I would say that TeX is a way in which a mathematician / theoretical
computer scientist that is well-steeped in music, languages, art,
literature, and other areas might approach the issue. InDesign is the
way in which a large number in the design community might approach the
I use mainly InCopy because I'm an editor, but I work closely with the
designers. Here's a few things I see that could stand some improvement:
1. What does it mean to have either an overfull hbox or vbox?
You might think, duh! But overfull boxes and copyfitting issues are not
sets of the same cardinality or topology in the problem domain.
First of all, some do make a distinction between intraword and interword
spacing, although this need not necessarily be made. It does become
helpful, however, when setting Sperrdruck and noting the rules for
commas, periods, etc. The soul package in LaTeX does well here, although
if there were essentially two realms, intraword and interword, with
different letterspacing controls for each, this could result in the
If (overfull hbox) then
Apply an algorithm taking into account aesthetic rules for adjusting
intra- and interword spacing within tolerance n and produce a warning
that says either:
Spacing adjusted to fit copy in hbox on line nnnn
Copyfit warning for hbox in line nnnn
Similarly, leading (interline spacing) ought to be considered, but
horizontal spacing, especially when pagefitting copy to avoid widows and
orphans, can be tied with interline spacing to get the desired result.
Tweaking the font size is generally a poor solution.
Boxes and glue is good if you are modeling classical typesetting. I
believe that is what DEK was shooting for. In 1978, that made good sense
because electronic means were not well-defined and were sometimes quite
displeasing. For modern digital needs, boxes and glue may not be
appropriate in every situation.
InDesign and InCopy simply pop up a warning when you have copyfitting
issues. Still, there must be a standard approach when a designer fixes
such issues (apart from an editor doing some rewording) in order to give
one's products a good look and feel. Even with InDesign, copyfitting
issues are not a no-brainer.
That's where generating a preview that would step through copyfitting
issues and allow input for heuristics might be helpful.
2. The box or the text frame?
Ever use LaTeX and BibTeX to do a bib and footnotes and all of a sudden
your URLs go right off the line? How annoying is that? The text frame
should have priority over the boxes in it and should trigger copyfitting
rules to enforce that priority unless locally or globally suppressed.
3. Multi-author workflow
InCopy works with InDesign to allow an editor to work with a "story"
that may be in one text frame or spread over multiple frames. It allows
check-out and check-in of a story and locks the story when checked out.
Of course, this implies that the workflow happens off a central server.
Nevertheless, this allows the document to be constructed in parallel
with designers, substantial/copy editors, proofreaders, and so on
working on different parts as needed.
TeX may be batch-oriented, but it is also single-user oriented unless
you have a master with lots of linked input. The problem is that InCopy
and InDesign can show you your work in relation to the whole, giving a
better idea of what you need to do to fit your work in harmony with the
others. TeX cannot do that.
4. TeX is still better at some things.
Kinda like GraphViz, TeX has its area where it just shines. Those
schemata that I was doing are a major pain to do in something else.
TeX's ability to intermix math mode and regular mode is probably unique.
I would bet that one could do things like sentence diagrams and grammar
theory much more easily in TeX than elsewhere.
5. Toward Generalization, but Keep the Good Stuff
It would be neat to sit down with experienced designers or professors of
design and see where DEK's solutions and those built on them work well
for today's expectations and where they do not. Curiously, if you look
at Wikipedia on page design, typography, and other design-related issues
and TeX does not really show up in the external links.
My design books are almost twenty years old. They are:
Collier and Cotton. Basic Desktop Design and Layout
Murphy and Rowe. How to Design Trade Marks and Logos
Devall. Desktop Publishing Styleguide
White. Graphic Design for the Electronic Age
Craig. Designing with Type, 3rd ed.
Still, one can see even there certain relationships of parts to whole
that, in the main, ConTeXt has done better than any other TeX variant to
address. I find the \setuplayout and related general layout, makeup,
sectioning, and other features to be substantially superior to LaTeX,
where the publishers do the styles and the scientists write the content,
or plain, where you have to do everything (not always bad, but Herculean
for a large project).