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[Texmacs-dev] Lisp/TeX/TeXmacs was: Re: [Axiom-developer] Re: gcl, share

From: Ralf Hemmecke
Subject: [Texmacs-dev] Lisp/TeX/TeXmacs was: Re: [Axiom-developer] Re: gcl, shared libraries
Date: Thu, 24 May 2007 11:27:40 +0200
User-agent: Thunderbird (X11/20070326)

Could not agree more here.  So we should not rewrite TeX in lisp, but
rather find a way to use this excellent tool from within lisp.

That's a point, and I think LaTeX will be by far the last non-lisp
dependency to go, if it ever does.  I would be very happy to see such
an interface - was there a project somewhere working to expose more of
TeX for non-traditional uses?  While I am in awe of the algorithms and
how well they work, I have always been a little puzzled by the software
"stack" of TeX.  As I understand it, TeX is written in Pascal which is
then translated to C which is compiled.  So it relies on the language
behavior definitions of Pascal AND C, or more specifically that the
translation routines of the behavior specified in the Pascal language
of the original author are faithfully translated into C code that is
interpreted by a modern compiler in the same way the original author of
the translation routine assumed it would.  I am not all that familiar
with C and Pascal so perhaps this is reasonable, but it always struck
me as a little... odd.

Just yesterday, I've read the first few pages of "TeX: The Program". There you can read that TeX is written in WEB and that is translated to Pascal-H, some variant of Pascal that Knuth used. You furthermore read that Knuth deliberately avoided to use any fancy extensions of Pascal-H and even of Pascal (Wirth) itself, since he wanted to make TeX "easily" (i.e. with some minimal effort) translatable to other Pascal variants. For example, he did not use definitions of procedures inside procedures. There are a few other things mentioned, but the important thing is that he mentions this at all. If you have to read that from the Pascal sources that come out of WEB, good luck.

TeX is admittedly a strange language, but I don't think that that TeXmacs is any easier. I've browsed through the documentation yesterday, and I was a little surprised to find out that the style language of TeXmacs is not Scheme (basically it is, but with a few differences). Yet another reason why TeXmacs is not well accepted by the community. It is simply too hard to have your old knowledge in your head (by which you can do things in LaTeX (maybe not the Wysiwyg/m way)) and you would have to find the appropriate commands in the TeXmacs manual. Often guessing just works, but if not, you are stuck and that is more than frustrating.
(Just my recent experiences with TeXmacs.)

To be more precise. I wanted to define some TeXmacs macros as they are described in the manual (Help->Manual->Writing your own style files).


<assign|hello|<macro|name|Hello <person|<arg|name>>!>>

as it is described there nearly drove me crazy. I did not get the "person" macro entered as it was described just below that box. (Even if I am to stupid to read clearly and follow the manual, I find it quite hard to learn the "new" way. And that is frustrating. :-( )

So in some sense, TeXmacs fits perfectly well to Axiom in its steep learning curve. ;-)

Hello TeXmacs, developers. I am certainly not the most usual user, so you probably can ignore my comments. But I actually intended to add (or help to add) some literate programming support to TeXmacs. My experience from yesterday night really let's me think twice about whether I should invest my time into TeXmacs. There is so many things to do (LP support, syntax highlighting, indentation support, (automatic hyperlinking between source files, I haven't yet seen a "back" button so that I could use TeXmacs as a source code browser) and I find it overly hard to achieve something myself in a reasonable amount of time.


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