Too much information!

A recent announcement on comp.text.tex for a new package, silence, coincides with some discussion in the LaTeX3 team about how to handle messages for the user. The LaTeX3 stuff is currently looking at the low-level side of the area, whereas silence is dealing with things for the user.

The problem of “too much information” is clearly one that has attracted attention. An awful lot of what LaTeX prints is not interesting, most of the time. I’d say that a better model would be less, more targetted information as standard. A “developer” mode, printing more detail, is still needed but to be honest even then do many people care about some of the stuff that gets logged. Most of the time, I’d say no.

The silence approach (filtering on a per-package basis and also based on specific text in messages) is clearly very powerful but somewhat complicated. I’d hope that the LaTeX3 team will provide some filtering along with properly named messages (rather than the current situation where messages just appear directly in the code). Perhaps not quite as powerful as silence, but a lot better than at the moment.

5 thoughts on “Too much information!

  1. I too think there is both too little and (usually) too much logging by default. Font messages are one particular thing that come to mind; sure, tell me when something is being scaled or replaced the first time, but then after I’ve looked at it, I want an easy way to turn them off so I don’t have to see them on every run. I’ve gone so far as to redefine @font@info and @font@warning sometimes.

    As for too little, the etex extensions here help, but for deepest debugging, what I often miss is the value of an argument to a primitive. TeX tells me it’s executing, say, hskip, but not what the value of the glue is. If I’m tracking down bad glue inserted somewhere, that’s exactly what I want to know. However, changing this would touch virtually every part of tex.web, so I’m not holding my breath :).

  2. I sometimes wonder if it is possible for TeX to output ANSI color sequences with each message. That way, we could have packages that set the “color scheme” of the output, and can enable what gets highlighted.

  3. Karl, at the macro level we can deal with too much rather better than too little. The silence package is a handy addition to LaTeX2e, and hopefully the team will agree on something flexible for the LaTeX3 work.

    As for too little, I guess that once everything is accessible via LuaTeX you’ll be able to go after everything you want too. They are changing every part of tex.web, after all!

  4. Aditya, I’m imagine that LuaTeX might help with the console (not sure yet, but eventually), but for the log you’ve just got a text file. So no colour available. That’s not to stop editors from colour-coding based on content (particularly if something more structured can be created in LaTeX3 or by the silence approach).

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