File:  [NetBSD Developer Wiki] / wikisrc / projects / project / troff.mdwn
Revision 1.4: download - view: text, annotated - select for diffs
Thu Feb 27 09:04:43 2014 UTC (13 months ago) by dholland
Branches: MAIN
CVS tags: HEAD
Rewrite in light of the existence of mandoc. Rather than just "rewrite
groff", this project is now "solve the problem we have with
typesetting non-manpage docs". There are a bunch of options for that
but they're all pretty unappealing.

[[!template id=project

title="BSD licensed troff/nroff replacement"

contact="""
[tech-userlevel](mailto:tech-userlevel@NetBSD.org)
"""

category="userland"
difficulty="hard"

description="""

While we now have mandoc for handling man pages, we currently still
need groff in the tree to handle miscellaneous docs that are not man
pages.

This is itself an inadequate solution as the groff we have does not
support PDF output (which in this day and age is highly desirable)
... and while newer groff does support PDF output it does so via a
Perl script. Also, importing a newer groff is problematic for assorted
other reasons.

We need a way to typeset miscellaneous articles that we can import
into base and that ideally is BSD licensed. (And that can produce
PDFs.) Currently it looks like there are three decent ways forward:

* Design a new roff macro package that's comparable to mdoc (e.g.
supports semantic markup) but is for miscellaneous articles rather
than man pages, then teach mandoc to handle it.

* Design a new set of markup tags comparable to mdoc (e.g. supports
semantic markup) but for miscellaneous articles, and a different less
ratty syntax for it, then teach mandoc to handle this.

* Design a new set of markup tags comparable to mdoc (e.g. supports
semantic markup) but for miscellaneous articles, and a different less
ratty syntax for it, and write a new program akin to mandoc to handle
it.

These are all difficult and a lot of work, and in the case of new
syntax are bound to cause a lot of shouting and stamping. Also, many
of the miscellaneous documents use various roff preprocessors and it
isn't clear how much of this mandoc can handle.

None of these options is particularly appealing.

There are also some less decent ways forward:

* Pick one of the existing roff macro packages for miscellaneous
articles (ms, me, ...) and teach mandoc to handle it. Unfortunately
all of these macro packages are pretty ratty, they're underpowered
compared to mdoc, and none of them support semantic markup.

* Track down one of the other older roff implementations, that are now
probably more or less free (e.g. ditroff), then stick to the existing
roff macro packages as above. In addition to the drawbacks cited
above, any of these programs are likely to be old nasty code that
needs a lot of work.

* Teach the groff we have how to emit PDFs, then stick to the existing
roff macro packages as above. In addition to the drawbacks cited
above, this will likely be pretty nasty work and it's still got the
wrong license.

* Rewrite groff as BSD-licensed code and provide support for
generating PDFs, then stick to the existing roff macro packages as
above. In addition to the drawbacks cited above, this is a horrific
amount of work.

* Try to make something else do what we want. Unfortunately, TeX is a
nonstarter and the only other halfway realistic candidate is lout...
which is GPLv3 and at least at casual inspection looks like a horrible
mess of its own.

These options are even less appealing.

Maybe someone can think of a better idea. There are lots of choices if
we give up on typeset output, but that doesn't seem like a good plan
either.

"""
]]

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