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Re: [Groff] Introduction

From: Miklos Somogyi
Subject: Re: [Groff] Introduction
Date: Wed, 19 Oct 2005 13:58:27 +1000

On 19/10/2005, at 7:19 AM, Meg McRoberts wrote:

Older engineers know (or once knew) some *roff...  Not so much
the younger ones.  A whole generation went through college without
learning much of anything about Unix/Linux, sadly.  I work with
a lot of fairly decent engineers who don't really understand why
you should partition your disk or do your daily work under a UID
other than root...

How true. While I was still working, only two of us used troff and Unix out of
130 research engineers.

The vast majority could put up with frequent crashes, with long printing times of very simple documents, with the fact that things did not really looked like they should have,
that they had to do repeat jobs one-by-one, etc.

But they could not put up with a lot of learning of things not directly related to their jobs. "I am working on the flows in this precipitator.. Are you telling me that I should stop for a few days to learn .br .pg .sp etc? And all the blazing commands of Unix?"
So they looked at SGI workstations as monsters and embraced their PCs.

So, if troff/Unix etc wants to survive, something has to change. For me a much better documentation would be enough, like a modern version of Sun's "Using Nroff & Troff" from 1990. Probably in pdf form, so that you could do on-line searches as well as print the whole thing and
curl-up with the printout in bed.

To entice new users some kind of GUI seems inevitable. Hopefully better executed than those in abound today. I always thought that Apple's idea to put a GUI on top of Unix was a great idea. Until I exchanged my old and slow SGI for their flagship. Yes, I enjoy iTunes, iPhoto, EyeTV etc, but Unix, as I knew it, doesn't seem to be here. It is very difficult to change the kilometer long name of your home directory Apple assigned to you,
it is very-very difficult to set up the system for sharing, etc.

And even the GUIs. I don't mind using well designed GUIs for simple and infrequent jobs. I get upset when Britannica or Acrobat fills up all 23 inches of my screen, I get upset when the Mac roars
when these beast start-up, ever so slowly.
Acrobat has a great feature: it can greatly reduce the size of pdf files produced by others (~20:1). But you have to do it one-by-one, instead of typing a short command you have to be there
clicking for hours.

So, if you folks are planning to sex-up groff, please don't kill-off the command line, please
don't let the GUI spoil the whole thing.


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