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NorthernJourney.com: Linux for Newbies, pt. 20: Document Processing - with LaTeX

Feb 19, 2001, 18:38 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Gene Wilburn)

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"Contrary to popular belief, word processors go about their business in the wrong way. They're interlopers in the land of Unix--violating four time-proven Unix principles:

  1. You should be able to create all source files (including word processing documents) with your preferred text editor (vi and emacs being the prevailing standards).
  2. All files should be portable and accessible to the Unix toolkit; that is, they should exist as ASCII text. You should have no trouble running your source files through grep, sed, awk, wc or whatever you choose.
  3. Structure is more important than appearance.
  4. Look and feel (appearance) processing should be handled by programs external to your source files."
"This stands the world of WYSIWYG word processing on its head. You cannot work directly on Word or WordPerfect files due to their binary nature. You must use the program that created them to manipulate the contents--a dangerous strategy for long-term use. You eventually get releases of a product that no longer willingly load older binaries. Cross-platform support among word processors is an ongoing issue."

"So what's the pro-Unix answer to this? You guessed it: text processing, better known these days as document processing. Document processing works in much the same way that the Web does: i.e., on the Web, HTML documents are text files containing markup code. ... If you've already created HTML documents by hand, you're well on your way. You just need to change the nature of the markup tags. Most LaTeX instructions are preceded by a backslash ("\") and have fairly intuitive names. As with an HTML page, LaTeX documents have begin and end tags, a header, and a body, as well as additional structural elements that go beyond HTML."

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