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I feel CSS's layout model is simpler than (La)TeX's layout model. At the time Knuth developed TeX, the idea leading to CSS model is a "difficult" things? Or the CSS layout model is not appropriate to be applied to (La)TeX.

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You seem to be (a) presuming that CSS is superior to LaTeX for laying out boxes and (b) asking why Knuth didn't invent CSS. This doesn't seem like an answerable question. –  Matthew Leingang Dec 3 '10 at 12:21
You might be interested in the relatively new packages mdframed and adjustbox that have some very CSS-like features. –  JohnJamesSmith Nov 27 '11 at 3:27

2 Answers 2

up vote 25 down vote accepted

If you read the Ph.D. thesis of Håkon Wium Lie's you will see that a lot of the concepts of CSS were based on TeX and LateX. Wium Lie and all the other contributor's to CSS came up with a system of separating content from presentation for HTML. The numerous forums and tutorials on the web is an indirect proof that the CSS model is not the best either. You probably find it easier as you are used to it. In addition CSS does not provide any means of programming. This has to be done via JavaScript. It also cannot help with mathematics etc.

When Knuth invented TeX, there was no Computer Science, no web, no html and no CSS. My personal opinion is exactly the opposite. If html was marked as LaTeX life would have been easier, the web would have looked better etc. If there is one aspect that I agree with you is the lack of a <div></div> concept and the ability to float sections left or right. This can be done using TeX but not as easily. There is an XML version of LaTeX called tralics perhaps you can have a look as to how it could have looked!


The current shortcomings of CSS/html can easily be observed by the fact that there are over 500 billion pdf documents on the web and the best way to create a pdf currently is with one of the TeX->pdf engines.

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huh? "there was no Computer Science"??? tex was invented to typeset the second edition of "The Art of Computer Programming"; the first was composed in hot metal by a skilled monotype operator, and knuth's goal was to emulate the look of the first edition with which he was very pleased. –  barbara beeton Dec 3 '10 at 22:17
@barbara For completeness I should have said and Computer Science was at its baby steps. The Foundations were laid out by books like the Art of Computer Science' and by conferences such as http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/mostRecentIssue.jsp?punumber=4567951 and plenty of discussions and papers on the GOTO statement! We still have debates, if it is science, mathematics art or engineering, but granted CS can now be considered a teen'. Thanks for the comment and the sharp eye. –  Yiannis Lazarides Dec 4 '10 at 12:51
The existence of billions of pdf documents does not imply that TeX is superior to HTML/CSS. That only shows that PDF is the holy grail when it comes to "portable" documents, that is, documents that will print the same everywhere. I also wonder how many of those billions of documents are produced by TeX (outside of math heavy disciplines, of course). Think brochures, magazines, and the like. –  Aditya Apr 9 '12 at 3:44

Note that the CSS layout model is not simple, because it includes a concept of gluing together boxes both horizontally and vertically, which is tricky. The apparent simplicity lies in how parameters are passed to the layout engine, through stylesheets.

Context actually does permit specification along the lines of style sheets, using its setups: to the extent that it is more complex, it is in the larger part due to being more ambitious. I seem to recall there was some work done on layoing out directly from CSS-like stylesheets.

The why is about ideas: the ideas about programming languages, document presentation, and abstraction that guided the design of CSS came after Tex. Both Context and Latex have aimed to reduce the coupling of layout issues from content. It's an ongoing effort.

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