[tex-live] searching help for files w/o documentation

George N. White III gnwiii at gmail.com
Mon Dec 22 12:56:00 CET 2008

On Sun, Dec 21, 2008 at 3:04 PM, Philip TAYLOR (Ret'd)
<P.Taylor at rhul.ac.uk> wrote:

> Robin Fairbairns wrote :
>> an antique file: people (who care about documentation) just don't do it
>> that way any more.
> Some don't.

CTAN and TeX Live pretty much have to work with what authors choose
(or chose) to provide. There will likely always be .tex files with embedded
documentation, and in any case it is not unreasonable to expect to
be able to find a particular source file and peek at it.

>> since most packages have been created from documented source using
>> docstrip, they contain almost no comments other than licence details.
> Are you speaking only of LaTeX packages, or of
> TeX packages in general ?
>> thus, in most cases, the source is useless as documentation to all but
>> cognoscenti.  and the cognoscenti are unlikely to have any difficulty
>> finding the source files.
> I disagree, as I disagree with George N White III, 'though
> I haven't replied directly_ : just because one can read
> and write TeX macros doesn't mean that one understands
> (e.g.,) "kpathsea" and its friends [1] ...  They are as
> different as chalk and brie de meaux.

All this goes to show that no one of us really understands the
community of TeX users, so we can't be trusted to know how to
make sure users can find what they need.

At present, there are too many systems for managing documentation,
including unix man pages, texinfo, and texdoc.   If none of those produce
the information you are seeking, there are various full text indexing
systems and web searches.

Texdoc provides a convenient interface to the documents that those
"people (who care about documentation)" have kindly provided, but
now we are talking about how hard texdoc should work to support
cases where the documentation is embedded in the .tex files, or
perhaps the .tex documentation has not been formatted due to
oversight or because it relies on fonts, etc. that are not part of
TL  (case in point is the tap package: tlmgr show --list tap).

As for using kpathsea to find file whose name is known in the
texmf-<whatever>/tex trees, there are also tools that find files
independent of TL.  "less $(kpsewhich ...)" is just one example.

George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia

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