Co-developers wanted: document markup language

Torsten Bronger bronger at
Fri Aug 24 17:59:22 CEST 2007


Aahz writes:

> Torsten Bronger  <bronger at> wrote:
>> [...]
>> reStructuredText, AsciiDoc, and some others focus on source code
>> documentation, or on software documentation.  In contrast to
>> that, our markup should be suitable for PhD theses, papers and
>> the like.  Thus, it has weaker means for code snippets, RFC
>> citation etc, but rich syntax for bibliographic entries, index
>> entries, math, and floating figures.
> Enh.  reST is intended to be a general-purpose system.  It's
> certainly extensible, and I've added code for index entries
> myself.

I like reST very much, and it is used for all documentation in the
"Gummi" source files.  I could probably use it as a starting point
for the features that I want but the same is true for AsciiDoc or
MediaWiki.  I doubt, however, that the resulting syntax is what I
want (see below).

> There has been some recent activity on improving bibliographic
> support, and I believe some people are working on integrating
> MathML.

But I hope only for the backend side?

>> Additionally, input methods simplify using characters like δ,
>> ⇒, or ”.
> "Everyone" says to just use a Unicode editor.  Long-term, I think
> that's what's going to happen -- you're starting your project too
> late for this to make much sense.

Well, your newsreader failed to specify UTF-8, and my newsreader
failed to do a proper auto-detect.  So, Unicode has not arrived yet.

Seriously: Most people can't enter those characters.  In LaTeX, you
can use many Unicode characters directy for years, however, only few
documents make use of this.  To most people, it's probably simpler
to write \alpha than to find and use the Unicode-insertion tool of
their editor.

> [...]
> Then you're really caught between a rock and a hard place.  LaTeX
> is extremely well-entrenched;

But only in a small group (compared to Word for example).

The main motivation of our group was to see that many people stay
away from LaTeX because it is too complicated.  The basic assertion
of our project is that this complexity is not necessary while still
maintaining important features of LaTeX (plain text file format,
semantic markup).  It is a tradeoff, though: You give up a lot of
flexibility.  However, I think that this particular type of
flexibility (namely, local layout tweaking) is of minor

Probably one important thing that didn't get through yet is that we
try to get people to semantic markup who don't come from engineering
or science.  These are heavily under-represented in the LaTeX
community.  "Gummi" (or however we'll call it) is not supposed to be
another Geek language.  On the contrary, our goal is that even a
typical linguistics student loves to write their seminar paper with

Reading only forums and newsgroups, one may think that this is
impossible but in real life, I've seen more people using LaTeX
exactly once and never again than people who keep using it.  If I
look at typical modern LaTeX preambles, I know what went wrong, so I
see a lot of potential.

However, then a very defensively constructed syntax is crucial, and
everything must just work -- without having to use a tool chain or
declaring things before you can use them.


Torsten Bronger, aquisgrana, europa vetus
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