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The UK List of TeX Frequently Asked Questions

with 5 comments

The list of TeX Frequently Asked Question is one of the most useful online resources for TeX users. Since the list was first published some years ago by UK-TUG it’s grown to include over 400 questions and answers. Most of the work has been done by one person, Robin Fairbairns. Robin’s contributions to the TeX community, both in maintaining the FAQ and running one of the three core CTAN nodes, are really vital to all TeX users.

At the moment, there’s a thread on comp.text.tex where the subject of adding new information to the FAQ has been mentioned. Getting new material (for the FAQ or anything else) is always a problem, and so most of the text in teh FAQ is written by Robin. That’s a lot to do for one busy person, and we all need to play our part. The question is hoe to do that. The advantage of having one person writing everything is that the quality is good, and there is care taken to keep material up to date. So if you spot a gap, your best sending some (good) text as detailed in the FAQ itself. One suggestion that’s come up is setting up a wiki, with the idea being that contributions there can then be used as ‘source’ for adding to the FAQ. Time will tell if this comes to pass: it might be interesting, but I suspect the same people will still be doing the writing!

Written by Joseph Wright

March 17th, 2010 at 7:24 pm

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5 Responses to 'The UK List of TeX Frequently Asked Questions'

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  1. I think wiki is good since it will also bring version control. BTW, I think I ran into Robin this morning I didn’t realise until I got passed him ;)

    Leo

    18 Mar 10 at 9:06 pm

  2. Well, there is version control at the moment: Robin gives each release a version, and I guess has the old versions available! I do hope you didn’t “run into” Robin too violently! (Are you a computer scientist, then?)

    Joseph Wright

    19 Mar 10 at 8:20 am

  3. Robin probably uses some sort of version control system for his local copy. A wiki will allow other people to contribute and Robin can do quality control. No I am not a computer scientist but my supervisor used to take up part of the space on the second floor of the computer lab where I spent 1.5 years.

    Leo

    20 Mar 10 at 9:42 pm

  4. i do of course have version control of my own copy.
    i have an offer of an svn on tug.org (could of course
    do it anywhere, but tug.org seems sort of canonical).

    the faq is actually written in an arcanely-restricted
    version of latex: the constraint arises from the need
    to generate online text from it, dynamically, and to
    produce readable printed copies.

    why printed copies? well, the first release (100
    answers, including one invented by jonathan fine and
    me to make that nice round number) was printed and
    distributed as a copy of baskerville (uk tug
    magazine).

    web delivery was an afterthought. we had imagined
    publishing it on comp.text.tex in ascii, but i
    rather quickly realised that wasn’t on. hence
    the dynamic translator from latex to html, written
    by alan jeffery, and originally hosted in sussex.

    now, though, the web is the only substantial means
    of delivery … except to me. i don’t have the
    eyesight (or something) to enable me to proof-read
    on-screen, so i print things and read them that
    way.

    so i keep up the print version, and produce pdf
    on ctan as a side-effect. which in turn makes for
    contorted latex, and a contorted dynamic translator.

    but the contortion means that it’s difficult to get
    the latex right (in the sense of looking good on
    paper, on the web, and as a pdf file).

    so if someone’s going to work on “my sources” (as
    they are now), there’s a learning curve to climb
    before making stuff i don’t have to correct before
    putting into the published distribution.

    this is not good, and it’s why i’ve not proceeded
    with opening access to the thing.

    sorry tale, and all that.

    Robin

    14 May 10 at 5:55 pm

  5. Thanks very much for the detailed explanation, Robin. It’s easy to say “something should happen” but a lot harder to actually do it. As you *are* doing things, you’re in a much better position than the rest of us to appreciate the requirements for the FAQ, and the effort it needs to write them.

    Joseph Wright

    14 May 10 at 9:13 pm

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