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blackboard bold

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To typographers, such fonts are often designated as "hollow bold", or "hollow thin bold" fonts, of which there are many Type 1 and TrueType fonts available in many of the standard font families such as Helvetica and Times New Roman.

In the confined context of TeX and LaTeX typography (whose development is driven mostly by academic needs) the term "blackboard bold" may trace back to the problem of drawing real bold letters by hand. An outline of a bold character on a board or paper is far quicker to render than a completely filled in bold letter.

However, the TeX/LaTeX font mechanism is through a METAFONT method which, despite being open source, is far less common than the TrueType and Type-1 fonts used by most other software products (such as Adobe, Office products) and generally overlooked by the typographic community. As a result TeX/LaTeX fonts are largely developed outside the mainstream related font systems.

As more academic journals adobt the LaTeX system wholesale, without internal substitution of fonts, greater uniformity in the look of the typesets is achieved. However, the cost is a loss of developement of the fonts and a greater divergence with contemporary fonts.

After reading your post, the question "So what should be done?"
forces itself on my attention. You argue that there is a problem ---
TeX has diverged from the mainstream of the typographical community ---
and that what is being done nowadays is not satisfactory because
it retards development of fonts and enhances the rift, but you don't
propose any solution to problem. Since you pose this as a problem,
what do you think people should do about it? Should they stop using
TeX, or at least TeX fonts, and switch to the mainstream systems you
mention? Should TeX fonts be redesigned to bring them into
conformity with the mainstream of typography or what?

For the fonts, I think one would need to migrate TeX to use the standard font formats directly. This would mean leaving the old "\usepackage" method of including fonts and simply using the installed fonts of the entire system -- of course having TeX install other math fonts would be necessary. This would be much easier to use.

But I have more general reservations about TeX all together. I've used it for about 8 years now and I'm a decent programmer so I'm not afraid of "the look of code ." But my colleagues are afraid. So I'm always asked: "How do you make a matrix in tex, or a commutative diagram, etc" Or I spot tex related problems in their papers which really should have been spotted and avoided by the computer -- ex: figures which get sent to whatever random position in the paper that TeX decides.

I think the future of typesetting math and science content cannot remain in the TeX/LeTeX world forever, even if that stays as a back bone. There is a crucial problem beyond the fonts: i.e.: learning curve, ease of use, inclussion of new packages, delay in compiling, and overall bulkyness of the files.

My vision of better future for this is an editor that mixes WYSIWYG with a mark-up language (not XML style because that is painfully slow to type, so probably a streamlined TeX derivative so that it remains familiar to users). So the lines around your cursor display as the markup text you are editing, but the lines above and below are dynamically compiled and displayed as they would appear. OpenOffice.org has an early version of something like this but it doesn't output the crisp PDF files of TeX and the syntax is not that of TeX. It also requires you ask for math mode, rather than operating in a continous math mode.

Some people may argue that it wouldn't be that useful, but in my several years as a professional programmer I never once saw a programmer edit code in vi or emacs, even though we all knew how. The truth was modern Codewarriors, Microsoft Dev. Studio, and NetBeans/Kawa/Eclipse, etc make it so so much easier to do.

Who should do this? Well saddly, I don't think the average TeX user is a good programmer, a few are. So unlike Linux, the users aren't really capable of rewriting the system.
So that leaves, saddly, capitolism. So a company that makes a tex editor. The downside is you loose all the uniformity and portability of the product.

....so I don't have an answer, I have a dream. I even made my own TeX editor in Java a while back to try and do this, but computing power and Java were not fast enough to use the dynamic compilation I wanted. Now perhaps both are better. (I hated MFC so I had no interest in writting it in C for Windows.) The truth is I would need to rewrite the tex compiler to be fast fast and also have a better way of guessing what to do when it encounters a syntax error. That way the dynamic viewing would continue seamlessly. But I decide to do math instead, and I'm happier because of it :)

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