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Re: [Groff] Introduction

From: Larry Kollar
Subject: Re: [Groff] Introduction
Date: Sat, 22 Oct 2005 15:23:42 -0400

Ted Harding wrote:

This is true but very unfortunate IMHO.  It isn't very difficult to
write a texinfo file, and there are many benefits to do that.

I would like to dissent (partially) from this.

Me too.

However, I have always regretted, even resented, GNU's transition
from "man" to "info" for basic reference. ...

But, nowadays, many GNU man pages are mere stubs, when they used to
be full summaries, and the reader is told to read the info document.

I'm sure there are some historical reasons for this... not the least
of which being the lack of a Free *roff processor at the time. But
given the need to process existing documents, often expressed
by various scripts in comp.sources.* (including a subset processor
written in awk!), one is left to wonder why the FSF/GNU project
waited for James Clark to give the world a true replacement.

... there is something of "1984" about GNU.

For instance, though are still far from succeeding, I suspect that
the GNU Thought Police really want everyone to use EMACS. And it's
not difficult to see hints of that in texinfo!

I've actually tried getting into emacs several times. Maybe I'm
too old & set in my ways, or maybe the reason there are so
many different editors is that people aren't comfortable with
the others. And if you're not comfortable in emacs, you won't
like info. There are two certain ways for a manpage to annoy
me: refer me to an info page, or to a website (especially when
I'm not online).

As for texinfo itself.... Sure, it was a good attempt for its time,
and as Werner said it has a good indexing system. But texinfo
(or more properly, info) is hobbled by its orientation toward
character terminals: it can't get anywhere close to what groff
can do using tbl or pic. Manpages are (were) oriented the
same way, but the flexibility of groff lets manpages move
beyond the confines of text-only while still producing sensible
output in a terminal. Texinfo is more suited for long documents
than short, especially compared to manpages, but I see
manpages and long documents as two separate animals

A few months back, I mentioned OmniHelp, a free (LGPL)
HTML-based help engine
( It works pretty
well with output from grohtml when split using -P-S4, and
it supports indexing and search. Its only drawback is a
heavy dependence on JavaScript, but otherwise it seems
like a good way to put long documents online.

Larry Kollar     k  o  l  l  a  r  @  a  l  l  t  e  l  .  n  e  t
Unix Text Processing: "UTP Revival"

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