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Re: Footnote line length ratio to current line length

From: G. Branden Robinson
Subject: Re: Footnote line length ratio to current line length
Date: Sun, 15 Nov 2020 22:57:43 +1100
User-agent: NeoMutt/20180716

At 2020-11-13T13:59:27-0500, T. Kurt Bond wrote:
> Is there any chance of the footnote ratio change I discuss getting in
> the upcoming groff release?  Should I add it as a bug at

Probably a good idea.  As you may be aware, I am updating and expanding
Larry Kollar's document with an eye to its inclusion in groff

Due to the way I work, this has involved me learning a lot about ms and
its history.

> On Thu, Aug 6, 2020 at 11:53 AM T. Kurt Bond <> wrote:
> > groff_ms(7) says that changing the number register FL is effective
> > at the next footnote.  That seems to be true only for one column
> > text.

This behavior is worth trying to reproduce in Heirloom Doctools troff.

> > In multicolumn text you have to change the undocumented fn:MCLL
> > after calling .MC.  fn:MCLL is an alias for the number register
> > pg@fn-colw, which is set when .MC is called.  (.2C calls .MC to do
> > the work, so we only have to worry about .MC.)
> >
> > Is fn:MCLL intended to be ms internal use only, or is intended to be
> > available to users?

Definitely internal.  This is clearly documented in the in-progress
rewrite (alas, it's not committed yet).  I'm attaching it, and let's see
if I remember to actually do so before sending.

> > I don't like having the line length of the footnotes only 5/6 the
> > width of the columns: I like them to be the full width of the
> > current line, whether that is in one column mode or multicolumn
> > mode.  I'd like to be able to change that default, to avoid having
> > to change the footnote line length in multicolumn mode using the
> > undocumented fn:MCLL.

I think the reason for this 5/6 ratio is because that's what AT&T ms did
in the 1970s, and possibly every ms implementation ever since.

> > I propose adding a string variable, FR (footnote ratio), that
> > defaults to to 5/6 for compatibility and replaces the uses of the
> > literal 5/6 for setting footnote line length.  You can set this at
> > the beginning of your document, or before each .MC or .2C.  For my
> > use I'd always set it to 1, making the footnote line length the same
> > as the line length.
> >
> > (I think making setting FR effective before the next footnote, like
> > setting FL in one column mode, would take rewriting par@reset to
> > recalculate fn:MCLL every time, instead of just after a .MC.)

I'm not entirely sure what to do about this.  How much fidelity to AT&T
ms behavior do people expect from ms?  I've begun to surmise that the
answer is "a lot less than they expect from man(7) documents".


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