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20.5 Evolution of Include Files

When Info was first created, it was customary to create many small Info files on one subject. Each Info file was formatted from its own Texinfo source file. This custom meant that Emacs did not need to make a large buffer to hold the whole of a large Info file when someone wanted information; instead, Emacs allocated just enough memory for the small Info file that contained the particular information sought. This way, Emacs could avoid wasting memory.

References from one file to another were made by referring to the file name as well as the node name. (See Referring to Other Info Files. Also, see @xref with Four and Five Arguments.)

Include files were designed primarily as a way to create a single, large printed manual out of several smaller Info files. In a printed manual, all the references were within the same document, so TeX could automatically determine the references’ page numbers. The Info formatting commands used include files only for creating joint indices; each of the individual Texinfo files had to be formatted for Info individually. (Each, therefore, required its own @setfilename line.)

However, because large Info files are now split automatically, it is no longer necessary to keep them small.

Nowadays, multiple Texinfo files are used mostly for large documents, such as The GNU Emacs Lisp Reference Manual, and for projects in which several different people write different sections of a document simultaneously.

In addition, the Info formatting commands have been extended to work with the @include command so as to create a single large Info file that is split into smaller files if necessary. This means that you can write menus and cross references without naming the different Texinfo files.

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