[OS X TeX] Remarks on the /usr/bin/texprograms symlink

Joachim Kock jkock at start.no
Sat Nov 25 19:36:43 EST 2006

Two suggestions: 

1) the symlink /usr/bin/texprograms should be used in PATH instead of its

2) the TeX Switcher should rely on a PATH definition in ~/.profile instead
of modifying a symlink that affects all users.  (This suggestion is perhaps
not viable, but it does points out a problem.)


We are now in a situation where multiple tex installations on the same
machine is becoming normal (the MacTeX distribution even encourages it).
Users may want to switch back and forth between different installations, or
some conservative user might want to stick with an old installation, in
spite of the sysadmin's recommendation of a newer distribution.  It is
important that all this can work smoothly also in a multiuser environment.

Having a standard-entry symlink like /usr/bin/texprograms pointing to the
most recent installation looks like a good solution, in the spirit of what
many other program installations have, and just like also Gerben's tetex
has teTeX/bin/powerpc-apple-darwin-current as symlink to the actual

I think the idea should be taken to its consequence: also the PATH variable
should contain this standard entry, instead of referring to the long
expanded path.  In other words, the long actual path should be considered a
private issue of the tex installation, and the rest of the system should
only know about /usr/bin/texprograms.  This will help ensuring that the
different references to the tex binaries are in synch.  For example it will
be reassuring for a TeXShop user to see that the path specified in the
preference panes is the same as he sees when typing "which latex".  It will
also make standard upgrades easier: once /usr/bin/texprograms has been
engraved in /etc/profile, the various installer scripts will never have to
modify this file again.  (This might look like a silly advantage, but in
fact it eliminates one of the tricky points in the installation: it is
perhaps the only point where the installer has to write to a file that is
usually edited by hand by a human being!  Obviously this should be avoided
whenever possible.  Of course Gerben's setpath script is very careful and
writes a big 'signature' and only overwrites text inside this signature,
but still it is a heuristic check, and it might overwrite something written
by somebody else (like we saw recently somebody suggesting to write
manually inside the setpath 'signature').)

Now since this symlink affects all users, clearly it is not something you
should change back an forth!  (Unless you are all users.)

So it seems that some other mechanism is needed for users on multiuser
systems.  Using ~/.profile comes to mind (e.g. running Gerben's setpath
script on it), but this does not solve the problem of the frontends who
inherit a helpless PATH from the login window...

Again, the logical solution would be to modify that environment.plist

Let me develop a new idea in a separate mail.

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