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Things I learned about TeX today

  • Unlike every other program that goes looking for files, TeX does not accept a -I argument to tell it where to look.
  • The TEXINPUTS environment variable can be used to control where it looks, but if you don't know the secret, you'll think you have to include every standard TeX directory as soon as you use this variable.
  • The secret (see #2) is that beginning or ending TEXINPUTS with a colon means "include all the standard directories."
  • By default, one of the standard places it looks for include files is under $HOME/texmf. It is wise to put your downloaded packages in there, if you know the second secret.
  • The second secret is that there is a secret way of laying out your files underneath $HOME/texmf. And even though TeX keeps an ls-R file to index all those files (use texhash to update the index), it ignores the ones that aren't exactly where it's expecting them.
    TFM files: texmf/fonts/tfm/fontXX.tfm
    Bitmap (PK) fonts: texmf/fonts/pk/print-driver/fontXX.YYYpk
    Style files: texmf/tex/generic/*
    Font alias mapping: texmf/fontname/texfonts.map
  • The package I care about, chess package, automatically installs its files under the directory of my choice, using a certain hierarchy within that directory, but it is not the hierarchy TeX is expecting.
  • The chess package is over ten years old, and when you run it, you get a warning about "using babel with an old interface," also warning you not complain if you get further errors. You get further errors, but you can ignore them.
  • You can control the resolution of the fonts that xdvi uses by telling it xdvi -mfmode :600 (your resolution in place of 600). You cannot, in any easy way that I've been able to dvine, tell METAFONT to generate fonts in the same resolution that xdvi expects by default.
This is post #128 on this blog.


In regard to the font issue: maybe try pdfLaTeX?

pdflatex is a good tool (why bother with DVI if you don't have to?) but it doesn't handle embedded EPS graphics (at least not normally) so it wouldn't have worked for what I was doing. that day.

Also I don't think it makes it any easier to wrangle PK fonts. PK is a weird font format cooked up, I think, by Don Knuth just for the purpose of TeX and METAFONT. I don't know any other formats that make use of it.

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