3.389 TeX/LaTeX vs. desktop publishing (49)

Tue, 22 Aug 89 19:33:50 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 380. Tuesday, 22 Aug 1989.

Date: Tuesday, 22 August 1989 1429-EST
From: HUMM@PENNDRLS (Alan Humm Religious Studies U. of Penn)
Subject: TeX/LaTeX vs DTP

> As DTP programs become more sophisticated, TeX will become
> unnecessary.
Most things become obsolete eventually, but is to be hoped that when
this happens to TeX, it will not be because it has been replaced by DTP.
The problem, and perhaps the solution, lies in the fact that they are
fundamentally different philosophically, each with its load of strengths
and weaknesses. Because TeX (along with its children such as LaTeX) is
a language, it acquires (a) portability, and (b) flexibility. This
also means, however, that producing documents in TeX is closer to
programming than anything else, and the people who like it best are
usually programers or crypto-programmers (TeXies, if you will).
DTP programs, in contrast, are application programs. Their strengths
are ease of use and immediate feedback (visual). At present, their
weaknesses do include lack of functionality, but Megginson is correct
in pointing out that this may be a short-lived weakness. I suspect,
however, that there will always be things that I (maybe not you) would
like to do in my document which the DTP program will not permit but
which the TeXie could write a program for. DTP is also plagued by
the non-portability of page description information. It should also
be noted that as DTP programs become more powerful, they also become
more complicated to use. I suspect that such a program with capabilities
similar to LaTeX would take similar time to master, although it may
be less frustrating time. (It took me about 3-4 weeks to get to an
advanced intermediate level in LaTeX.)
If programs like LaTeX disappear, it will probably be in the wake
of something like SGML, which is similar philosophically (which I
suspect could be, and may even already be, implemented in TeX) rather
than succumbing to a flood of DTPs. What we really want, and unless
I am mistaken, will either soon or eventually get (I suspect soon)
are DTP programs that generate the description language much in the
way some implementations of TeX generate Postscript. You could format
your document in the DTP application, and then if not satisfied,
tweek it in the SGML or TeX or whatever.

Alan Humm