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Old 12-30-2012, 10:41 PM   #1
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Recommendations for typesetting language


I would like to select a typesetting language in which to type up my notes. I have several criteria and would like recommendations for people familiar with such languages. (examples of typesetting language may mean LaTeX, reStructured text, orgmode files in Emacs, Perl .pod files etc.)
  • Ease of use/predicability: In this case, Latex would be the worst option. I quite like the Sphinx package for Python because the commands are reasonably straightforward, there are not too many of them and it doesn't seem as random and "touchy" as Latex can be (which I have found to be really difficult to figure out or get to do exactly what I would like sometimes).
  • Convertability: That is, it can output to various different formats. Orgmode is great in this regard because it outputs to almost every concievable format. .pdf, latex, html, .odt.
  • Readability: Something where it is quite ok to read the input file itself. ie. Latex would probably be the worst case here because the input files are so complicated that one really needs to use the outputted files to be best read the notes. Other formats have a "lighter" syntax.
  • Longevity: I would like something that is still being maintained and compilers/processors for which will still likely exist a long time from now. I guess Latex, being the format in which most journal publications are written will be around for a very long time, even if it's not the most popular standard.
  • Attractiveness: Not a big issue, but something where the output looks nice enough. If you look at the usual html output of an orgmode file, it is hardly impressive.

I have only given a few examples of possible formats, but welcome any examples.
Old 12-31-2012, 09:57 AM   #2
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An oldie but a goodie: troff (with the memorandum macros) -- also known as groff, the GNU roff type-setting system.

It's text typed with a text editor (you can read it). You don't even have to include macros, simply leave a blank line to start a new paragraph. You can do all the things you do with a word processor; tables, lists, graphs, table of contents, you name it.

The manual pages in Linux are (mostly) done with the "man" macros for nroff/troff; e.g.,
gunzip -c /usr/man/man1/troff.1.gz | pg    (or more or less)
to see what the source text looks like.

You can "pretty print" manual pages with
man -t troff | gv -
man -t troff | lp [-d printername]
You can write a book (such as Kernighan and Ritchie, The C Programming Language) entirely using the macros (K&R prepared the manuscripts using the macros as did many more publications).

The output of troff is PostScript (the output of nroff is text for a terminal). And, as you probably know, PostScript is the language of typesetters. And, if you've got PostScript, PDF is child's play.

Personally, I've done some... quite large, say, documents this way (couple of hundred pages). Frankly, I fell that word processors are a pain in the hiney and prefer to "just type the thing" and add some formatting directions as I go. You mileage, of course, may vary.

You might like it, you might hate it but it's still worth a look-see.

Hope this helps some.


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