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Re: [groff] modernize -T ascii rendering of opening single quote

From: Ingo Schwarze
Subject: Re: [groff] modernize -T ascii rendering of opening single quote
Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2019 15:38:55 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.8.0 (2017-02-23)


Doug McIlroy wrote on Mon, Feb 04, 2019 at 07:33:05PM -0500:

> Ingo has recorded me as being opposed to rendering \(oq and \(cq
> the same in -T ascii.
> I had raised the issue of ` in m4 and shell scripts. However, it
> is good practice to make examples by pasting in working code,
> which can in turn be cut, especially from nroff-ed documents.
> The rendering of \(oq is irrelevant to this practice.
> For publishing m4 programs, however, it is really nice
> to have symmetrical left and right quotes. On asking around
> (and also in some of my own work), I find that people are
> very likely to use "changequote" to bracketing pairs such
> as {} [] <> and not to risk damaging the code by transliteration
> I conclude that my concern is very iffy. It should not be
> taken as a "no" vote.

OK, that makes sense to me, thanks for clarifying.
I have updated the list and also added Colin (see at the end).

So it still isn't a perfect consensus, in particular due to Mike's
strong opposition.

I don't think the "backward compatibility" argument is actually
very strong in this particular context.  The meaning of \(oq is
"opening quote", and that doesn't change.  In most contexts,
representing an opening quote as ' is likely to be just fine.  Even
in those (rare?) contexts where it may not be ideal, it only affects
-T ascii output, while arguably modes like PostScript and PDF are
critical for groff's typesetting quality.  Everybody knows that
expressing typesetting in ASCII can only be a compromise in the
first place.

The arguments that Ralph brought to the table have maybe not been
fully evaluated yet, see my last mail to him, so i'd be interested
in the outcome of that before a final decision.


For easy reference, here is an overview of the arguments concluded
so far, as i understood them:

 - stop relying on a historic meaning of ASCII 0c60
   that was never portable and that conflicts with Unicode
 - compatibility with modern (Unicode-compatible) fonts
   that treat ASCII 0x60 unambiguously as "accent grave"
   (admittedly, people often use -Tutf8 together with those)
 - but still useful when using LC_CTYPE=C temporarily, for example
   in build system contexts or when logged into remote machines,
   and for those people always using LC_CTYPE=C with modern fonts
 - symmetry with the ASCII rendering of \(lq
 - symmetry with groff error messages etc.
 - compatibility with the GNU coding standards
   (admittedly, for roff output, historic precendent may be more
    important than GNU coding standards, so i give this argument last)

 - may cause issues when post-processing -Tascii output with scripts
   (but how many people do that, and rely specifically on quotes?)
 - may break existing documents that incorrectly use \(oq to
   specifically get the ASCII 0x60 ` output glyph
 - looks worse with traditional fonts that provide an "opening quote"
   glyph for ASCII 0x60 rather than an "accent grave" glyph
 - typos of \(oq vs. \(cq are no longer obvious in ASCII output
   (but ASCII is weak for detecting typos in the first place)

Mike Bianchi       -- strongly opposed because he values backward
                      compatibility above all else

Ralph Corderoy     -- slightly sceptical, considers whether
                      preserving historical rendering has value,
                      and likes fonts rendering ` ' symmetrically
Werner Lemberg     -- not quite explicit, but does not seem to
                      dislike ` ' in the first place
Doug McIlroy       -- not opposed,
                      but did not express clear support either

Anthony Bentley    -- clearly in favour
Bertrand Garrigues -- clearly in favour
Colin Watson       -- in favour because it improves display of manual
                      pages remotely with LC_CTYPE=C while using a
                      modern font locally
Dave Kemper        -- seems to not object
Ingo Schwarze      -- in favour without feeling too strongly
Jason McIntyre     -- would be OK with changing it
Jeff Conrad        -- clearly in favour
Ted Unangst        -- would be happy with the change

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