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Highlights of the PracTeX'04 conference

Lance Carnes


Delegates came from the US and from around the world - Ireland, England, The Netherlands, Germany, Australia, and Viet Nam - to the Holiday Inn Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, the site of the first annual PracTeX meeting July 19-22, 2004.

The purpose of the PracTeX conference was to focus on the practical, day-to-day use of LaTeX, TeX, ConTeXt, and other applications. Speakers gave talks and held workshops on a wide range of topics, including TeX on the Web, basic and intermediate LaTeX, ConTeXt (a comprehensive TeX-based documentation system), and more.

The conference began with a welcome by TUG President Karl Berry, and a keynote address by Peter Flynn titled "TeX and the Interface." The conference program consisted of numerous presentations - a few are presented in Issue 1 of the PracTeX Journal, and others will be published in TUGboat.

On Monday afternoon long-time TUG contributor Wendy McKay and Apple Computer Product Manager Ernest Prabhakar held an Apple SIG (Special Interest Group). The meeting was video conferenced using technology lent by Marratech.

For beginning users and those who wanted a refresher, workshops on beginning and intermediate LaTeX were offered each morning of the conference, in parallel with talks. Sue Demeritt and Cheryl Ponchin presented these popular workshops.

During the conference there were daily Q & A sessions, and on the final day a panel discussion was held. These sessions were valuable for getting input from attendees. The consensus seemed to be a need for more education in the use of LaTeX and TeX, and the need for more sources of practical information.

On the day after the conference three one-day courses were held: Cheryl Ponchin and Sue Demeritt conducted a workshop on Intermediate LaTeX; Peter Flynn (Silmaril Ltd., Ireland) taught "TeX on the Web"; and Hans Hagen (Pragma ADE, Holland) taught an introductory class on his ConTeXt system.

Hans Hagen, Practical TeX Man of the Year Keynote speaker Peter Flynn

Attendees were treated to three social events: an opening reception, a San Francisco treasure hunt, and a Chinese banquet. The treasure hunt challenged teams of attendees to decipher clues as they explored San Francisco's North Beach and Chinatown districts. (When it was learned that Don Knuth was entering a team, a special Wizards Hunt was added with more difficult clues.)

Don Knuth Leslie Lamport Treasure Hunt Winners (Heidi Sestrich, Alistair Smith, Jenny Levine, Terri Spence, Alan Wetmore)

The banquet was at the Empress of China restaurant, which has a commanding view of the northern area of San Francisco, including Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge and the financial district. Some special guests at the banquet were Don and Jill Knuth, and Leslie Lamport. Barbara Mastrian of Rutgers introduced Barbara Miller, a pioneer TeX user who over the years has taught many others how to navigate the boxes and glue.

Barbara Mastrian and TeX pioneer Barbara Miller Karl Berry, TUG President Robin Laakso, TUG Executive Director

There were two coffee breaks and lunch each day, which provided for plenty of attendee interaction during the three-day conference. There was a cybercafe with several computers, lent by Apple Computer, which delegates used for checking email and experimenting with new applications.

It was great to see several TeX and TUG pioneers again: Cal Jackson, Dave Fuchs, Art Ogawa, Nelson Beebe, and Peter Flynn.

From the follow-up comments it seemed everyone had a good conference and an enjoyable visit to San Francisco. See more photos and the attendee list.

The next PracTeX conference, to be held June 14-17, 2005 in Chapel Hill, NC, will be hosted by Steve Grathwohl and the Duke University Press.

(Photos: Tim Null, Alan Wetmore, and


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