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

Claus Gerhardt gerhardt at math.uni-heidelberg.de
Sun Nov 26 05:53:06 EST 2006

Let me try to answer your question. After Gerben's announced  
departure as the maintainer of the main tex distribution for the  
Macintosh (i-Installer and Gerben's repackaging of other tex  
distributions) we had to find other ways for an easy, comfortable and  
reliable installation of TeX on Mac in the future.

Fortunately, this task was rather easy, since the original TeXLive  
(TUG) distribution offers a TeX implementation that works excellently  
on a Macintosh out of the box. TeXLive's installer script also allows  
a comfortable and quick installation from the command line. But for  
those that feel uncomfortable with the command line, Richard Koch's  
MacTeX now allows to install the full version of TeXLive (TUG) in the  
usual Macintosh way. The result is identical to what you would have  
get by using TeXLive's installer, apart from setting the path. But  
more of that later.

Gerben's i-Installer installs only a repackaged version of TeXLive  
(TUG), which is not the full version, and has maybe some additions, I  
don't know exactly, since I am not interested in any additions.  
However, given Gerben's announced departure, his new TeXLive package  
was dead on arrival, and I wouldn't have released it in his place.  
The future certainly belongs to TeXLive (TUG) and MacTeX's  
installation of it for the Macintosh.

Now to the path setting part. Gerben used a path setting script that  
installed a system wide path for his distribution(s), originally it  
was just one distribution, teTeX, which defined the tex path on the  
command line system wide for any user. I assume that the underlying  
idea was,

(1) there is only one TeX distribution installed on the Macintosh

(2) there is only one user who is then also administrator.

The latter assumption might still be valid nowadays, however, the  
first is now definitely wrong. I have already two different TeX  
distributions installed (teTeX and TeXLive (TUG) using TeXLive's  
installer script) and some users may have even three (teTeX,TexLive  
(Gerben), and TeXLive (MacTeX)). In the future there will be yearly  
updates of TeXLive (TUG), i.e., a typical user will have installed at  
least two, but even three or more TeXLive (TUG) versions from  
different years.

There should be an easy and comfortable way to switch between these  
versions. Richard Koch had the splendid idea to use a symlink, named  
texprograms,  to define to the active TeX version. Changing the TeX  
version would be as simple as setting a new symlink.

Koch's original idea was to define the system wide tex path as


such that the system wide path would only have to be set once.   
Redirecting the symlink wouldn't have effected the path anymore. This  
is in my opinion the simplest, best and most comfortable way to  
define the system wide path.

However, Gerben's i-Installer doesn't know of the symlink and  
conflicts would arise, if a user would have installed TeX via MacTeX  
with a symlink and the corresponding path, and later would have used  
i-Installer to install another TeX version and Gerben's path setting  
script would have overwritten the symlink path by its own path.  
Because of this compatibility issue the simple and best way to define  
the path hadn't been used.

I argued differently, favouring /usr/local/texprograms as system wide  
path, combined with the recommendation that users shouldn't use  
Gerben's i-Installer anymore for installing TeX unless i-Installer  
adopts to the symlink.

As my  personal opinion, with all due respect to Gerben's role and  
achievements for TeX on Mac, I don't understand why, after his  
departure, and given the new situation that there will be several TeX  
distributions on a typical Mac, we should refuse to use the best  
method for path setting only because of compatibility issues with his  
i-Installer which will only install old tex distributions and no new  
ones anymore.

This is the present situation. The normal user can relax, and I would  
recommend not to use i-Installer for installing TeX as long as i- 
Installer doesn't respect the symlink and all parties have agreed to  
the system wide path /usr/local/texprograms.

MacTeX installs all available TeX distributions for the Macintosh, it  
knows and respects the symlink, and I would really like to know if  
there is anything that i-Installer can do that MacTeX is not capable  
of doing, apart from installing piece wise, which, by the way, is an  
option that I never liked in i-Installer.


On Nov 26, 2006, at 10:36, Arno Kruse wrote:

> Am 26.11.2006 um 02:39 schrieb Joachim Kock:
> <snip>
>> Since I don't understand a word of what you are saying here, I  
>> assume you
>> have not understood my point either...
>> The point is simply
> <snip>
> "I don't understand"; " you have not understood"; "The point is  
> simply". In Germany I would say "Realsatire".
> I do agree at all, completely, totally. I am absolutely confused  
> and do not know what to do. I have installed TeXLive via i- 
> installer, but this seems to be wrong. Or seems to be a splendid  
> idea. Genial. Or nonsense.
> I have installe the switching-program (or is it a script?), too,  
> but I cannot find it anywhere on my Mac, so I cannot use it.
> Is there a patient, friendly angel willing to give an overview?  
> Allowing a simple-minded TeX-user like me to understand at least 5%?
> Many thanks in advance
> Arno
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