[NTG-pdftex] a dream about options

Hans Hagen pragma at wxs.nl
Mon Nov 14 23:36:32 CET 2005

Pawel Jackowski wrote:

> I'm bound to tell the reason the 'dream about options' was issued for; 
> ok, not *common* but *live* example. I'm working on low-level pdfTeX 
> macros for generating unusual PDFs files for prepress software testing 
> (uncommon colorspaces, graphic states, horror tiling patterns and 
> others). The word 'unusual' means that the macros must be pretty 
> flexible, not just provide high-end interface. Deeper I'm diggig, more 
> clearly I see that primitive option-scanning mechanism is necessary 
> for playing with object-oriented format in its whole generality. And 
> the only way I see to make definition-oriented TeX more 
> option-oriented are keywords.

hm, all that can be done with macros; also, my guess is that a hard 
coded keyword system will not satisfy everyone since demands differ, ans 
so we end up with a lot of extra code not used by many; what i remember 
from etex discussions is that the demands were too different and getting 
insight as well as agreement over what tex should provide is pretty 
hard. So, simple features on top of which one can build interfaces is 
the way to go. In the end you need to store options in macros 
(variables) anyway, so parsing and low level interfaces remain separated 

also, with respect to pdf features, it's not so much a big deal to 
support them, but given that the pdf ref manual is over 1000, any 
interface to features will end up in a configuration mess (many options, 
keywords, wierd side tracks, etc);

don't let your dream end up in a nightmare: tex is a macro language; the 
fact that pdftex has primitives with keywords has an historic origin; it 
could as well have been something:

\pdfannotwidth=.. \pdfannotheight=.. \pdfannot... \pdfannot {text}

(if you look at how more complex packages for scripting languages are 
made, you'll notice that as soon as many parameters show up, hashes are 
used if only because they can be moved around comfortably)


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