[OS X TeX] "Texify"?

Joachim Kock jkock at start.no
Sat Oct 1 19:00:11 EDT 2005

> This is the way I have always felt about Alpha. It looks amazing and
> it tempts me with really cool features when I am able to discover
> them, but I have never found the time to get through the documentation.

Hi Gary and Herb,

I agree with you that Alpha's documentation can be difficult to navigate.
There is about 8Mb of documentation distributed with Alpha, mostly in plain
text files, and still there are undocumented features --- the developers
are not always quick to keep the documentation up to date with Alpha!

I have taken the liberty to forward your comments to the AlphaTcl 
developers list, in case it can help...

One recommendation is to use the AlphaTcl users list, where usually you can
ask a question and get an answer the same day...  (I have had great use of
that list in the past, and now that I have become an experienced Alpha user
myself I do my best to pay back my debt to the list...)

A few comments on Herb's enquiries:

> I just can't get through the documentation to find this sort of thing.

Ideally you shouldn't need to read any documentation --- it's a Macintosh
application --- just open a tex document and choose Typeset from the TeX
menu.  Then as you get more experience you can browse the preference panes
and discover those automatisation features little by little...

Unfortunately the reality may appear somewhat different: except in versions
of Alpha newer than June (which you have to retrieve from the CVS
repository at SourceForge), in order to call tetex from within Alpha, you
have to do Cmd-shift-R and not Cmd-T as advertised in the TeX menu.  The
user can only discover this by reading the documentation, which of course
is ridiculous!  There were some historical reasons for this (Cmd-T was
associated with the classical Alpha interfaces to OzTeX and Textures), but in 
recent versions AlphaTcl (CVS from June or later), Cmd-T is bound to the 
modern interface, where the tex console is a window inside Alpha.

Furthermore, and equally confusing, you can only access the relevant
prefs pane when that console is the frontmost window! (in which case it is
in the menu "Config -> TeXC Mode Prefs" or by pressing F12).

> I guess I need (1) a general introduction to Alpha's conceptual vision of
> a document and document handling,

Not too sure what you are after here...  Documents play the same role in
Alpha as in AppleWorks or WriteNow...  One thing you need to know is the
concept of a mode.  (This is described both in the Alpha Quick Start and
more in depth in the Alpha Manual (both can be accessed from the Help
menu).)  Briefly:

Alpha is multi-purpose, and it centres around the concept of a mode (which
corresponds to the concept of major mode in emacs): each document is in one
mode and this mode is determined automatically from the extension of the
filename, or from the content of the file in some cases.  The two important
modes for us are TeX mode and Bib mode.  (There are also special modes for
postscript, metapost and metafont, in case you ever edit such files.)
Each mode has its own feature set: for example there is a TeX menu and a
Bib menu which are only activated in those modes, and also many keyboard 
shortcuts are mode specific.  Other mode specific features include syntax
colouring, completion schemes, indentation and comment handling, and 
file marking.  When a tex document is opened, the Marks popup menu is
automatically populated with items for all (sub?)sections of the document.

> (2) the list and logical organization of the command/keyboard use,

The list is easy to get: in the "Config" menu, choose "List All Bindings".
Logical organisation?!  are you kidding?  (Ah, well in fact, I think the
bindings are listed Alpha-beta-cally.)

> (3) the seemingly wonderful (La)TeX support and (1) and (2) specifically
> for that support

In the TeX menu (which is active when you have a tex document open), there
is a Help submenu with an item called "tetex help", which ideally should
explain all the features related to interaction with tex.  The tex editing
features (electric insertions, environment templates, and so on, is
described in the main TeX mode help file (sadly, this help file is about
five years old, and does not always accurately reflect the reality...).
Still in the Help submenu of the TeX menu, there is an item called "TeX key
bindings", which should list all keyboard shortcuts specific to TeX mode.

> (4) a reasonable list of ways to customize the behavior and ``look'' of
> Alpha.

There is not much to say about the look...  For behaviour configuration,
you should browse the Config menu.  I think all items have a Help button or
a Description button...  To define your own keyboard shortcuts, you have to
write lines to your prefs file, e.g.

    Bind 'u' <co> upcaseWord

to bind Cmd-opt-u to the command upcaseWord.  Instructions are given in
the Alpha Manual.

For power-user features, like writing your own scripts and defining you own
menus, the authorative reference is the document "Extending Alpha", found
in the help folder, or by activating the Alpha Developer Menu.  (You can
activate more menus in "Config -> Global Setup -> Menus...".)


J o a c h i m   K o c k        < k o c k @ m a t . u a b . e s >
Departament de Matemàtiques -- Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Edifici C -- 08193 Bellaterra (Barcelona) -- ESPANYA
Phone: +34 93 581 32 50        Fax: +34 93 581 27 90
<A HREF="http://mat.uab.es/~kock/">http://mat.uab.es/~kock/</A>

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