[TUHS] earliest Unix roff

U'll Be King of the Stars ullbeking at andrewnesbit.org
Mon Sep 16 06:49:37 AEST 2019

On 15/09/2019 20:35, Clem Cole wrote:
> On Sat, Sep 14, 2019 at 11:03 PM U'll Be King of the Stars 
> <ullbeking at andrewnesbit.org <mailto: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.
> Ditto.  The books that used roff can look clean and within a series are 
> usually consistent, but what I've like is that they are different.

Yes, they look clean but different to each other.

I'm guessing that the reason might be that it is easier to exercise 
*roff's capabilities than it is to push LaTeX to get good results 
without spending a huge amount of time.

> The Prentiss-Hall series and the ORA books both were produced using 
> troff and different versions of ms, but the results are different.

I wonder if Prentice-Hall and O'Reilly & Associates might be willing to 
share their *roff macro sets in an open source way.

> One of my complained with LaTex books is they all seem to look the same.

Don't they ever?!  It has gotten to the point that Computer Modern 
actually makes me feel *fatigued* when I encounter it when reading, say, 
a mathematics monograph.

On the other hand it's the perfect typeface for résumés and CV's for 
computer scientists.  Like a secret handshake.

Perhaps the reason that the CM typeface is so common is that changing 
typefaces in LaTeX is complicated and difficult so authors leave it 
alone.  At least this has been my experience.

>     Getting back to *roff, does anybody know if there is a (hopefully rich)
>     repository of macros, or any other resources, for my use case?
> I've never seen one.   As far as I knew it, publishers sometimes seeded 
> authors.  ORA used the Masscomp/Tektronix derived version of ms (-mS) 
> that Steve Talbot created (and Rick LeFaivre originally created from the 
> original Lesk V7 set).   Rich Steven's has his own additions to the 
> version of ms that came with groff which I have also seen.

This is fascinating insider information, and it leads me full circle to 
several reasons why I want to try to use *roff in the first place:

1.  Do you think there is any chance of obtaining these macro packages? 
Either from authors who haven't passed away, or from the publishing 
houses themselves?

2.  I get the impression that writing a macro package or editing an 
existing is relatively straightforward.  Would you agree?

     Or, at least, that it makes some kind of sense.  I could never make 
head or tail of LaTeX's macro extensions.  I certainly didn't want to 
spend my life trying to figure it out.

     I still remember the sinking feeling in my stomach when I realized 
that the five (or so) books that make up the de facto canon of LaTeX 
user documentation (published by Addison-Wesley) are thousands of pages 
in total.  I did not want to engage with that.

I have no particular intention to speak ill of LaTeX.  Rather, it is my 
only point of reference for publishing-grade typesetting and 
unfortunately I don't have fond memories of it.

Kind regards,

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