Author: Eamon Caddigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, 8 Nov 2023 21:16:13 -0800
Links to other designs and some resources
1 file changed, 56 insertions(+), 33 deletions(-)
diff --git a/content/posts/postscript-graph-paper/index.md b/content/posts/postscript-graph-paper/index.md
@@ -1,35 +1,45 @@
title: "PostScript Graph Paper"
-I needed some graph paper, and for my needs it seemed easier and more
-economical to print some at home than buy a whole pad of it. I turned to the
-web and found plenty of sites offering PDF files with grids on them, but I
-didn't like what I found[^pdfs] and decided to make my own.
+I needed a few pages of graph paper, and it seemed easier and more
+economical to print some at home than to buy a whole pad of it. There are
+plenty of websites offering PDF files with grids on them, but I didn't like
+what I found[^pdfs] and decided to make my own. I thought that the process
+was fun enough that I have since made a few different kinds:
-[Here's a PDF for a US Letter page with a 5 mm × 5 mm grid](grid.pdf).
+* [5 mm × 5 mm grid (pdf)](grid.pdf) ([postscript](grid.ps))
+* [5 mm × 5 mm dot grid (pdf)](dotgrid.pdf) ([postscript](dotgrid.ps))
+* [1 inch width hex grid (pdf)](hexgrid.pdf) ([postscript](hexgrid.ps))
-Drawing a grid is not difficult to do with a computer. The SVG format is
-pretty straightforward, so I considered writing a simple program to create a
-grid in SVG, and then using a second program to print it. But then I
-remembered: PostScript is a bona fide programming language! I could
-conceivably write the code to generate a graph paper grid in a file which
-could be printed directly. So I spent an afternoon familiarizing myself with
-PostScript and did that.
+All files are meant for US Letter paper but could easily be adapted to other
+dimensions. They are also "full bleed" because I decided to allow my printer
+to impose its own margins; just be sure that you turn off any "autoscale" or
+"fit to page" option before printing these.
-I learned that PostScript is a stack based ("concatenative") language, like
-Forth or [UXNTAL](https://wiki.xxiivv.com/site/uxntal.html). I was playing
-with the latter last fall[^uxntal], so I have some familiarity with the
-paradigm. Stack programming seems strange when you're used to other
-paradigms, but I find it's not too hard to shift into the right mindset to
-write code this way once I get started.
+## Why PostScript?
-The complete PostScript program, which produced the PDF linked above,
+Drawing a grid is not difficult to do with a computer. I considered writing
+code to programmatically generate an SVG file, but then I recalled that
+PostScript, the precursor to the PDF format, is a bona fide programming
+language! It only took an afternoon of familiarizing myself with the
+language to make the grid, and I kept going from there.
+It turns out that PostScript is a stack-based ("concatenative") language,
+like Forth or [UXNTAL](https://wiki.xxiivv.com/site/uxntal.html). I was
+playing with the latter last fall[^uxntal], so I have some familiarity with
+this type of language. Stack programming seems strange when you're used to
+other paradigms, but once you get started you may find it easy to shift into
+the right mindset for structuring programs this way.
+The complete PostScript program, which produced the 5 mm × 5 mm grid linked
@@ -72,18 +82,15 @@ stroke
This code is probably not idiomatic or efficient, and I welcome feedback on
-writing better PostScript. But it worked for me and shouldn't be too hard to
-adapt to other page or grid sizes. Some might want to add margins to the
-page, but I decided that I would rather let my printer print as much grid as
-it was able; I just made sure to disable "print scaling".
+writing better PostScript. But it worked for me and won't be hard to adapt
+to your own needs.
## Programming with PostScript
If you're interested in playing with PostScript programming,
-[Ghostscript](https://www.ghostscript.com/) (which I used to convert the
-PostScript file to PDF) has an interactive interpreter that allows you to
-manipulate and view the stack (just type `stack`), and draw on a page. I
+[Ghostscript](https://www.ghostscript.com/)[^gs] has an interactive
+interpreter that allows you to manipulate and view the stack (just type
+`stack`), and draw on a page. I just [came
relevant [quote from Peter Norvig](http://www.norvig.com/21-days.html):
@@ -94,14 +101,30 @@ relevant [quote from Peter Norvig](http://www.norvig.com/21-days.html):
> also for programming. Insist on a language with an interactive mode and
> use it.
-If you're like me and tend to open a calculator whenever you're faced with
-trivial arithmetic, I invite you to launch `ghostscript` and perform your
-calculations on the stack.
+Interest in PostScript peaked during an era where books were the easily the
+best way to learn about a computing technology[^books]; I've seen the
+following recommended and found them fairly easily online:
-[^pdfs]: For starters, these sites all branded their downloads—which may be
- their right, but I didn't want an advertisement on my paper.
+* _Thinking in PostScript_ by Glenn Reid
+* _PostScript Language Tutorial & Cookbook_ ("the Blue Book") by Adobe
+ Systems Incorporated
+* _PostScript Language Program Design_ ("the Green Book") by Adobe Systems
+* _PostScript Language Reference_ ("the Red Book") by Adobe Systems
+[^pdfs]: For starters, these sites all branded their downloads—which is
+ certainly their right, but I didn't want an advertisement on my paper.
[^uxntal]: I started learning it for a project I ought to pick back up. I
followed [compudanzas' _introduction to uxn
and recommend it!
+[^gs]: I used Ghostscript to convert these PS files to PDF, and have been
+ using it to tweak PDFs from the command line for years without realizing
+ it was a whole interactive programming language interpreter.
+[^books]: This may well still be true today, but speaking for myself, I
+ rarely begin learning new tools with a trip to the library, as I once
+ had for C and Perl.