[TUHS] earliest Unix roff

U'll Be King of the Stars ullbeking at andrewnesbit.org
Sun Sep 15 17:32:25 AEST 2019

On 15/09/2019 07:54, arnold at skeeve.com wrote:
> "U'll Be King of the Stars" <ullbeking at andrewnesbit.org> wrote:
>> I've been wondering whether it is possible and worthwhile to use *roff
>> for complex technical documentation.  I've always loved the aesthetic
>> that books produced using *roff have but there are other reasons too.
>> As far as _markup_ is concerned we have DocBook for example.  I am also
>> looking into this.  (Also, I understand it's not a typesetting system.)
> Unless you use a WYSIWYG tool that generates DocBook, you should avoid it.
> Your fingers will kill you.

Oh, I'm not looking for WYSIWIG or even really WYSIMIM.  I'm well used 
to writing in structural markup and presentation markup languages, e.g., 
LaTeX (which I think is extremely complicated, and since I left the 
university environment I do not miss it).

AS for authoring DocBook I was depending on GNU Emacs to do a lot of the 
heavy XML stuff for me.  Wishful thinking perhaps.

> I have written books in troff, DocBook
> and Texinfo.  Texinfo is *by far* the superior markup language.

I've had a feeling that Texinfo has been getting brushed to the side.

Are you suggesting that Info is a good as a rendered documentation 
format?  Or just that Texinfo is good for proto-documents that are to be 
authored in a parseable and meaningful format?

I've been a long-time GNU Emacs user so reading Info files is OK for me. 
  But we've never had a _nice_ Info reader, which is why it didn't take 
off I think.  A lot of people REALLY hate the Info UI.

Moreover it was (is?) very difficult to generate good contents and index 
pages with the official tools that I used at the time.  I started 
working on improving this about 20 years ago but back then it felt as 
though the GNU Info and GNU Emacs projects had other things on their minds.

> Using Texinfo can generate DocBook which your publisher can turn into PDF.
> (I have done this, three times at least.)  But working directly in
> DocBook just plain hurts.

OK, so you are suggesting Texinfo as a prototypical markup language, not 
necessarily something that will end up as Info files?

I have read the Texinfo documentation and I agree that it seemed like a 
rich markup language.

>> Getting back to *roff, does anybody know if there is a (hopefully rich)
>> repository of macros, or any other resources, for my use case?  (La)TeX
>> has this but I'd like to try something else.  What do people think?
> The MM macros are the most capable of the standard sets that are
> out there, although possibly the MOM macros distributed with groff
> are even more so; I have not investigated fully.

Thank you for the heads up.  I never heard of MOM but MM is more familiar.

*I haven't really looked at eqn beyond browsing docs and I'm not sure 
how much I should expect from it.*

TeX is (still?) the king of mathematical expression typesetting.

> My own wish for the next genie in a lamp that I come across would be
> for a texinfo --> troff translator.

Have you looked at Pandoc?  I don't know if it will do this but it's 
worth checking out.

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