Now that most of the world uses WYSIWYG word processors, and several good ones are available even for Linux, why use the anachronistic-looking text processors described in this chapter? Actually, text processing (especially in the form of XML) is the wave of the future. People will desire WYSIWYG interfaces, but they will demand a simple, standard, text format underneath to make their documents portable while allowing an unlimited range of automated tools to manipulate the documents.
Because the tools described here are open source and widely available, you can use one of their formats without guilt and reasonably expect your readers to have access to formatters. You can also use an impressive range of tools developed over the years to handle these formats and do sophisticated processing for you, such as to develop a bibliography in TEX. Finally, filters have been developed (although they don't always work perfectly) to convert documents between each of these formats and other popular formats, including the formats used by commercial word processors. So you're not totally locked in, although you will probably have to exert some manual effort to accomplish an accurate conversion.
In Chapter 1, we briefly mentioned various text processing systems available for Linux and how they differ from word processing systems that you may be familiar with. While most word processors allow the user to enter text in a WYSIWYG environment, text processing systems have the user enter source text using a text-formatting language, which can be modified with any text editor. (In fact, Emacs provides special modes for editing various types of text-formatting languages.) Then the source is processed into a printable (or viewable) document using the text processor itself. Finally, you process the output and send it to a file or to a viewer application for display, or you hand it off to a printer daemon to queue for printing to a local or remote device.