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ziggy (25)

ziggy
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Journal of ziggy (25)

Tuesday May 21, 2002
06:27 PM

AbiWord

[ #5132 ]
I installed AbiWord earlier this week. I uninstalled it today. It'll be a while before I try it again.

I don't actually want a word processor. I prefer using something like DocBook or LaTeX for making presentation-quality printable documents. I wanted something that could read and display RTF with reasonable fidelity. Yesterday, I found that AbiWord does render RTF documents reasonably well, but not that well, and not at all quickly.

Today, I found that AbiWord installs some butt-ugly fonts early in the fontpath (i.e. before the adobe-*-*..-* fonts). Included in this is the AbiWord version of Arial and Times, which Mozilla picks up to render lots of common web pages as hideous, unreadable monstrosities.

First, I didn't realize the cause. When I started poking around, AbiWord left the building post haste. About fifteen minutes later (after I found the brain cells that remembered to do a xset fp rehash) everything started looking normal again.

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  • I prefer using something like DocBook or LaTeX for making presentation-quality printable documents.

    From what I can tell, TeX is exactly what I want for just about everything I could ever possibly deal with. The problem is that it seems to have a rather tough learning curve -- especially since what I want to do with it isn't the typical case of writing up scientific papers. I mainly want to do multilingual stuff, mostly Latin-script with unusual accents. But when last I said "Alright, I'm learning TeX t

    • I had some success using MikTeX, which is just a port of the command-line tools (i.e. no GUIs). I used DVIWin for previewing & printing on my non-PS printer. That was all quite a while ago, though, so things may well have changed since then.

      I think it's worth persevering with (La)TeX: once you've got to grips with it, it's quite easy to use and very flexible, especially if you can reuse someone else's document class files.

      Unfortunately, I'm now in the corporate world of MS Word :-(
    • It's not remotely helpful to you unless you're planning to buy a new computer, but I've had absolutely no problems with TeXShop [uoregon.edu] (Mac OS X only) in combination with its associated TeXLive-teTeX.

      LaTeX is definitely one of those things which seems blindingly obvious only once you understand it.

      • LaTeX is definitely one of those things which seems blindingly obvious only once you understand it.

        Yes, I've been warned away from LaTeX for this reason and others -- notably that it's based on preprocessing and therefore is prone to reporting an error on line 123 of the TeX which corresponds to god-knows-what line of your real LaTeX input.

        The other complaint I heard is that le grand esprit behind LaTeX (Lamport?) is a "design fascist", and that the templates are inflexible, so that you end up having

        • That sounds a little unkind to me. I've only ever used LaTeX for moderately simple documents, but I've never had serious difficulty locating an error.

          Of course you have to learn TeX (and probably Metafont) if you want fine control over every aspect of your document's appearance. That's more or less the point of LaTeX: you describe the logical structure of your document, rather than describing exactly how to set it. Personally I find the results very appealing, but presumably not everybody agrees.

          The real

          • you describe the logical structure of your document, rather than describing exactly how to set it.
            If that's the intent of using LaTeX, then why not just use XML for the authoring, and map to a suitable back-end: (La)TeX, XSL-FO, SVG(?), (X)HTML or even RTF?

            LaTeX is a huge improvement over TeX, in that it helps focus on substance over style. But it's not 1993 anymore, and there are other ways to focus on substance.

            • why not just use XML for the authoring, and map to a suitable back-end
              Are you referring to DocBook, or are there other systems which also work as you describe?
              • Are you referring to DocBook, or are there other systems which also work as you describe?

                DocBook is a reasonable XML format for writing documentation; it's been in use for over a decade and has benefitted from lots of thinking about logical document descriptions. There is also reasonable support for converting DocBook into common output formats (HTML, RTF, PDF, etc.), but that suffers from the same problem as (La)TeX -- the tools only begin to make sense once you warp your mind to their expectation ho

  • I find that Ted [nllgg.nl] is good enough for most of the things I need to do. It does a pretty good job of formatting RTF files which have come from Microsoft Word, which is where most of them do come from I suppose.