[OS X TeX] altpdflatex - back compatibility please

Fernando Pereira fcnpereira at mac.com
Thu Oct 13 09:00:51 EDT 2005

On Oct 13, 2005, at 5:47 AM, Joachim Kock wrote:

> By removing those scripts, the frontend writer wishing to use the  
> scripts
> is forced to either formally require a new version of tetex (gwtex) or
> write complicated instructions in the manual or 'readme',  
> explaining that
> in certain distributions you have to do one thing, and in other
> distributions you have to do some other thing, and it is akward to  
> describe
> precisely what versions because there are so many components  
> involved and
> it is not clear which version number you should refer to or where  
> the user
> can find this information.

I understand your concern, but I think this is being blown way out of  
proportion. The error message printed by the new alt*tex scripts is  
pretty self explanatory, and it takes just a couple of minutes to  
tell TeXShop to use simpdftex as the error message says. I see only  
three potential issues with this:

1) people don't read the message carefully
2) people don't know how to act on the message
3) front-ends get confused

I teach intro CS, and I see 1) all the time, especially regarding  
problem statements in assignments. My reaction to that is, part of  
growing up is learning to take attention to one's surroundings. My  
reaction to 2) is, that's what the documentation for the various  
front-ends is for. RTFM works much of the time. Not to be  
cantankerous, but using software is a two-way street. The software  
writer should try to do the best they can within their resource  
limits, but the user also has a responsibility to be aware that they  
are using a complicated machine with many parts. We like to pretend  
that everything should be transparent in software, but that's a  
dangerous delusion.

As for 3), it would be quite easy for a front-end to check for the  
existence of simpdftex and if it is not available, try alt*tex. Among  
all configurations complexities, this one seems pretty trivial.

-- F

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