[OS X TeX] is i-Installer cool?

Thomas Schröder hydrochlorix at gmx.net
Mon May 3 04:56:30 EDT 2004

Am 01.05.2004 um 16:36 schrieb Gerben Wierda:

Hi Gerben,

> The main question to answer on the contest form is:
> • Briefly state the outstanding design features of your contest entry. 
> (For example: what's unique?

i-Installer is unique in that it combines many great features and 
concepts in one programme that is very easy and straightforward to use. 
It can download huge packages from the internet even on bad and slow 
lines, it switches servers when one isn't working, it is intelligent 
when figuring out dependencies (if you want to use this firstly install 
this, wait I'll do it for you), it is fast, it is small and it isn't 
bloated. You may get some of these things in other programmes but not 
all of them at the same time.

> what's super cool?

That it makes a very complex process, i.e. installing a complete TeX 
system and accompanying tools very easy to handle. Even complete 
novices to TeX can do it and don't have to worry about anything.
> what is particularly noteworthy?)

In comparison to many other TeX installations I've used in the past, 
Gerben's installation is very well thought out and it turns a very 
un-Mac-like process and a not very Mac-like collection of programmes 
into a very Mac-like user experience in that it makes everything "just 
In other TeX installations I've used I had to do a lot of tweaking 
afterwards especially when it came to using fonts and PDF output. Here 
I can just sit down and type away :-)

> Other questions of interest are:
> • Describe your contest entry's target users (i.e. who uses your 
> product, what is their occupation, work environment, workflow, etc.)

I'm a chemist working on my Ph.D. thesis and I've been using TeX since 
the early 1990's. I work in a university and I use TeX for all of my 
writing needs, most of all my thesis but also presentations, letters, 
faxes, orders and reports.

> • Explain what you have done to make your contest entry better on Mac 
> OS X when compared with it's counterparts or competition on other 
> platforms.

i-Installer wins hands down when compared to similar programmes on 
other platforms. It does so because Gerben has realized that for a 
really good TeX system it's not enough to just have a basic TeX system 
but that you also need accompanying tools. On other platforms you have 
to install things like tex4ht, ImageMagick, GhostScript, PfaEdit, XFig 
or other tools yourself and as a newbie you won't even know about these 
great additional tools. In i-Installer they're all there and just one 
click away from being installed whereas on other platforms you have to 
search the web yourself for installers or even worse, you have to 
compile them yourself. Understanding TeX is difficult in itself but 
having to figure out how to do all these other things really scares 
away many would-be-TeX-lovers.

Also, i-Installer is very straightforward to use and very unobtrusive 
when doing its work. On other platforms you get flooded with too many 
options and too much information both of which can become very scary 
for newbies. I mean there's books out there telling you how to install 
MikTeX for crying out loud!

The only thing I like better in MikTeX's installer is the very nice 
package installer for additional LaTeX packages that you can find on 
the Comprehensive TeX Archive Network CTAN. For esoteric LaTeX packages 
that are not part of a standard TeX installation you have to do this 
manually in Gerben's installation which can be troublesome for newbies, 
whereas MikTeX will show all the availabe packages to you, download 
them directly from CTAN and install them. But that's the _only_ thing 
on any platform anywhere that's better than i-Installer.

> Entries in each category will be judged using the following criteria:
> 	 	 PLATFORM INNOVATION - This criterion is measured by asking 
> questions such as: Does the entry make someone want to buy a Mac?

Well, when combined with TeXShop it might actually, yes. With the 
combination of Gerben Wierda's TeX system, TeXShop and Mac OS X's 
typesetting abilities, you're able to use Unicode directly and I've 
seen this nowhere done so nicely than on OS X. It must be like 
linguist's heaven :-)
(iTeXMac instead of TeXShop is of course another option)

> Does the entry provide unique, groundbreaking features or 
> functionality for Mac OS X combined with superior performance and ease 
> of use when compared to competing products on Mac OS X or other 
> platforms?

Absolutely, yes.

> Does the entry deliver a highly innovative solution by combining or 
> taking advantage of existing Mac OS X technologies in a new way?

It makes heavy use of OS X's BSD layer for an unobtrusive and efficient 
user experience. All the programmes are very fast because they run in 
the BSD layer and you can't accidentally hose your installation because 
all files in the installation are owned by the root user.

> 	 	 USER EXPERIENCE - This criterion is measured by asking questions 
> such as: Is the entry characterized as being easy to use?


> Does the entry have an elegant and attractive design?

Quite so.

> Does the entry have a high level of reliability and stability?

Definitely, yes.

> Does the entry follow the Mac OS X Human Interface Guidelines and 
> deliver the polish and attention-to-detail that is characteristic of 
> great Macintosh software?

I'd say so.

> Does the entry look and feel as if it belongs on Mac OS X?

The installer itself does so and in combination with TeXShop or 
iTeXMac, TeX and friends become part of OS X.

> 	 	 MAC OS X TECHNOLOGY ADOPTION - This criterion is all about making 
> appropriate technology choices. It is measured by asking questions 
> such as: Does the entry make significant use of Mac OS X technologies 
> that make sense (are relevant) for what the entry does? Do the 
> technologies being used enable the entry to do things it couldn't 
> otherwise do? Are the Mac OS X technologies being used foundational 
> and critical to the success of the entry or are they of minimal or 
> ancillary importance?

Yes to all. i-Installer makes heavy use of OS X's BSD layer without 
which things would be awkward. While OzTeX and CMacTeX are cool, they 
also brought along a level of awkwardness and slowness. And because 
they couldn't make use of OS X's BSD layer in Mac OS 9, new things like 
pdftex couldn't be easily integrated or it took a long time. In using 
OS X's BSD layer, i-Installer is easily able to always keep up with the 
latest developments in the TeX world. A fine example for this is the 
brand new XeTeX which you can just integrate into an existing GW-TeX. 
This wouldn't have been possible with TeX installations in OS 9.

> 	 	 PERFORMANCE OPTIMIZATION - This criterion is all about performance 
> optimization tools, techniques, and best practices. It is measured by 
> asking questions such as: Where applicable, is the entry based upon 
> the mach-o binary format? How many bounces does the entry's Dock icon 
> make before the entry is launched?

2 on a 400 MHz G4.

> Does the spinning cursor appear frequently during use?

Never, really.

> Is the entry consistently responsive to user input?


> Does the entry appropriately share the CPU with other applications 
> running at the same time?

You don't really notice it running in the background.

>  Has drawing been optimized using QuartzDebug to ensure drawing 
> efficiency? Where applicable, does the entry take full advantage of 
> the Velocity Engine by using Apple's vecLib and/or vImage frameworks, 
> for example?

I don't know, really. But I also think that none of the above would be 

> 	 	 USE OF OPEN SOURCE - This criterion is measured by asking 
> questions such as: Does the entry leverage existing Open Source 
> technology to deliver important functionality with higher quality, 
> reduced effort, and/or greater interoperability?

Yes to all. The whole project is one big piece of open source software. 
For typesetting scientific content there's nothing that produces better 
quality than TeX, TeX greatly reduces effort in recurring things like 
table of contents, references etc. and because it uses plain ASCII 
files it provides the best interoperability between programmes and 
platforms out there.

I hope this helps! Good luck, Gerben :-)

	Bye, Thomas
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