Sunday, March 27, 2011

Goodbye lout... Hello troff

Five years ago I went to a dissertation on LaTeX given by Guido Macci, I left that dissertation telling myself "Yes, that's the way to go" and I liked formatting systems, by then I only knew LaTeX, but after seeing that in Slackware it was like 100mb in packages I said like "Ooook, wait a second... Is it that big?", it turned out it really was, and not only big, but a real mess under the hood, so I was kinda disappointed and desisted on the idea of using LaTex. Those who know me knows that I'm pretty minimalist, and having a formatting system of 100mb that was a mess was pretty much out of the table, but I still though it was the way to go.

So I spoke to a friend (Emiliano Gavilan) who always liked that stuff and told my "problem" with LaTeX... So Emiliano recommended me to take a look at lout.

That was in the beginning of 2006, so it's been like 5 years now with lout. Nowadays lout is kinda unmaintained, it has some bugs, the output generated is not as professional as LaTeX, and (I bet this is because I'm too lazy to learn them) there are some things that I never wasn't able to do.

So last week I gave a chance to troff, and I keep myself reading the whole weekend, and I really liked, it's stable, small, well tested (almost 40 years :-D), and it is on every Unix out there (this is a BIG plus). I had some troubles inserting with code, but after digging I found vgrind (which I heard is unmaintained so we'll have to check in the future how it goes) which does the job pretty good.

There are tons of books out there written with troff some pretty well known like "Advanced Programming in the UNIX Environment", "The C programming Language" or "The Design and Implementation of the 4.4BSD Operating System", there's a big list here

If you're interested in learning troff, you can read this book: Dale Dougherty & Tim O'Reilly - Unix Text Processing

I hope this turns out good.



Johann Höchtl said...

A post from the past --- how has it turned out? Still using troff / groff, which macro package(s). Or back to lout, (L(ua))TeX?

RA Hellinger said...

Hi, I am in the same situation now. Can you give us an update? How do you think about your decision now?

thanks in advance...