[OS X TeX] TeX is not for the faint of heart

Alain Schremmer Schremmer.Alain at verizon.net
Mon May 3 20:06:26 EDT 2004

If I may, I would like to speak for all of us, /the faint of heart/,  
whose goal is just to /write/ and who, /for whatever reason/—love of the 
Open Source idea, love of elegant typesetting, whatever—decide that they 
would like to write in TeX. In other words, though, people who would 
like to switch from MS Word. Period. I am writing on the basis of the 
notes I took during my quest.

(1) The first hurdle was to /find/ the stuff. It is not as easy as you 
may think as I did not know the language and the references. I mean the 
language common on this board for instance. (But I must say that those 
who helped me here did to a large extent take my ignorance in 
consideration). For instance just read Kevin Walzer's post but I am sure 
that it wouldn't have made any sense to me, say a month ago. Which is 
why I mentioned the "notes" I took and why I took them. My notes 
mention, for instance "why an editor? what is the engine?" I kept 
reading that TeX was a typesetting language and not a wordprocessor as 
if it made obvious sense. Well, /now/ it does but keep in mind that all 
I had ever used was MacWrite (what a joy, these were the days) and MS 
Word (what a pain, right from the very beginning.)

(2) Then there was the /abondance/ of stuff I found. How was I to 
choose? The one I chose for no real reason was iTexMac.

(3) Then I found out that you didn't just download the stuff like, say, 
Mozilla. I thought I had downloaded iTexMac but never knew what I had 
really done since I couldn't get anything to do anything. (Thanks to 
Kevin Waltzer's "I've never been able to master [iTexMac]", it makes me 
feel a bit better.)

(4) So, I went back to the web. The one I chose this time was TeXshop, 
as I said earlier, mostly because its webpage took me by the hand to 
download it and whatever else it said I needed. I hadn't the faintest 
clue as to why I should need it and I was very glad that it didn't try 
to explain. As I said before, i-Installer was transparent and I kept 
clicking without knowing what I was doing. Gerben Werda is right that 
"people find installing and maintaining TeX more difficult than using 
LaTeX." Speaking of "maintaining", when, later on, I used i-Installer to 
get rtf2latex2e, I must have done so twenty times since I had never 
heard of a terminal and Find File couldn't find anything other than the 
i-package. I would thus suggest to Gerben Wierda that he put a few words 
to that effect in the Install window. Right now I have the same problem 
with XFig drawing program as I can't even start it on the terminal the 
way Adam Maxwell told me to start rtf2LaTeX. It seems to me that /this/ 
kind of things really could be easily prevented.

(5) So, I hope I shall be forgiven if I don't try the suggestions, 
TeXmacs, LyX, but even though the mention "with Mac OS X port" 
intimidates me, I will go and look. By curiosity as, certainly, at least 
for the time being I will be staying with TeXshop. A bit because I don't 
want to change /again/ but also a bit out of loyalty. I should mention 
that this is the first I see of LyX. As for Scientific Word, the same as 
with Word2TeX, I will /not/ use commercial software anymore if I can 
help it.

(6) Then there is the learning to use LaTeX but, indeed, that is not the 
real problem. I knew what a command line is and that I would have to 
learn the stuff. Fair enough. After all I do use keyboard commands. But 
/why /does it have to be that way? Why does TeXshop have only /two/ panels?

(7) I do understand that this does not happen all by itself and that it 
requires /people/ to write the stuff. But we are talking Open Source 
here. And so, with all due respect, here I have a question to Kevin 
Walzer. Why not add to TeXshop rather than "making Texmaker for OS X a 
little more user-friendly." After all, given the description he gives, 
TeXshop is ahead. Why not implement the "neat features that Texshop 
doesn't have--a handy dialog box to input headings, etc.; an outline 
view of the file you're working on; and complete LaTex documentation 
bundled with it."? Indeed, an outliner would be fabulous.

(8) I also understand that Open Source developers develop for the 
pleasure of it and that they ought to be free to develop what they 
damned well please. And I absolutely agree. But I also agree with the 
person I mentioned in a previous post that not getting together and 
agreeing on some priorities is likely to make the whole thing history.

Please accept this as it is written: certainly /not/ to tell anyone "how 
to run your business" but out of fear of what is likely to become 
another lost opportunity. Remember when it was fun developing for the 
Mac even though Apple sure didn't help? (The reason I know is one of my 
sons /did/.)

Regards and, again, thanks to all.

Gerben Wierda wrote:

> I thought, let's change the subject line. This thread part is not 
> about i-Installer but about LaTeX (and TeXShop).
> (In a way it is a bit about i-Installer. I generally hear that people 
> find installing and maintaining TeX more difficult than using LaTeX. 
> Here is someone who had quite some difficulty in using LaTeX, but he 
> was able to install TeX without a hitch. That kind of feels good ;-)
> I normally do not sing the praises of i-Installer (as I know there are 
> still major improvements possible) but this time I could not resist... 
> Sorry.
> G
> On May 3, 2004, at 15:35, Alain Schremmer wrote:
>> Althugh this is not a formal answer to whatever the contest is, I 
>> would lile to second Thomas Schröder' entry and, in particular and 
>> absolutely, where he writes.
>>    Even complete novices to TeX can do it and don't have to worry about
>>    anything.
>> Well, I /did/ worry but, as he wrote,
>>    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.
>> I didn't even know about /that/! As he wrote,
>>    On other platforms you get flooded with too many options and too
>>    much information both of which can become very scary for newbies.
>> In fact, I was about to give up. I have a running commentray of my 
>> frustrations that I wrote as I was trying just to find out what the 
>> difference between LaTeX and TeX was and what to try and install. I 
>> tried in fact another installation. Although my first Mac was a 256, 
>> this time I couldn't even figure out which way was up. I then tried 
>> i-Installer by accident, being on the TeXshop site and liking the 
>> no-nonsense of its instructions. And it worked.
>> Well, sort of. I mean I wasn't even able to make it say "hello". It 
>> required someone else to write me a piece and send it to me so that I 
>> could see what was needed. And I found the Indian TeX Users Group' 
>> LaTeX Tutorials. (Much recommended even though they ought to have a 
>> /real/ beginners version with a lot fewer options. See above. Still I 
>> recommend it.)
>> After that, it wasn't smooth sailing either. For instance, I need to 
>> translate some 2,000 pages from MS Word (rtf). So I installed 
>> rtf2latex2e and, since I couldn't even find it, lost several days. I 
>> took Adam maxwell on this board to explain to me why. Granted, I am 
>> not even a novice. But this brings my to my point.
>> *With all gratitude and thanks to TeXshop and i-Installer, and I 
>> truly mean it, even this combination, as good as it is, is stil not 
>> the TeX "for the rest of us". *
>> We, the install-idiots, need a lot more than the two panels in 
>> TeXshop, LaTeX panel and Matrix panel. Here is my laundry list /at 
>> this very early time/ in my learning of TeX.
>>    A panel for making /tables/, one that looks like the MS Word.
>>    Rewrite rtf2LaTeX so that it can be plugged in into TeXshop
>>    Probably the same for LaTeX2rtf.
>>    A panel to import and place /graphics/.
>>    When writing the tex file, one should be able /not/ to see the
>>    "blue" line commands just the way one can in MS Word by clicking ¶
>>    (option 7). While pros may not be distracted by it, I am.
>> To elaborate on my point.
>>    I want to be able to concentrate on /writing/ and, while I need
>>    /some/ formatting to help me express my ideas, I am not willing to
>>    "pay the price". In other words, as much I loathe MS Word for the
>>    number of times it crashes—I even invented one way, this is as far
>>    as I want to learn.
>>    The reason I went the TeX route is that a colleague of mine, David
>>    Santos, and I are starting a web repository for college mathematics
>>    textbooks, probably under something like the GNU Free Documentation
>>    Licence. (See my letter in the May Notices of the AMS for the need
>>    thereof.) So, I needed to convert my mathematics textbooks and, in
>>    the future, write, in a "transparent" format. I tried to install
>>    OpenOffice but failed. I am waiting for the Mac OS X version "within
>>    a year".
>> Why don't I make it my project to write the code myself? I would love 
>> to. But I think that I can make better use of whatever time is left 
>> me by continuing to write mathematics textbooks. But /that/ is 
>> another story.
>> But, please, keep in mind that there a lot people out there like me 
>> who have no desire to "understand TeX" anymore than they have of 
>> understanding MS Word.
>> In the course of my quest for a TeX that I could have a chance 
>> actually to be able to use, I came across an open letter from someone 
>> apparently well-known who was worrying about MS' new language and who 
>> was advocating a course of action. (I am sorry to be vague, I think 
>> that I book-marked it and, should anyone be interested, I will try to 
>> find it.) The point is that he was worried that Open Source would 
>> eventually become a fringe thing. I understood him to say, as I 
>> recall it, that Open Source had to be written for "the rest of us". 
>> Else Open Source would never become significant and would remain some 
>> sort of erector set for the very few.
>> Regards and Thanks
>> For all those who helped me here and for those who wrote the stuff in 
>> the first place.
>> --schremmer
>> Thomas Schröder wrote:
>>> 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 work".
>>> 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?
>>> Yes.
>>>> 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?
>>> Yup.
>>>> 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 necessary.
>>>>           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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