[OS X TeX] altpdflatex - back compatibility please

Gerben Wierda Gerben.Wierda at rna.nl
Tue Oct 11 05:18:24 EDT 2005

> I'm surprised if the altpdftex script has actually been removed, because
> one important virtue of tex is back compatibility.
> Whatever the reasons for renaming altpdftex to simpdftex --- the only
> reason I can imagine is some juridic tradename issue!?!  --- it seems so
> obvious that there should just be a back compatibility wrapper script that
> does what the current error message says, namely redirect to simpdftex
> --maxpfb or whatever the recommended.
> Removing the script puts many developers, including Dick Koch, in an
> awkward position: they would no longer be able to rely on the presence of
> altpdftex, and of course they can not just assume that simpdftex is
> present, since it is very likely that the user still has a pre 2004 tex
> installation.  One year of transition is nothing --- tex was mature 15 or
> 25 years ago.
> I think the removal of altpdftex should be reconsidered.

The altpdftex->simpdftex change has been made because altpdftex needs a
separate command file for every type of format (altpdftex, altpdflatex,
etc.) and this clutters your binary directory and is also problematic to
maintain: if you enable or disable formats (via fmtutil, texconfig or the
i-Package configure phase) the required extra altpdf* links are not
automatically created. When we were dicussing adding this, the result was
that altpdf* would be replaced by a single command with an argument. That
needs to to be maintained and it is cleaner.

So, last year, simpdftex was introduced and altpdf*tex were retained
because of backward compatibility. The frontend designers were informed
that the change had taken place and they were requested to change their
frontends to use simpdftex instead of altpdf*tex. It was then said that
altpdf*tex would be retired later. The problem we are seeing now is that
the front end designers (busy bees as they are) forgot about it and I did
not remind them periodically).

So, this change is now a bit bumpier than it should have been.

A likewise change has happened a year before with TeX4ht, which originally
had a lot of command scripts for every type of invocation. That change was
without a year of transition... ;-)

Re-introducing a back compatibility script would defeat the object of the
transition completely so I am not going to do it.

Backwards compatibility is not truly lost. You can still compile all your
old documents, the only thing that has changed is that the convenience
script for running tex, dvips and distiller has been renamed and changed
its command line interface. In my book, backwards compatibility is not
lost of you still can get the same results even if you have to do
different things to get those results. But it is of course possible to
disagree on the interpretation of backward compatibility.


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