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Re: [Groff] troff(1) and info

From: Larry Kollar
Subject: Re: [Groff] troff(1) and info
Date: Fri, 2 Nov 2001 20:15:24 -0500

I started this reply when the thread first started, then got diverted.
The diversion has now been invoked, so I'm back. :-)  And I see the
thread is still continuing, so I will too.

Bernd Warken wrote:

> BTW, groff is a roff documentation system, so why use the TeX info system?
> Man pages are better IMHO, and the groff HTML interface is powerful enough
> to provide hyperlinked documentation.

I agree with you, but I think the "g" in groff (and what it stands 
for) is the determining factor. The FSF concocted Texinfo during a 
time when there was no free *roff and no HTML at all. The grand
plan was to completely replace *roff, but instead James Clark filled
in the gaping hole with groff, and now the project is in Werner's 
capable hands. In practice hardly anyone uses Texinfo outside
"official" GNU documentation. Of course, that doesn't stop the FSF 
from continuing to use texinfo. :-)

While Texinfo (and TeX itself) has its strong points, it's not as
author-friendly as *roff. It's just too verbose by comparison. (The
same can be said for SGML, even with tag minimization.) When you're
writing, you can throw in appropriate *roff requests as you go,
without shifting mental gears.

On the other hand, manpages become unwieldy to read online after
they get more than two pages long or so -- if info's interface
didn't suck vacuum, it would be a fair replacement. Then again,
if gxditview could identify manpage references such as foo(1) and
make them into links, like kdehelp & gnomehelp do, that would be

If I were emperor, I'd leave groff's manpages to describe command
line options and refer to full manuals in /usr/doc. Between the
groff.texinfo manual and the supplementary docs that people have
written -- if it were collected and made part of the groff
distribution, it would be a pretty good start.


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