2018-03-05 Troff

When writing for this wiki, I am always conscious of how it will look using Gopher. Basically raw mode. This includes thinking about line breaks. And I end up not liking inline linking so much. It makes the plain text really hard to read. But writing the plain text with manual line breaks on a handheld device runs into the problem that iOS will autocapitalize all line beginnings. You have to “fix” that manually. And it uses “real” quotes, which are neither ASCII nor Latin-1 so older Gopher clients fail to display them correctly.

Into all this mess comes a Gopher post by dbucklin about using Troff. That’s an old formatting tool from the very early days. Way older than LaTeX, and that’s pretty old, too. It’s an excellent introduction for somebody who knows nothing about it. I want to give it a try because all the the things that are old but that have been kept alive by enthusiasts have their own ways of being super efficient.

I guess that’s why I use Emacs, too. It’s weird, but it works, if you adapt to it’s way of working. These things are like living fossils. We like to think that those are species that split off from the rest millennial ago and thus they are “primitive” but not so: they just evolved on their own, for exactly the same amount of time, and they are just as adapted to their niche as whatever mainstream is to its niche.

Anyway, looking at troff was very cool, but I think I will continue to manually write Markdown on these wiki pages and I just hope that future changes to this site will be able to automatically migrate from one format to the next. Then again, if you look at the old pages, you will see how well that worked in past as I switched markup rules. If you look hard enough, you will see how badly it worked, actually.

There is a lot of cover-up at work. HTML is being cached, for example. But every global search-and-replace operation that touches a page discards the cached HTML and regenerates it and therefore if those global search-and-replace operations don’t do their job, the leftover markup is broken, and the HTML cache is useless.

Oh well. Here is to hoping that Markdown will last longer than WikiWiki markup, UseModWiki markup, or WikiCreole markup. At least it’s not limited to just the wiki world!

I’m sure there is a Troff markup wiki somewhere. It would Be beautiful in plain text, HTML, or PDF. (I assume?) But I will stick to manually formatting the text I write in Markdown, for now.

That reminds me that my implementation of CommonMark is still sorely lacking.

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