PDF versus PS (was Re: [OS X TeX] Newbie install and font question)

Ross Moore ross at ics.mq.edu.au
Thu Mar 21 04:04:31 EST 2002

> While I do understand Tom Kiffe's support of PS format, and appreciate 
> all the points he made, I think some other points should be proposed in 
> support of PDF format.

Yes, Tom has some valid points; nevertheless, the use of PDF is
growing very rapidly, in my experience, and not just for TeX.
So Bruno's points are valid too, and there's a lot more.
> There is indeed a PDF previewer supplied with Mac OS X, it is Preview, a 
> quite decent application more pleasant to use, in my opinion, than 
> Acrobat Reader. As for bookmarks or hyperlinks, I don't use them. I like 
Then you are missing out on a lot...

> especially the fact that Preview prints the PDF file exactly as this 
> file was designed to be, not reducing or enlarging it behind my back as 
> Acrobat Reader does. This fits very well my principal use of PDF files, 
> i.e. retrieving articles from online versions of scientific journals and 
> viewing or printing them.
> I do not agree than PDFs take longer to produce than DVIs. TexShop does 
> it extremely well and fast, and I find the display of PDF files nicer to 
> look at than that of DVI or PS files.

 ... here's an example.

I've recently been working on a volume of mathematical papers.
With pdfTeX (admittedly under Linux, not MacOS X) we've been getting
speeds of 600 pages per minute.
That includes 1000s of cross-references and citations, as well as
dozens of graphics using Xy-pic. That can hardly be called slow.

Indeed it's typical to use a Makefile to script running the complete job,
as well as each of the 17 chapters as single jobs, with the Table of Contents
and correct page numbering from the full volume.
Each of these jobs is run 4 times in succession to ensure correct page-numbering
and cross-references --- fully hyperlinked, of course.
It takes less than 5 minutes for the lot!

Of course, to achieve this has required a fair bit of TeX/LaTeX hacking,
to adapt existing packages to work together smoothly.

But surely this will become more common, as the techniques get more
widely known, and adopted into existing packages or new packages are written.

> But first and before everything else, I appreciate the possibility, 
> given to scientists by the advent of PDF, to exchange information 
> efficiently and quickly. In my experience exchanging .tex or .dvi files 
> never really worked, as your .tex or .dvi files needed fonts or packages 
> that your correspondant usually didn't have, or at least not the same 
> version. I'm not even speaking of included graphics! As for exchanging 
> .ps files, this was almost impossible, given the size of usual .ps 

For the above job, the PDF of the 600 page book is ~9.5Mb,
whereas the corresponding .ps, produced via .dvi is  72+Mb .

> files, and the fact that your correspondant was often living in 
> low-memory printer environment so couldn't easily print the file; and 
> most people from the DOS/Windows/Mac world, in my experience, did not 
> know GhostScript.

> If your .ps file was too big, you had to compress it first. If your 
> correspondant was Mac, this was all straightforward; but if he/she was 
> Windows or Unix things were getting interesting. You had to retrieve 
> some versions of Zip, tar and gzip archivers from somewhere (say ZipIt, 
> suntar and MacGzip) and make sure all line ending conversions were 
> performed.
> Now this has radically changed with PDF. There are (I think) versions of 
> Acrobat Reader for almost any platform known to man, and PDF files are 
> (I think) binary files transferable directly without fuss. This has come 
> to a point that editors of scientific journals often advise us to submit 

Some journals; not all.
Many have not woken up yet to the potential of PDF.

There is definitely still a place for  .dvi --> .ps --> .pdf
since, as Tom remarked, there are things that can be done easily with PS
that are next to impossible with PDF.

The point is that there is a lot of work being done, both by application
developers and macro/package-writers, to make the production of sophisticated
electronic documents both faster and easier, and with useful enrichments.
This applies to all routes for producing PDFs: e.g. pdfTeX  or  PS + distill
or PS + ps2pdf , so there is really no point in arguing which route is better,
or which should be the *default* on any platform.

There are many people who are only learning TeX for the first time,
with TeXShop/pdfTeX under MacOS X.  That's fine; indeed very good.

As they gain more experience, they may discover that the .dvi heritage
of TeX contains a richness much greater than they currently experience.
Then Tom's programs will certainly be discovered and his work appreciated.

What's important here is that there are tools available to do whatever
work needs to be done. And those tools are definitely getting better
with time, and with increasing computing power.

> articles directly as PDFs, that can be sent immediately to reviewers and 
> the reviews sent back to the editors also as PDFs. This really expedites 
> the assessment/revision/publication process, I and my colleagues 
> experienced it.

And it's even easier when the hyperlinking works, as this makes it
much, much easier to check the cross-references and citations!

Apple is dragging the chain by not supporting hyperlinks in Preview.
Hopefully this will be fixed in the next version; and hopefully it
will not be too long coming.

It would be good to have complete JavaScript support also;
as there is excellent work happening there, for (La)TeX documents.
(This kind of support was not in  xpdf  either, last time I looked;
so Acrobat (Reader) remains the browser of choice.)

To find out a lot more about these (and other) developments,
consider joining a TeX User group (e.g. TUG: www.tug.org)
and attending one of the annual meetings.

There's  BachoTeX  in Poland (end-of-April, early May)
and TUG 2002 in Kerala, India (early September).

These meetings are a lot of fun,
and are *not* just for the developers.

All the best,

	Ross Moore
       (Director, TeX Users Group)

> Bruno Voisin
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