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Re: Groff vs Heirloom troff

From: Ingo Schwarze
Subject: Re: Groff vs Heirloom troff
Date: Sun, 26 Jul 2020 22:03:49 +0200
User-agent: Mutt/1.12.2 (2019-09-21)

Hi Marc,

>> software to have. Neatroff comes to the rescue on that front, so...
>> we're basically looking at unifying *three* major implementations. ;-)

> i guess the number of contributors of all those projects is not that
> big so i wonder if someone thought about a join effort on one
> implementation?

As usual with free software projects, licenses are incompatible:

 * groff: GPLv3 (viral, clearly the worst one)
 * Heirloom Doctools: CDDL (viral, but a different virus)
 * Solaris 10 roff: CDDL
 * Plan 9 roff: Lucent Public License (GPL-inxompatible)
 * Documenters Workbench: Eclipse Public License (viral, yet another virus)
 * neatroff: ISC

So neatroff is the only one that is fully free, and it was specifically
started as a fresh implementation to avoid the implementation baggage
that comes with all the historical implementations.

The reason i'm sticking to groff is that groff has been the typesetter
predominantly used by BSD systems during the last 25 years, that
it is still dominant as a manual page formatter, which implies
maintaining compatibility with groff is crucial while compatibility
with anything else is nice to have at best, that it is good enough
for my (moderate) typesetting needs, and that even though its
developer base is quite limited, it still has the largest number
of active developers.

I think it's a general phenomenon that you can't have full unification
among Free Software projects.  The best you can usually get is some
cooperation to improve compatibility.


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