[clug] pdflatex regressions?

Hal Ashburner hal.ashburner at gmail.com
Tue Oct 13 02:59:45 MDT 2009

On 13/10/09 18:27, Andrew Janke wrote:
>> Bite the bullet and port it to some typesetting or template system you do
>> understand?  I confess that, unhelpful as it is to say, I used ConTeXt because
>> of this sort of problem with LaTeX.
> And on this note, I'd be interested to know what others use (beyond
> ConTeXt!) for this.  Myself I tend to use inkscape and sed for complex
> graphics heavy stuff.
> Just make your template doc, sed the text into placeholders then just go:
>     $ inkscape /tmp/fred.svg --output-pdf=out.pdf
> I use this all the time in web form and other automation things.  Like
> printing 3000 individually numbered raffle tickets with stubs 4-up on
> A4 for the kids school last night.. :)
As far as I know this is a really limited solution. It's fine but for 
the simple cases where this will work you could happily roll your own 
using just about anything.

Where it falls down is where you wish to produce several thousand 
documents with a mix of both constant and document specific text of 
arbitrary and varying lengths, both constant and document specific 
images and charts, tables that will all be arbitrary and individual 
lengths where each table will spill over more than one landscape A4 
page. Now all of this has to look exactly like the graphic designer drew 
with their software which does not produce anything useful. And the app 
has to run on linux.

Context might be better than latex, could hardly be worse, I guess.
As for re-writing the template in $something_else, this is simply not 
practical. It's not a labour of love and the client sure won't pay for 
it. If we're on impractical solutions I suggest expunging latex in its 
entirety. Ah I can dream, can't I...

Back in reality I'll fight my way through the idiocy of latex spending 
too long on it and learning a bunch of stuff I really don't want to 
know. A server upgrade probably shouldn't break what latex accepts and 
what it doesn't. But while I'm here I will mention to anyone who can be 
bothered listening to rants that the use of latex for anything other 
than the generation of a single A4 document in portrait mode with two 
columns and a template provided by the journal in which you are 
publishing given you have a bunch of latex experts around who can fix 
the inevitable problems for you is considered harmful.

tl;dr latex, just don't. Automated document & report generation that 
looks pretty is an unsolved problem on unix.
And if I'm wrong I'd love to know.


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