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Re: [O] Leslie Lamport has a foot in the 21st century

From: Hubert Chathi
Subject: Re: [O] Leslie Lamport has a foot in the 21st century
Date: Tue, 11 Oct 2016 10:56:36 -0400
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/24.4 (gnu/linux)

On Sun, 09 Oct 2016 18:32:55 +0200, Marcin Borkowski <address@hidden> said:

> On 2016-10-09, at 16:26, Hubert Chathi <address@hidden> wrote:

>> It's not a matter of compiling to the right file format, but rather
>> whether LaTeX is the right tool for the type of document structure
>> that Lamport is proposing.  His system requires people to be able to
>> expand and collapse things, which TeX is unable to handle.  You might
>> be able to fake it in TeX by using hyperlinks, but that might drive
>> the PDF/dead tree readers crazy once they get a couple of levels deep
>> in your proof, having to keep track of all the links that they had to
>> follow.  Not to mention, it would probably require a lot of TeX black
>> magic to implement.  It would require adding some new environments
>> and/or commands to LaTeX, which the current LaTeX-to-HTML converters
>> wouldn't be able to handle -- you'd need to implement those bits.  So
>> given that you'd need to create a bunch of new infrastructure, and
>> TeX would basically just be dead weight, the question is: is it worth
>> still using LaTeX, or is it better to start with something else
>> entirely that's better suited to handle hierarchical proofs?

> Please be careful to make the distinction between TeX and LaTeX here.

Yes, I was careful to distinguish between TeX and LaTeX, and I said
"TeX" when I meant "TeX".  I'm sure that LaTeX is perfectly capable of
representing Lamport's proposed proof structure.  But the question is,
why use LaTeX when half the reason for using LaTeX is that it can
generate beautiful printed output through TeX, and Lamport's
hierarchical proof would translate pretty badly to print.  (As I
mentioned, it would be possible to translated it to a printed version,
but reading a printed version would likely be rather painful.)

I don't know much about LaTeX3, but it looks like it's still targeting
print, and so it would have the same problems.  Not only that, but the
existing LaTeX-to-HTML tools might not work with LaTeX3, so if you're
getting rid of half of your toolset, why switch to LaTeX3 instead of
some other format that targets HTML more directly?

I'm sure that there may be good reasons for sticking with LaTeX
(e.g. being able to easily copy-and-paste into for-print articles,
familiarity with the language, etc.), but there are also disadvantages,
and it will be interesting to see what factors determine what type of
system, whether it be LaTeX or something closer to HTML, ends up being
used to write hierarchical proofs.

I suspect that it will be a long time before hierarchical proofs gain
much popularity though, given that Lamport has been talking about them
since at least the 90's, and I haven't seen one "in the wild" yet.  So I
don't know how much of a factor it will be "killing" LaTeX, if LaTeX
ever does get killed.

Hubert Chathi - Email: address@hidden - https://www.uhoreg.ca/
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