ANNOUNCE: erlguten

Peter-Henry Mander <>
Wed Mar 12 17:01:38 CET 2003

Joe Armstrong wrote:
 >>I think the appeal is in being able to generate elaborate, 
 >>quality documents directly from changeable/dynamic data, with charts,
 >>graphs, tables, links etc...
 >   Actually I started  writing it because am *appalled*  at the quality
 > of  modern typesetting.


 >   If you look at a newspaper the overall design is based on a smallish
 > number  of templates -  where each  template is  a set  of rectangular
 > boxes (I guess most papers use  less than 20 templates) - indeed there
 > should only be a small number of  templates if the work as a whole is
 > to have a consistent look and feel.

That echos what my typography and graphic design teachers told us back 
in 1989(?). You obviously have a pronounced sense of aesthetics (it 
shows in your Erlang tutorials too :-). I did a two year graphic design 
course, but didn't find work and ended up studying computer science & 
cybernetics instead.

I digress.

Yes, I agree that the current tools aren't really designed with good 
typographic practice in mind. But I think that good typography also 
requires some guidance, teaching and experience. The reason most 
scientific documents look appallingly similar isn't just because of 
LaTeX. People generally don't have aesthetic flair (maybe the reason I 
couldn't get a job in graphic design?:-))

Following your example of inappropriate type faces, would a template 
offer recommended type faces? Would other graphical elements be 
incorporated, such as styles for graphics and tables?

 >   Erlguten design will  reflect this - the idea  (not yet implemented)
 > is to have a small number of templates + a large database of articles.
 >   Making a document consists then  of choosing a template and dropping
 > an article into it.

Supplying a limited selection of excellent templates would help 
enormously. I don't underestimate how hard it is to do this, but at 
least it would give some guidance. It may not be possible to automate 
the teaching and experience, though.

 >   I imagine generating  these (content -> template) map  on the fly and
 > producing personalized content.
 >   The other point is *quality* I want to achieved the highest possibly
 > quality  - MS word  etc. get  character kerning  *wrong* and  miss out
 > ligatures  - they make  typographically crazy  decisions -  setting up
 > fixed columns (a la newspaper) is terribly difficult.
 >   The  next level  of  programs quark-express  -  InDesign2 etc.   can
 > produce better quality output but  are literally *painful* to use (it
 > probably takes  ten thousand mouse clicks  to no anything  - by which
 > time your arm wants to drop off).

I agree again, I've suffered both, and I'm equally sick of both.

 >   There seems to be no good  free software to produce high quality PDF
 > from XML  (I looked) the industry  "standard" way of doing  this is to
 > use XSLT to transform XML to the FOSSI XML DTD and then transform this
 > to a  subset of  TeX and then  transform this  to PDF. This  method is
 > extremely  complicated and  incredibly difficult  to produce  any good
 > results (I've tried).
 >   The direct transformation of XML -> PDF *in one step* is much better
 > and easier to program - all the Adobe documentation is freely available
 > and is  of surprisingly high quality  (well done Adobe) -  IMHO PDF is
 > extremely well designed as is Postscript.

Hmm. Would display postscript be in the pipeline? The GNUstep project 
( is working on something there. I'm interested in using 
GNUstep for developing GUIs. I was very interested when Next Inc. 
introduced their black cube. I hope to play with it at last after almost 
15-20 years!

 >>I intend to use it to generate printable reports directly from and
 >>within a product testing framework and is accessible from a web page.
 >   Now  make  me  happy  by  getting  the  typography  right  -  choose
 > *beautiful* typefaces -  and get the layout right -  try reading a few
 > books on  typography first :-)  ((seriously)) - things got  better and
 > better from 1445 until about 1985 and then got worse ...

Yup, the typography teacher was dismayed at the downward trend in 
quality at the time. It probably coincides with the emergence of DTP, 
and everyone believing they could match the professionals with the new 
technology. They always referred back to very early typographical 
examples, Gutenberg's bible for one. The problem is that good quality 
can easily be appreciated, but not easily created. I'll read my course 
notes and try my best, I've got a couple of day off soon...

 >   I  read that  a typesetter  setting newsprint  on a  Linotype machine
 > could enter properly formatted text  4 times faster than with a modern
 > desk top publishing system. This  was *not* WYSIWYG but all done single
 > key type setting  commands ... If anybody knows how  to get a Linotype
 > manual can they mail me :-)
 >   So let's try to make things better ...

Maybe going *slower* would improve things? Taking time to polish would 
do wonders to the result. But we're all racing to produce stuff too 
quickly I think.

 >>Thanks Joe, btw, for doing this. I've now got all the tools (pdf,web) I
 >>need in Erlang, and in the form of tutorials no less. I owe you quite a
 >>few beers :-)
 > Great - which bar??

Hopefully one east of London?

 > /Joe

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