March, 2019

The purpose of this newsletter is to help everyone keep track of the great things that are happening in the PreTeXt community. Feel free to suggest material for future issues.

Section1On the horizon

GeoGebra calculator. This was supposed to still be on the horizon, but Alex was too fast and the announcement came out earlier this week. But Alex also has other GeoGebra-related work under construction, including easier and better ways to code your own GeoGebra in PTX source, and the ability to use a GeoGebra interactive in WeBWorK and have it use the WeBWorK answer checker.

Section2Featured feature

LaTeX is chock full of special characters. If you want to tell us the price of a box of #2 pencils went from $4 to$5, a 25% increase, that sentence will make LaTeX have a fit. Early adopters of PreTeXt had similar constraints, with #, \$, and % treated as special characters. PreTeXt and LaTeX handled those characters differently, but you still had to do something special to include them in your document.

But no more. As of last month, you can include those characters "plain" in your source, and they will behave properly in all outputs. The only special characters in PreTeXt are less-than and ampersand. See the Author's Guide for details: https://pretextbook.org/doc/author-guide/html/overview-special-characters.html.

Section3Accessibility matters

It is nontrivial to make an accessible web page, particularly if it has a lot of interactivity and enhancements. One of the goals of PreTeXt is to automatically create accessible documents, automatically as long and the author writes good source.

Even though it is automatic, it can be helpful for authors to be aware of what is going on in the background. Here is an example.

Screen readers use the structure of the page to help the user navigate. The titles and other headings on a web page are marked with "hN" tags, specifically, h1 for the most important heading, down to h6 for the least important heading. There is no h7.

The screen reader expects there to be exactly one h1, which should be the overall title of the page. Then there should be one or more h2s, giving the titles of the main sections. (The page can also be divided into "section"s, as we do in PreTeXt HTML. But the hN tags are given more importance because those are more widely used.) What would happen if a page had more than one h1? Or several h4s and no h3s, and some of those h4s were directly under an h1? Well, that would be confusing. Accessibility guidelines require exactly one h1, and all the other hN occur in strict hierarchy: all h2s are directly under the h1, all h3s are directly under an h2, etc.

For example, the title of a theorem might be an h3 if it appears as the child of a section, but (on the same page!) the title of another theorem might be an h4 because that theorem is in a subsection.

All you really need to know is that Rob Beezer has already implemented all of this (recently!), and your HTML automatically meets that accessibility guideline. 1 The main structural components are done, but some smaller pieces still need work.

This feature was actually planned years ago, when a key decision was made about the CSS: none of the styling actually depends on which hN tag is used. Imagine the headache if we had assumed the titles of theorems were always h5, and now all that had to be redone?

Section4Help wanted

Asides are the only item which cannot yet have custom colors, and there are lingering questions about where asides can go, what types there should be, and how to interact with them.

Do you have a lot of asides in your book? If so, please consider posting a copy that can be used for testing. Pull the latest PreTeXt, make the HTML with the GeoGebra calculator enabled, and send a link to David Farmer with an indication of notable pages to look at.