[metapost] Does MetaPost catch on?

Reinhard Kotucha reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Thu Sep 9 01:05:54 CEST 2010

On 8 September 2010 Werner LEMBERG wrote:

Hi Werner,
for some reason your message was iso-2022-jp-3 encoded.
 > >> Regarding troff, I must admit that I only used it for writing a few
 > >> manual pages (abt. five per decade).  I wouldn't recommend it for
 > >> anything else.
 > Given that heirloom troff handles OpenType fonts natively (including
 > OpenType features), supports a variant of the paragraph layout
 > algorithm used by TeX, and manages hanging punctuation too, to name a
 > few features, I really wonder how you come to that conclusion.
 >   http://heirloom.sourceforge.net/doctools.html
 > For an example, look at
 >   http://heirloom.sourceforge.net/doctools/troffdemo.pdf

I know that troff is very powerful too.  I've seen this example some
time ago, thus I'm aware that troff is continuously improved.

But the reason I don't recommend troff *here* is its syntax.  I
already said that people complained that even LaTeX is too cryptic.
It's nonsense, of course; what causes potential LaTeX users to
hesitate is the fact that there are control sequences within

However, in LaTeX and Context, names of macros/control sequences are
quite self-explanatory, Metapost even has such nice constructs like:

  pickup pencircle scaled 4pt yscaled .3 rotated 45;

Though admittedly TeX's macro language isn't straightforward, I fear
that troff's macro language is even less appealing:

     define cancel 'special Ca'
     .de Ca
     .  ds 0s \
     \D'l \\n(0wu -\\n(0hu-\\n(0du'\

The question is what one wants to achieve.  Stefan is interested in a
standalone Metapost distribution which is bundled with a typesetter.

But TeX/Metapost and troff/pic/eqn are two completely different worlds.

Thus, if Metapost is bundled with troff, I fear that those people
Stefan has in mind are deterred by troff commands when they encounter
an example.  I'm convinced that for what Stefan has in mind, troff is
rather disadvantageous.

Werner, you are very familiar with both, troff and TeX.  Which one
would you recommend to people who never used a batch-mode typesetter

 > The whole package has an installed footprint of about 3.4MByte.

It doesn't matter today unless you intend to distribute your software
on floppies. ;)

 > I know that GNU troff is a bit behind w.r.t. new features ....
 > since I'm the maintainer I know that too well...

Don't worry, my objections are entirely related to what Stefan intends
to achieve.  They have nothing to do with troff's capabilities.


Reinhard Kotucha			              Phone: +49-511-3373112
Marschnerstr. 25
D-30167 Hannover	                      mailto:reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Microsoft isn't the answer. Microsoft is the question, and the answer is NO.

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