[NTG-context] Migrating from LaTeX (was: A not so short introduction to ConTeXt Mark IV)

Hans Hagen j.hagen at xs4all.nl
Mon Jan 4 15:21:14 CET 2021

On 1/4/2021 2:02 PM, BPJ wrote:
> I understand all that. I just thought that maybe such resources existed 
> which I didn't know.
> While as you say the approaches differ it would be nice to have like a 
> FAQ "how do you do what LaTeX package X does in ConTeXt?" I guess that 
> that is what I'm after. Something like a LaTeX <--> ConTeXt Rosetta 
> stone. Knowing that rather than importing a package I should modify some 
> command using some options is basic; what one really needs to know is 
> which specific command to modify using which specific options with which 
> specific values to do what package X does in LaTeX. If/since it doesn't 
> exist maybe it would be a good thing if users make it exist. It would 
> certainly help drawing more proselytes. I'm basically still using only 
> LaTeX because I know which packages to use to do the things I want. 
> Perhaps that *is* as good a reason as any to stay with LaTeX but it 
> shouldn't be a barrier to learning ConTeXt which IME it is.

Often it's better to start from scratch as it might be that the choice 
for some solution in one system would be a different one in an other. I 
never had to use an office application (word, open office, whatever) but 
I'm pretty sure that if one comes from a tex mindset one also looks for 
the wrong solutions. (Which probably is why one can sometimes find those 
useless ramblings about msword and such among texies: an even little 
able user of some word processors knows how to write a letter and 
probably could not get it done in tex in a minute, after all it starts 
with installation.)

So, I wonder if recipes would work well. (Just like switching from say 
lisp to pascal, or even lisp to prolog, or pascal to c# is not a matter 
of reading a few page manual.)

> To take but one example: when wearing my linguist hat I deal with 
> obscure scripts and languages, mostly dead languages, which no standard 
> LaTeX index processor can handle (at least not out of the box) so I have 
> my pile of Perl hacks which generate indices using Perl's excellent 
> Unicode capabilities and some excellent modules written by other people. 
> (I use the same LaTeX packages as everyone else, I just have a homemade 
> way of going from idx to ind.) The first hurdle to know if/how ConTeXt 
> might offer a better solution (which it doesn't AFAIK but my own tool 
> can easily generate ConTeXt markup as well as LaTeX markup should it 
> come to that) was to find out that indices are called "registers" in 
> ConTeXt (not too surprising since it is _register_ in Swedish) for 
> searching for "index" on the ConTeXt wiki finds an error page!

Sure, but when such specialization is needed, any (transition) manual is 
kind of tricky. If systems are indeed quite different (and there are 
definitely conceptual diferences between latex and context and plain) it 
might even be a reason not to look further. That said: there is some 
info on how to set up the sorter for different languages.

> Admittedly it might be just me: I have a hard time knowing where to look 
> in the likewise excellent Vim documentation too: what search terms to 
> use. Finding a LaTeX solution to a problem with Google OTOH usually is 
> pretty fast done — if you can describe your problem in prose you usually 
> don't hit a wall.

The good news is that often on this list you get an answer (and 
sometimes looking at examples in e.g. the test suite also helps). But 
one aspect remains: learning (any) tex takes time. This is compensated 
by the fact that you can use it forever as it's unlike to stay (or taken 
over by some large company that then ditches it in favour of its own 
stuff). Unlearning probably also takes soem time and effort.

And in context one also can be triggered into leanring metapost and lua 
so that adds to the burden (but also fun).

> With knowledge of TeX basics I did not mean a working knowledge of plain 
> TeX but the actual basics: reserved characters, syntax, space after a 
> command is ignored, a blank line makes a paragraph, that sort of things 
> which are common to all flavors.

It definitely helps to have an idea how tex deals with what you input 
and even how it internally works a bit. Just try to get a copy of TeX by 
Topic ... a pretty good summary of the basics. And after that the TeX 
Book ... just to get the feelling of what world one enters.

                                           Hans Hagen | PRAGMA ADE
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