[Blindmath] pdf intrigue

Jonathan Godfrey a.j.godfrey at massey.ac.nz
Thu Mar 19 22:26:23 CDT 2009

Hi all,

I've been watching the discussion re LaTeX and pdf documents over the 
last week or more and now have clarified something for myself. 
Hopefully my comments prove useful for others.

As part of being a lecturer I am often making notes for students. 
LaTeX has been my tool of choice for quite some time. I used to 
generate post script files and print them for the students. With our 
moves towards less paper and more electronic delivery, I am now 
making more pdf documents for them instead.

I have also been reading more and more papers from other authors in 
pdf format via our library's connection to various journal databases.

I have wondered for some time why various different sources led to 
different quality of pdf documents and have at least for my own pdf 
creation found out a few things this year.

Regardless of the source file I use, I find the following results.
1. We can't read post script files - well known fact.
2. we can't read the majority of equations in pdf files. (also a well 
known fact)
3. many pdf files do not convert to text cleanly as spaces are either 
included in funny places and then not in others. Line breaks between 
words is another frustration.
4. If I make a pdf straight from the source code it is often a mess (point 3).
5. If I make the dvi file and then convert to pdf the problems with 
point 3 remain.
6. When I go through the process of making the dvi file, then the 
post script file and then  making the pdf from the post script file 
it ends up considerably easier to read the text with jaws.
7. Points 4 and 5 also lead to character strings involving an f are 
often not converted to text properly. This includes the strings "ff", 
"fi", and "ffi" just to illustrate three different problems. The 
laborious creation of the pdf (point 6) seems to work for these 
character strings.

The first few points are thoroughly discussed on this list from time 
to time. Now if someone can suggest why these other observations are 
so then maybe I'll learn how to shorten the time taken to get 
documents that I can at least partially check myself.

For the record, the pdf documents that are typeset in LaTeX that have 
no Greek or complex mathematical operators and  symbols are beautiful 
to work with, especially with the more recent versions of jaws and 
acrobat reader. I've come to really like the hyper linking that is 
possible with LaTeX and pdf documents and given I can read the 
equations in source code things are really getting quite sweet. Now 
I'm off to solve the small problem of graphs in statistical analyses <smiles>.


Dr A. Jonathan R. Godfrey
Lecturer in Statistics
Institute of Fundamental Sciences
Massey University
Palmerston North
Phone: +64-6-356 9099 ext 7705
Mobile: +64-29-538-9814
Room: AH2.82

Home Address: 22 Bond St, Palm. Nth.
Home Phone: +64-6-353 2224 (or FleaBag if you prefer to remember it that way)

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