My name is John and I'm a nearly brand new TeX convert. All it took was one
letter I wanted to look nice and now I know I will never craft an important
document in another format again.

Now, an obvious entry point is LaTeX, and indeed my first TeX document used
this macro package. However, I couldn't help but stumble across the ConTeXt
project in my investigation of the TeX landscape. The seemingly distinct
separation of style from content, evidenced by the print versus the screen
versions of some of the manuals, instantly endeared me.

Within the same week, I found the comp.text.tex newsgroup. Lo and behold
there was a quite active thread on LuaTeX, which I had just finished reading
a presentation and a couple papers on the night before. On of the issues
being discussed was the lack of a LaTeX document class for "thesis". This
also involved discussion of LaTeX's shortcomings.

I wrote into the thread that based on my (albeit completely theoretical)
understanding, ConTeXt would be a wiser choice as a macro for any new
department to begin requiring TeX documents. This was based on my vague
understanding of the separation of environment from the content, as it were,
and also on the multiple outputs available for the manuals. Since I see
screen formatting as equally important, if not more, than paper formatting,
it only made sense to me that the equivalent of a unversity specific
documentclass in LaTeX would be a simple environment file in ConTeXt.

This leads me to some questions I have about how great a fit for me ConTeXt
actually is.

1) Can environment files be used across documents, or is it generally
understood that every ConTeXt document requires its own environment
formatting? (The latter is the view of someone on c.t.t, who said his
perception of ConTeXt was that it was for typesetting individual documents
and had less application beyond that domain.)

2) What is the state of XML output for ConTeXt files? I have to say I will
find it hard to justify using TeX for documents if it means they are not
translatable to XML easily. I'm also interested in any RDF support ConTeXt
might have.

I am just beginning my journey into TeX, and wish to learn the best macro
package available. To me it seems like this is ConTeXt hands down, however
the two questions above will indeed determine ConTeXt's actual utility in my


John C. Haltiwanger

P.S. For my first question, it seems easy to assume that if you can process
XML files into standardized ConTeXt documents, the same would go for
processing ConTeXt into standardized ConTeXt documents. But the question is
too large not to ask.
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