This question/concern may sound like a troll but is not. I'm more and more concerned on how relevant it is to dedicate energy to the development of next generation tools like LaTeX3, LuaTex, Tikz... Some people agree that the pdf format is doomed to disappearance because of its lacks of interactivity and should be replaced by (more open) formats such as html/xml and equivalent. In this context, will the rules of typography slowly become obsolete and what will be the goal of using compiling-like tools such as LaTeX? I know that as long as nice math fonts are not really available in formats other than ps/pdf, scientific fields will still use Latex but that may be over very soon. What are your thoughts on this?

edit 1: it looks like my rather provoking title yielded unexpected results. I just wanted to know in which extent LaTeX-like tools developers do consider possible evolutions in their decisions? As noted by Jan and Frabjous, TeX could be ported/converted to other formats even though it is currently mainly dedicated to pdf outputs.

edit 2: although I am a big fan of nice layouts and documents, the actual way of using pdf files is annoying. We have to open them in new browsers when we click on an existing hyperlink and they cannot be edited and require a full compilation for a single grammar mistake (when created with LaTeX). Maybe next generation computers will be powerful enough to compile LaTeX documents on the fly or technologies like http://river-valley.tv/tex-and-the-ipad/ are the future. I am just wondering

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    @pluton I think you should edit your question heavily as its basic premise is flawed - pdf is now an ISO standard as well as interactive, you can confirm this by clicking on any link in a pdf file! (You can use JavaScript in a pdf file, and you can also do that via a LaTeX file!) – Yiannis Lazarides Jan 9 '11 at 18:52
  • @Yiannis Do any non-Adobe PDF viewers support JavaScript? – frabjous Jan 9 '11 at 19:25
  • @frabjous Not that I know of, however given time maybe HTML will! After all using <object> you can use flash and that is how most pdf web readers work! – Yiannis Lazarides Jan 9 '11 at 19:32
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    @frabjous: None that I know of. It is rather sad really, we have some excellent open source tools for creating highly interactive pdf documents, but there is no open source tool to view them. What's more, it seems that most authors of open source pdf viewers are firmly convinced that the sole purpose of the pdf format is to have an electronic copy of a printed document, and there should be no interactive elements in a pdf document at all. – Jan Hlavacek Jan 9 '11 at 20:37
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    I would suggest to close as subjective and argumentative. – Juan A. Navarro Jan 10 '11 at 10:36

Adobe has been trying to make pdf more interactive for years, with somewhat limited success. Interestingly, pdfTeX is one of the few pdf authoring tools that let you relatively easily take advantage of these pdf extensions.

Also, if you look at the history of TeX, you will see that pdf was not the original format TeX generated. PdfTeX was written much later than TeX, and most TeX documents, when processed with pdfTeX, produce pdf files that display pretty much identically to the original dvi files. So if pdf become obsolete and get replaced by another format, changes are someone will write an {another format}TeX, and all the effort invested into TeX will carry over.

No matter what the target format is going to be, I think there will, at least in foreseeable future, be a need for the type of extensible system for generating documents and graphics that TeX represents.


The problem with a prediction like this is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: if people who might be interested in working on technologies that produce quality typography all assume their efforts will be in vain, and give up working on them, then of course, they'll have proven themselves right.

Far better that those of us who do care just keep on insisting on using it. If we only convince ourselves, then we at least have the tools that we create.

That said, I do recognize the important status of various XML-based formats, and the importance of making it the case that TeX-based technologies are able to interact with it. There's certainly no reason why XML based formats can't be used for quality typography: indeed, that's already possible to some extent with SVG, and even with XHTML it's not so much a problem with the format as it is with the software used to render it (and the emphasis on speed over quality, though that could change...) And there's no reason to think that TeX algorithms can't be ported, or adapted, or be a part of making that a reality.

To some extent, making use of TeX-based technologies to output XML-based output is already a reality, with converters out there for producing XHTML and MathML and SVG already there. (See TeX4ht, dvisvgm, etc.)

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