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RE: [Groff] Using groff as one's main WP/TP

From: Ted Harding
Subject: RE: [Groff] Using groff as one's main WP/TP
Date: Thu, 20 Oct 2005 18:44:16 +0100 (BST)

On 20-Oct-05 Robert Marks wrote:
>> However, I think that using groff to write your webpage, or as a
>> front end for various document formats, is probably misdirected.
>> DocBook, word processors, LaTeX (in some cases), and so on are much
>> better suited to these various tasks.
> I use groff for letters, academic papers, and class overheads (with the
> mpresent package).  I've been using *roff since the days of nroff and
> daisywheel printers, i.e., 1978.  Am I alone?

Well, you're tempting everyone to put their acitivites into the pot!

I've used *roff since starting with Unix in the early 80s, and during
a period with DOS alone was using groff and WordPerfect-5.1 in parallel
(interesting that in particular WP51's equation editor was very
reminiscent of eqn).

I basically use groff for everything. I've typeset a couple of books
with it (not authored by me), to make camera-ready copy, and more
that a couple of PhD theses (for friends or students, for the sake
of good appearance); the theses in particular typically had lots
of equations and figures, which would always come out beautifully.

Presentations, too. And I wouldn't bother with any special package.
Well laid-out screen-sized pages projected from the computer as
PS or PDF files works fine. And with PDF you can plant PDFmarks
in your groff which become cross-links or active links in the
presentation, so you're up in "powerpoint land" only with much
more class -- and you have not had to fight off the coercive
influence of the PPt program itself!

The ability to fine-tune formatting in groff still makes it
nearly if not really unique. I recall one project which involved
making camera-ready copy for some chapters of a book, the other
chapters of which had already been prepared in WordPerfect.
So the task was to closely emulate every detail of the existing
style. Groff came up to the mark!

Fundamentally my view of groff is that it enables you to place
arbitrary marks in arbitrary positions. With that in mind you
can envisage any task. Of course it may take a while to find
out how to achieve that arbitrary placement, but it's in there

And this, I think, is where the generation gap begins to show.
Those of us who were doing that kind of work pre-1990 found
out that groff/troff was the best show in town at the time
(TeX was only just emerging). So if we wanted to do some
particular thing, we worked out how to do it, and so on; and
thus over the years (literally) aquired fluency.

For quite a while after TeX emerged, froff could still out-TeX
TeX on some fronts -- even as late as 1996-7 I recall groffing
tables and diagrams for colleagues who couldn't quite get TeX
to do what they wanted.

The generation who have started their document work since the
late 90s, however, have a different view of things, it seems.
Software became easier to use for basic formatting, so the
"programming language" nature of groff, inherent in doing good
work with it, became a put-off. Along with this came a culture
that people's standards of layout were what software like Word
gave them. Sadly, I'm inclined to lump in with this the later
versions of WordPerfect subsequent to its Windowsization.
One thing WP lost in this transition was the "printer editor",
which was a major element in customising layout in WP51.

Groff, along with TeX, will I hope still be what people will
choose who have a proper eye for style, layout, formatting,
readability, and all the key elements of good typesetting.
Especially when they want to do something "difficult" ...

Best wishes to all,

E-Mail: (Ted Harding) <address@hidden>
Fax-to-email: +44 (0)870 094 0861
Date: 20-Oct-05                                       Time: 18:21:53
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