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HTML-WG  November 1995

HTML-WG November 1995

Subject:

From:

Peter Flynn <[log in to unmask]>

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[log in to unmask]

Date:

Thu, 30 Nov 95 21:15:44 EST

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   As I have not yet acquainted myself with your archives, please let 
   me apologise in advance if this comment is redundant or inapposite.

No indeed...I think this should be something of a RAQ
(Reasonably-Answerable Question :-)...

   I am a mathematician, and I am dissatisfied with the tools currently 
   available for composing, editing and communicating mathematical text
   electronically. 

You're not alone.

   The trouble is that TeX, LaTeX etc are really aimed at type-setting 
   structured documents; e.g. for production of mathematical text for a 
   book. That is not what I am looking for. Scientific Word, Techwriter,
   in fact every software package that I have so far encountered which claimed
   to be an editor for mathematical text, are all obsessed with form to
   the exclusion of content. They are choked with features I do not want,

Nor here, neither :-)

   and run too slowly in consequence. I want a simple graphical
   editor, that runs on modest personal computers, for the production of 

I think there is a little conflict here between `simple' and the
requirement for mathematics. There are two connected problems for an
implementor: a) the need for a large number of glyphs from a math font
[these are all available from CM, of course] and b) the need for
multiline formatting [eg fractions, arrays etc as well as multi-line
formulae]. 

   lecture notes, or for whipping off email messages to mathematical 
   colleagues. May Knuth forgive me, but I am not interested in fancy 
   fonts or in intricate layout or in subtle kerning rules, nor in 

Actually, the whole point of using LaTeX is that you don't have to
bother about these, they're done for you.

   having the final output printed on paper. To use LaTeX for 
   mathematical on-screen jotting is like using a steam-hammer 
   to crack a nut. 

I agree entirely...but you did also mention lecture notes: are these
for paper, or are you looking to make these available to your students
via the Web?

   It may be that when HTML 3 takes off my prayers 
   may be answered - if it has not grown overcomplicated. 
   For purposes of communication and universality an SGML DTD is the 
   obvious way to go.

Is it a possibility that some form of support for this view can be
generated from among mathematicians, who have been suspiciously silent
the last two years about their needs/wants from HTML3. When HTML+
first broached the possibility of math in HTML, I expected either loud
cheers or scorching criticism: I saw neither (Dave, did you take any?).

   I realise that my wish-list below is concerned rather with an editor's

[yummy wish-list...if only :-]

   In particular here is what I want of a maths editor:-
     {
     Matters of font:

     - only a minimum of editing features (e.g. no wordwrap). Essentially
     one fast font, but with colour coding for styles. No proportional 
     spacing or anti-aliasing. The fewer choices the user has to make 
     about layout and style the better (leave such things to a 
     configuration file).

I think proportional spacing is essential if you want the math to be
readable. 

     - either elastic symbols or a kit of straight horizontals, verticals and 
     diagonals that tessellate together properly. 

This must therefore be stored in a vectorised format in the file?

     - drag and drop for arbitrary rectangular selections of characters.
     This should work not only between documents, but to search/replace
     dialogue box fields also, so the dialogue box field has to be 
     expandible vertically as well as horizontally. 

Ummm.

     - documents saveable as TeX source.

Essential.

     - view in either math mode (default) or underlying ASCII source.

eg TeX.

I think what this sounds most like is a cutdown of the Scientific Word
UI, with support for structured equation editing a la SGML added.

Have you spoken to the Sci Word people about this? Or to Bill Woolf at
the American Mathematical Society?

Are you familiar with the products of the EuroMath project? I thought
they produced an editor spec (maybe even a product, but I must confess
I lost touch with them a long while back). They have an archive on an
FTP server in Denmark, I think.

///Peter



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