[OS X TeX] TeXShop/teTeX speed using TeX+ghostscript

Wolfgang Lerche wolfgang.lerche at cern.ch
Tue Sep 24 10:48:46 EDT 2002

On Tuesday, September 24, 2002, at 12:19 PM, Bruno Voisin wrote:

> Le mardi, 24 sep 2002, à 02:14 Europe/Paris, Warren Nagourney a écrit :
>> Using TeXtures, it would take about 1-2 seconds for a change in the 
>> source to appear in the typeset window (no antialiasing). In TeXShop, 
>> this takes about 7-10 seconds on a 500 MHz G4 (the TeXing takes about 
>> 2 sec). I realize that the antialiasing and ghostscript conversion 
>> takes time, but it seems that the discrepancy is too large. Does 
>> anyone have any suggestions?
>> I am using TeXShop 1.20 and the latest version of teTeX on Richards 
>> website.

Well, the TeX performance, and other implementation shortcomings,
is one of the reasons why I didn't yet fully switch from Nextstep to 

Under Nextstep, all it takes is to make a keystroke, and 1/2sec
later the result is clearly visible in the previewer - and this 
includes processing with custom scripts
[eg for auto-determining the format];
The dvi previewer scrolls like 10p/sec, without noticeable delay, it 
has a crisp readout
and even supports hyperlinks. A 100p paper texes in ca 2sec.(*)

TeX on OSX is far from that, it takes like 20sec for me until I can see 
the change in the previewer .
Most of the time goes into the rendering, but the texing itself is also 
much slower. (*)
I guess this is not at the fault of the programmers, rather IMHO this 
is to a large extent due to display pdf,
which I consider a great disadvantage of OSX, together with the font 

I do not see the point of these washed-out anti-aliased fonts, rather I 
get headache from them;
for a comparison between OSX anti-aliased fonts and Nextstep bitmapped 
see eg. <a href=http://wwwth.cern.ch/~lerche/texcompare.gif>here</a>.
It appears that there is no TeX previewer under OSX that doesn't look 
worse or much worse
than the previewers on other systems - eg just consider Miktex under 
W$$ and judge yourself
how the crisp dark saturated fonts look, and how smoothly the previewer 
(Acrobat) scrolls.

While Acrobat Reader under OSX looks better than the native previewers,
the performance is even worse and it does not auto-update
[as is typical for a ported "carbonized" app not supporting crucial 
I would consider it useless for previewing purposes,
were it not that it supports hyperlinks, in contrast to most other 
This is a tremendously useful feature I got used to, eg for checking 
references in the back of a paper, etc.

All in all, the useability of TeX has decreased for me quite a bit when 
switching from Nextstep/Intel to
OSX. In fact the TeX performance is the same as of the good old 25Mhz 
Nextstations of 1991,
except the display is harder to read.
I find it ironic that in spite all these efforts to make a Mac an 
outstanding desktop OS,
the bottom line is that the screen display looks worse and is much 
slower than on other systems.
I can only hope that the situation will evolve with time.

Besides, the lack of postscript support hurts in my academic 
environment, where all figures are
traditionally in .eps format, so that the exchange of drafts is painful.

Let me add a few wishlist items, since we are at it:

1) add the hand tool to the previewer (like in Acrobat) for moving a 
page around

2) by all means, add hyperlink support for the previewer (clicking a 
local link opens
a separate window).

3) allow anti-aliasing to be switched off in the previewer, independent 
from the rest of the system, or make otherwise
the rendering more easy to read - completely black, high-contrast fonts 
instead of grey fuzzyness.

4) better integration of custom shell scripts. With the demise of 
Nextstep "Terminal Services",
a lot of functionality has been lost. So ideal would be the possibility 
to have an option
for having custom scripts act on selected portions of a file, or on the 
file as a whole.
I used it for example for auto-fetching references from preprint 
archives and pasting them
tex-ready into the file, by a single mouse click: see <a href= 
Such things can be done right now in OSX as well, by using eg 
but this is cumbersome to set up and not very convenient to use.

One may also more broadly discuss about developing a Tex environment 
(perhaps as a plugin?)
specifically tailored for use with the eprint archives. I think that 
there is a large set of potential academic users
who submit all their papers to the archives and download most of the 
papers from there.
A lot of structure is already in place but not really made use of so 
far, by existing software.
Eg the files have built-in hyperlinks, so that in principle one could 
make a reference to one particular equation
or chapter in a given paper; so that a click on the link would fetch 
that paper and display the eqn in an extra window.
Moreover, one could provide "Services" to allow for auto-texing (incl 
format determination) and previewing a file by
a mouse click, and similarly, auto-texing of selected portions of 
files. Ditto for downloading eprints from the archives
without browser, by just selecting a preprint number anywhere, etc - 
lots of features to think about !
In the past, all of this was easy to implement via Nextstep "Terminal 
Services", which have gone in OSX; so it may be
worthwhile to ponder about implementing them more directly in an app.

I think here is an opportunity to create an application that would be 
tremendously useful and stand
out from the competition. So far, I must say despite the laudable 
efforts of many people, the TeX
implementation on OSX is not better than other implementations - to the 
IMHO it is more cumbersome to use than certain implementations that 
exist already since 10 or more years.

Important is not to have as many buttons and features as possible, but 
efficiency and easyness of use, which
builds on performance, integration and smoothness of how well things 
work together.
 From this viewpoint, Nextstep is still unparalleled.

(*) the comparison is between a 800Mhz Pentium running Nextstep, and a 
733Mhz G4 with 512MB.

Wolfgang Lerche

CERN, Theoretical Physics Div
1211 Geneva 23 Switzerland
wolfgang.lerche at cern.ch

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