[NTG-context] New Member Introductory Rant

Corin Royal Drummond corin at studiochango.com
Sun Mar 30 10:01:30 CEST 2008

Hello ConTeXt Users,

I have become obsessed with ConTeXt since I found out about it while 
browsing through the TeX related software on my Ubuntu Linux box.  I've 
been teaching myself web development in XHTML/CSS over the last couple 
years, and developed a passion for structured documents that separate 
presentation as much as possible.  I'm starting to setup Drupal CMS 
installations for some friends in preparation for doing web publishing 
work for clients.  It's been fun to learn, but so frustrating and 
difficult for my poor mind. 

I've long been curious about TeX but it seemed too ossified, fragmented, 
inflexible, and hard to learn.  Later I discovered LyX and understood 
implicitly the style based markup idea, and it's power.  I've always 
hated things like word, open office, and DTP programs.  I'm fine doing 
the GUI for PhotoShop, but somehow I feel I should be able to just type 
text, and have it come out all pretty.  ConTeXt seems to share that 
philosophy, so I'm giddy about it.  I suppose I should learn InDesign 
too, but I don't really want to.  I use a text editor for my web coding 
rather than dragging boxes around in DreamWeaver.  I like that I can 
just cut & paste other people's code and learn what they did.  GUI 
programs are harder to learn in that way since someone has to write a 
whole step-by-step tutorial rather than just show you their commented 

I've been working my way through the documentation, ConTeXt Garden, and 
whatever I can find on Google searches.  I've worked my way up to making 
a letter head with my address, a graphic logo, and couple of font 
switches, and some hanging punctuation.  I made another version for my 
journal with two columns under each section heading.  I'm using Scite as 
my editor, but I haven't set it up anyway special.  Kile didn't seem to 
like ConTeXt much, and it's command completion facility kept spitting 
out LaTeX code as I typed.  I like Scite as it starts fast, has nice 
colors, and is easy to get around. 

TexFont doesn't work on Ubuntu.  It craps out saying it can't find it's 
TeX root.  Even when I set the FontRoot with the command line switch, it 
fails to find it's map files.  I filed a bug with Ubuntu about it as it 
seems like some files like the font maps got put in /var/lib.  So I'm 
completely frustrated by the font situation.  Don't understand why I 
can't just point TexFont at my directory of OTF, TTF, and PFB fonts and 
have it suck up every last glyph and variant like Scribus, InkScape, and 
InDesign do.  It should configure a reasonable set of typescripts, and 
tell me what's available.  All the other TeX fonts should just work out 
of the box.  Why do I have to wrestle so vainly just to get the damn 
fonts to be available. 

Also, I can't for the life of me figure out how to change typefaces in 
headers and footers.  I can change to italics, or sizes with style=\it\x 
but have no clue how to switch a header to say the Zaph Chancery 
caligraphic.  I can switch the body font to it, so I'm part way there. 

I'm pretty pissed off about the state of the documentation for ConTeXt.  
Out of date docs, that were never finished, and full of holes.  Small 
set of MyWay articles, old dead links on the wiki, no roadmap, no bug 
database.  It's 2008, there's things like SourceForge, and LaunchPad for 
these sort of things.  I don't understand why Pragma can't sell support 
for ConTeXt like other open source projects.  That way Hans can afford a 
staff to handle people's questions, he can focus on building what he 
likes (and we all love), new users can be brought in, and a virtuous 
cycle of new contributors, new features, and new users. 

TexShow is missing tons of commands I've read about in the manual, and 
doesn't bother to explain what any command or option does.  Nor do I 
understand how options are chained or structured into more than simple 
switches.  Where are the screencasts of gurus showing off how to do cool 
things?  Where are the tutorials?  Where are the contributed templates, 
so I can read other people's code to learn from?  You'd think that 
people who make structured document typesetting systems would spend some 
more time on their documentation. 

I'd be glad to help, but first I'd need to learn the system.  Since the 
docs are so incomplete, I'm not sure how I'd do that.  Catch 22. 

I've gotten as far as letter writing, and I'm pretty happy with that.  
My goal is to typeset my housemate's pirate novel that she's writing.  
I'm going to stick it out and see how far I can get.  I hope I don't 
have to go running back to LyX and the memoir class.  I'm home sick with 
Hepatitis and Diabetes so I've got some quality time with my six year 
old Ubuntu laptop. 

If there are any Bay Area ConTeXt users around, I'd love to meet you.  
And if any one wants help setting up a better community website, I could 
help with that, knowing Drupal. 

Hope to speak with some of you soon.


Corin Royal Drummond
San Francisco, California
corin at studiochango.com

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