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

Bruno Voisin bvoisin at mac.com
Tue May 4 03:07:28 EDT 2004

Le 4 mai 04, à 02:06, Alain Schremmer a écrit :

> (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.

The reason I mentioned LyX and TeXmacs is that what you suggest, in 
this message and in the earlier one, is like reinventing them.

As for the LaTeX documentation, it's there but hidden (in 
/Library/teTeX/share/texmf.tetex/doc/), in a variety of formats (.html, 
.dvi, .ps, .pdf, .txt files) and with no central repository telling 
what's available and where to find it 
(/Library/teTeX/share/texmf.tetex/doc/helpindex.html and 
/Library/teTeX/share/texmf.tetex/doc/newhelpindex.html seems like two 
separate attempts towards this aim, but they're neither comprehensive 
nor up-to-date).

A possibility could be to create an alias /Library/Documentation/teTeX/ 
to this folder /usr/local/teTeX/share/texmf.tetex/doc/, so that at 
least this documentation folder would be at the logical place where to 
look for docs on Mac OS X.

The problem with this is that the current TeX arborescence was designed 
to be cross-platform, or in any case more with a Unix view in mind than 
with a Mac OS view. And it is maintained by the TeX "authorities" still 
with this Unix/Linux view, not by the Mac porters. Hence it is 
something which cannot be really tailored for the Mac, unless risking 
to break the cross-platform nature.

Gerben Wierda did already an awful lot of work for us, by making the 
installation of TeX on the Mac a breeze.

I think that some major redesign of the TeX arborescence by the same 
TeX "authorities" is in the process, let's see what the future brings.

Personally I hope that someday, maybe with LaTeX 3, all this structure 
with a base LaTeX core and a multitude of packages, several of them 
redundant, some conflicting with each other, not always maintained 
actively, with unexplicit names and each with its own documentation 
system and format, will disappear. And that instead all the most 
significant functionality will be consolidated into a single monolithic 
LaTeX, with a consistent interface, a coherent documentation of all the 
features, so that the user can do a one-stop shopping, a one-go 
install, and know that everything is there at hand. But such a 
suggestion feels like a cathedral vs. bazaar argument, and I must 
confess I prefer the cathedral, so I'm probably not objective.

And finally: the second edition of the LaTeX Companion 
<http://www.awprofessional.com/title/0201362996>, to be available any 
day now, seems to do an impressive and extensive job of testing and 
documenting most of the significant packages around, so it might be a 
great help. Plus "The accompanying CD-ROM contains a complete 
plug-and-play LaTeX installation, including all the packages and 
examples featured in the book."

Bruno Voisin
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