TeX Live 2008 — reasons to upgrade

new features in pgf tikz
New features in pgf/tikz

TeX Live 2008 was finally released about a month ago. I am a member of TUG, so I should be getting a DVD of it sometime soon, but today I finally decided I couldn’t wait, and I would just download it. The main impetus came after reading a discussion in comp.text.tex, in which someone was trying to reduce his compile time. He had a bunch of pgf/tikz graphics, and they can take a long time to compile. Pgf/Tikz version 2.0, which was released in February, now includes the ability to save pgf graphics as external files, and then automatically include them using a standard \includegraphics command. So you only have to compile your graphics once, which can reduce compile time a lot. I think most LaTeX users probably compile often, especially if writing equations, since it is easy to mess those up and have your document not compile. So I can definitely appreciate the desire to speed up compile time. My most unproductive are days when I am running programs that take on the order of 30 seconds to 5 minutes to run, because I end up checking my e-mail or surfing the web while the program is running, and I usually end up spending more time doing that than the time it took for the program to run.

Anyways, so I wanted to try out this new functionality in pgf/tikz, so I downloaded the latest version from CTAN and installed it. (There is a nice tutorial on externalization in the manual (which is now 560 pages long) — search for “externalization”). Then I tried to compile a beamer presentation, and it failed. I was sort of expecting this, since I know beamer relies heavily on pgf. So I decided to just upgrade my whole texlive. By default, texlive gets installed into /usr/local/texlive/year, so I actually now have 2007 and 2008. I will keep both for awhile just to make sure I don’t have any problems. My non texlive packages are in /usr/local/texlive/texmf-local, so those did not get modified at all.

The first thing I did after installing the new texlive was to test a beamer presentation, and there were no problems, as I had expected. Then I used texdoc to check the manual for pgf and beamer to make sure that they were the newest versions, which they are. When I did so, the manuals got opened in evince. I prefer kpdf, and I had changed this in texdoc in my old version. I thought about just copying the old version over, but I decided to run a diff first, expecting to see just a few lines of output. I was quite surprised when lots and lots of changes started showing up, so then I did a word count on each. texdoc from 2007 was 206 lines long. texdoc from 2008 is 890 lines long. The old version was just a bourne shell script. The new version uses texlua. And the new version is much, much improved!! With the old version, to read the beamer manual, or the pgf manual I had to type:

texdoc beameruserguide
texdoc pgfmanual

There were quite a few other packages that had similar problems. But now in the new version, it works as one would hope.

texdoc beamer

So, I stuck with the new version of texdoc, but I did modify it give preference to kpdf over evince for viewing pdf documents. I just searched for evince, then changed the order of the two lines. Even though I don’t know lua at all, the code was very nicely formatted and easy to read.

Another nice thing about the new version of pgf is that it has a bunch more features, including easy ways to create drop shadows, and some new default shapes, like callouts. A few more of the new features are explained at this texample post

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5 Responses to TeX Live 2008 — reasons to upgrade

  1. Externalization has become even easier in the CVS version of PGF using the externalization library. You can find recent compilations of the manual here: http://www.texample.net/tikz/builds/

    You have a lot of interesting content on you blog. Do you mind if I add you RSS feed to the TeX-community aggreagator? http://www.texample.net/community/
    (I will only include posts filed in the LaTeX category)

  2. robfelty says:


    I would be honored if you added me. I’m glad you enjoy my posts about tex related stuff.


  3. Thanks Rob. I have now added you feed. Thank you for contributing.

    PS. This post is not filed in the latex category so it was not picked up by the aggreagator script.

  4. You can also just add the following to your .bashrc file.

    export TEXDOCVIEW_dvi=”kdvi %s”
    export TEXDOCVIEW_pdf=”kpdf %s”

    This will cause texdoc to open PDF files in KPDF and DVI files in KDVI (for KDE 4, you would probably like to change both to okular).

  5. Hi Rob,

    perhaps you have already taken a look at the upcoming TeX Live 2009. The mentioned texdoc has been extended even more and works well like you described: texdoc tikz gives texdoc info: tikz aliased to pgfmanual and opened the manual.
    I could read that the TeX Live versions 2007 and 2008 are coexisting on your system. That’s not necessary, even if you’re using programs depending on older repository software. You could use the program equivs to create a dummy package satisfying dependencies, this way has been described here: Kile and TeX Live 2008 on Ubuntu Linux.
    Now I’m using TeX Live 2009 and Kile on Ubuntu 9.04 without TeX packages from the Ubuntu repositories.

    Best regards,