[Mac OS X TeX] The role of TeXShop

Joachim Kock kock at math.unice.fr
Mon Jan 14 13:49:58 EST 2002


TeXShop is a very nice programme --- surely it has come to stay.  Let me
take the opportunity to thank its developers for their work.  I have used
it heavily during the last four months --- 3-4 hours a day.  I have also
experimented a lot with other OSX alternatives: OzTeX, CMacTeX, running tex
in the terminal, using scripts, previewing with Acrobat, etc...  but I have
come back to TeXShop as my TeX/previewer/printer of choice: it is faster,
more elegant, and prints better than its alternatives (in my experience)...

But here are a few reflections on the future of TeXShop:

My main observation is that the editor part of TeXShop will never be able
to substitute or compete with true editors like Alpha or Emacs (nor BBEdit
or Pepper...).  This weeks question and answer about the very primitive tag
feature clearly illustrate this.  (Similar considerations apply to other
programmes like Eudora --- once you get used to Alpha, writing in Eudora
is like typing with your left thumb...)

So I wouldn't invest too much effort in that part of the programme.
I think it is a good idea to have an integrated editor, because it makes
the programme independent, which is important for first-time users.
But I am sure that serious users will prefer typing in their own editors.

Interaction with an external editor can be very elegant --- my favourite
combination under OS 9 was Alpha-OzTeX.

As I see it, the main missing feature of TeXShop is support for external

Even simpler: it would be so great if TeXShop simply could tex files
without dirtying them, and preferably: without opening the file in the
built-in editor.  This idea is obvious: there should be a menu item called
TeX, which should display a standard Open Dialogue Box; the chosen document
should then be tex'ed as read only, just as TeX ought to do.  This would be
so cool --- you could take tex-files on the internet or interchange files
with your friends or coauthors, and you could tex them without dirtying
them and without replacing their icons.  And with your own files which you
would like to edit and compile more or less simultaneously, you would always
know that the last saved version were really the version you saved in your
text editor and not an intermediate save performed by the compiler...

And clearly, once you have realised the need of such a menu item, it would
be a good idea to have another menu item next to it: "TeX last tex'ed
document".  (Look at OzTeX or CMacTeX to see how these mature programmes
have implemented this feature.)

Currently the built-in editor is an obstruction to external editors --- as
Richard Koch explained: TeXShop needs to issue a Save command prior to
calling the TeX engine, because the editor is in unicode, and the act of
saving also converts the internal code to straight extended ascii which the
TeX engine can understand.  Now if there were no editor window, clearly
this problem would not be there either...

The main task of TeXShop is then wrapping tetex, and previewing.
The tetex wrapping is perfect (at least to meet my personal needs)

One main criterion for judging a previewer application is the quality of
the preview.  Here TeXShop is unbeatable --- it seems to me that its
display of pdf coming from tex is even better than Acrobat...

A second important criterion is the facility to navigate.  Here I think
TeXShop can learn a lot from OzTeX and CMacTeX: the main secret is to be
able to navigate with single key-strokes, like n for next page, b for page
back, etc. --- no modifier key needed!  For this to work, the main screen
should be the active field of the window, not those buttons and page number
fields...  And of course, preferably, these navigation shortcuts should be
user-configurable just like they are in OzTeX and CMacTeX --- if not via
preferences then at least via a plist file?

Acrobat hasn't got such single-stroke shortcuts either...  and will
probably never get them: Acrobat is a multipurpose pdf-viewer which is
unlikely to change just because a little niche of TeX-users make
requests...  Here I see a really important feature of TeXShop: it is an
application maintained by programmers dedicated to the TeX-on-OSX
community: I have been very impressed with Richard Koch and others for
their quick replies, on this mailing list, and to personal correspondence.

I hope I am not abusing their patience with these reflections and hopes
for the future...

Thanks for your attention.


Joachim KOCK
Laboratoire de Mathématiques J.A.Dieudonné    Tél.  +33
Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis           Fax   +33
Parc Valrose - 06108 Nice cédex 2 - FRANCE    Mél.  kock at math.unice.fr

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