K-12 level.
This Latex vs WYSIWYG issue needs to be clarified and dealt with.
It is one of the biggest barriers for using Linux in mathematics
at lower levels. That's really a shame. It doesn't have to be that 
way. It requires a fundamental change in the way you approach 
documentation. It requires you to plan your document for one thing,
and also to be convinced *by concrete examples* that text markup
in a well-planned document is going to save time, money, and 
frustration in the long run, and not make your life miserable.

What would be really useful is to find some way to break the 
complexity of Latex and Tex down to smaller, easier to use pieces 
for the K-12 level. Some kind of well-organized collection of 
small Latex and Tex templates that could be pasted into a text 
editor would be helpful, along with some simple instructions 
on how to send the output to a dvi file, a pdf file, and an 
html file.

For math test templates, Latex has an automatic question numbering
feature that teachers would really like. I don't think even the 
Word equation editor has that feature.

Just because Latex is text markup, it doesn't mean you can't have
tools that save keystrokes. 

What I would really like to see is a Tcl/Tk menu with buttons on it
that you could click on and have various kinds of markup 'templates'
go to your text editor window. Everything from a simple '\bf' for
bold to the markup for automatic numbered and aligned equations. 
An application like that might really help level the learning curve 
for Latex.

Maybe even design your own markup definitions. You could click on 
other buttons for help, notes, conversions, spell checking, print,
or preview the result. If it could be interfaced with a little 
Tcl/Tk draw program that could produce latex output (like xfig 
does) then that would really be neat.

I've tried 'puts'ing around with it but I'm not a 
programmer and I can't figure it out. I think it might have 
something to do with how the 'open'/'config'/'flush' commands 
work with the 'channelid' option for 'puts'??? Argggh!

L. Prevett
Mathematics Instructor
Cochise College, Sierra Vista, AZ, US