[clug] pdflatex regressions?

Daniel Pittman daniel at rimspace.net
Tue Oct 13 04:47:53 MDT 2009

Hal Ashburner <hal.ashburner at gmail.com> writes:
> 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.

The idea had never occurred to me to do that; I *must* keep it in mind for the
future, if I have graphics-focused rather than text-focused layout to do...


> 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.


> <rant>


> 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.

Yah.  It sucks, really, and I expected that when I made the comment.  On a
couple of occasions I actually...

> It's not a labour of love and the client sure won't pay for it.

...ended up selling the client on the fact that it was /so/ much easier for me
to deal with the ConTeXt side of things[1], and because it could deliver so
much more[2] for their needs.


> 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.

Actually, it implies that you now have a newer version of LaTeX, and the
underlying TeX engine, and all the add-on packages that extend LaTeX to do
things that are not just your A4 two-column science paper.

Like any upgrade that is going to end up with incompatible changes *somewhere*
in the life of a multi-decade old product.  You may find the LaTeX change
documentation[3] gives some guidance to fixing the outdated code...


> 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.

You are wrong. ;)

More seriously, ConTeXt is non-trivial but very effective.  It can do vastly
more than LaTeX does, and usually has a reasonable low cost.  Not so much fun
to typeset for a science journal, but otherwise...

Also, while non-free, PrinceXML is an *excellent* tool and I can heartily
recommend it.[4]  It uses HTML (or XML) and CSS to do layout.

Finally, wkhtmltopdf shows great promise for doing the same job, using the
WebKit engine to drive the HTML and CSS side of things.  It isn't quite there
yet, though.


[1]  I strongly prefer it to LaTeX in, er, context because it comes from a
     layout perspective rather than an article perspective; while LaTeX has
     grown the capability to do cool things, ConTeXt started there — and is
     now driving some of the more advanced TeX capabilities like LuaTeX.

[2]  The good integration of JavaScript and PDF fields, at the time, along
     with the improved PDF output stuff, was great.  LaTeX has mostly caught
     up now, I think.

[3]  ...or the documentation for whatever add-on provides the specific command
     you are having trouble with.

[4]  They have a free-for-private-use version that sticks a logo on the first
     page, which is not too obnoxious, if you want to trial it first.  License
     fees are not too unreasonable...

✣ Daniel Pittman            ✉ daniel at rimspace.net            ☎ +61 401 155 707
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