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Re: Portable Documents: Visit Report

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Mon, 23 Jan 1995 16:32:52 CST

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   "Portable documents: Acrobat, SGML and TeX" Bridewell Theatre, London, 19 Jan 95 Response to report posted by Lou Burnard to TEI list.   As well as being a speaker at this meeting I was also an organiser, and I also lurk on the TEI list. Needless to say, I too was at the meeting Lou described. I am most pleased that Lou found the meeting worth reporting on, and that his general tone was positive. However and without going into details, I find myself disagreeing with most of his negative remarks. I do accept that the lunch was "somewhat spartan" and apologise, and Lou's promotion of the DynaText version of the TEI guidelines was indeed "shameless". The attendance was nearly 130.   On my own initiative I arranged for information about the TEI guidelines to be placed in the delegate pack, one of which I personally gave to Lou. The letter I sent inviting him to the meeting mentioned the delegate pack, and solicited contributions. If he had asked, it could have happened that the delegate pack contained up-to-date information about the TEI guidelines on CD-ROM.   It is with Lou's reporting of my talk that I have the greatest difficulty. I will repeat this part, but with my own comments added.   > The third speaker of the morning, Jonathan Fine, began by insisting > that the spaces between words were almost as important as the words > themselves. The title of my talk was         FORMATTING SGML MANUSCRITPS         - or -         MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and I did not make the statement claimed of me. The focus of the first part of my talk was typographic quality, and when the spaces between the words are wrong, nothing can be done to make the result good. As far as typographic quality if concerned, the spaces between the words are *more important* than the words. Indeed, in display text the words may be altered to get the spaces right! Headlines are a case in point.   > I felt that he wasted rather a lot of his time on this point, and indeed as my main idea was not successfully communicated my effort was, at least as far as Lou is concerned, wasted. I wanted to drive home the point that no matter what else your formatting software might do, if it does not get the spaces rights, it is incapable of high quality. Just look at the "SGML Handbook". Does it get the spaces right? Do we live in an age when this basic idea of typography is well understood and universally mastered? No, and especially no for pages produced from SGML manuscripts.   > as he did later on explaining how to pronounce "TeX" > (surely unnecessary for this audience) Because I was a co-organiser (responsible for publicity) I got to speak with many people who were making booking enquiries, and so I got to hear first hand that many of them did not know how to pronounce TeX nor, presumably, what it really was.   > before finally describing a product he is developing called > "Simsim" I did not want to give a sales talk. That would have been an abuse of my position.   > (Arabic for sesame, which is a trademark of British > Petroleum we learned). This I indeed said. My slides pointed out that the word goes back 4500 year to the Akkadian language spoken in Mesopotamia.   > This appears to be a set of TeX macros for formatting > SGML documents directly, In my slides I wrote         SIMSIM is a TeX macro package which understands SGML. It is         a platform upon which style files for formatting SGML         manuscripts can be developed. and it would have been better if Lou had quoted this statement.   > using components of the ESIS to drive the formatter, But what else could the formatter use, and yet be SGML compliant.   > but I did not come away with any clear sense of how his approach > differed from that already fairly widely used elsewhere. Well, there was time to ask questions, and Lou asked the first, and the answer was "Yes", SIMSIM could do what he asked so again, I did my best to give a clear idea to Lou and I regret that I failed. One reason why I might have failed is that Lou does not have a strong understanding of TeX. One could at least expect that SIMSIM will on its own get the spaces between word right. If the SGML          Apple and plum trees is translated in a simple-minded manner to the (plain) TeX         \line{ Apple and {\bf plum } trees } the result will have an extra-large space between "plum" and "trees" whereas          Apple and plumtrees will have no space between them. SIMSIM will get this sort of thing "right", if that is what you want it to do with the content. The usual ways of using TeX do not give such control.   On my second slide I wrote         The words belong to the author.         The spaces between the words belong to the formatter and a key point I made during my talk was that the author should not by any means be able to change the spaces between the words, because the spaces belong to the formatter. This point is important for typographic quality, which although of no immediate concern to the TEI is important to publishers. Later Lou wrote that Geeti Granger had difficulty > in getting good quality typeset output which is precisely the point my talk was addressing.   A copy of the slides of my talk was in the delegate pack, and a copy of the source SGML document instance from which the slides were produced was made available to participants. Lou had both.   The goals the TEI has set itself are important, and I wish you good fortune. As a software developer, I would like to know what the formatting requirements of the TEI users are. You may wish to communicate with me directly, rather than through the list.   yours sincerely Jonathan Fine   Mailing Address: 203 Coldhams Lane, Cambridge, CB1 3HY, England.