Network TeX installations for Windows clients

TeX Live is designed for shared use: you can install TeX Live on a network for use on client workstations. All it takes is adding TeX Live to the searchpath.

On Windows, a bit more is expected: double-clicking a file should open it in the right program, and there should be menu shortcuts. There should also be an installer which takes care of this, and an uninstaller.

The Launcher

The new TeX Live Launcher is a single program that takes care of the configurations listed above, but instead of creating entries in the Start menu, it displays a window with buttons and menu entries. It gets its data, i.e. file associations, buttons, menu entries, from a standard Windows ini file.

Wth an up-to-date installation, there is probably no need to install it, since it is by default already selected if Windows binaries are going to be installed (Windows-only support programs).

The included tlaunchmode script can convert a local installation between classic mode and launcher mode.

For a non-local installation, tlaunch user_inst and tlaunch admin_inst create a Start menu shortcut and an uninstall entry. Such a command must be run on the client system.

The CTAN package contains among others:

The launcher itself
An basic ini file for the launcher
Its manual
A script to switch between launcher- and classic mode
A more elaborate configuration, based on the setup at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
The program source files

The old client installer scripts

The old installer makes use of building blocks which are already present in the TeX Live installation, viz. the TeX Live Perl libraries and the built-in hidden Perl installation. It should work with the editions of TeX Live editions from 2011 until 2015. With the w32client.diff patchfile for the w32client perl script, contributed by Rainer Walke, it can be made to run under the 2016 edition.

The zipfile contains the following:

The client installer Perl script
A batchfile running the above Perl script, using the private built-in Perl
The client uninstaller vbscript
Contains additional details.

All changes are made for the user, not for the workstation. This implies that in a roaming profile setup the configuration is available from any computer on the network, and that the user needs no particular rights on the workstation.


Although it should work as-is, the file w32client offers some customization options:

Changes in the old client installer

You can also still download zipfiles for 2013 and for 2011 and for 2010 and for 2009.

Requirements of the network installation

The prototype script assumes a standard directory layout:

   |       |
   |       +---bin---win32
   |       +---texmf (not for 2013 or later)
   |       +---texmf-dist
   |       +---texmf-config
   |       +---texmf-var
   |       +---tlpkg


   +---texmf (not for 2013 or later)

The w32client scripts assume that they are in the root of the installation, i.e. in parent\YYYY or in parent if there is no year component.

Sticking to such default directory layouts minimizes configuration hassles: all files can be located relative to the binaries, without environment variables beyond the searchpath.

Bugs and caveats

UNC paths

The 2013 version of w32 client scripts mostly work from a UNC path. However, when double-clicking the batchfile you will get a warning such as

CMD.EXE was started with the above path as the current directory.
UNC paths are not supported.  Defaulting to Windows directory.

However, installation will proceed as intended. You can avoid this warning by providing a shortcut to w32client.bat which specifies a Start in: directory with a drive letter.

Search path

If a workstation already has a locally installed TeX and if its binaries are on the system path, then the locally installed TeX will be found first. This cannot be fixed by only changing the user path.

Even if the searchpath cannot be fixed generally, it can be fixed for individual shortcuts, by prepending its searchpath with the TeX Live binaries. E.g. the TeXworks shortcut will always find our TeX Live first. The installer also creates a shortcut for a command prompt with such a modified searchpath.

Local policies

Windows system administrators have a rich array of tools for restricting user's rights. Check whether everything works, not just for yourself, but also for the target group.

Dviout help

Dviout help may be inaccessible because of restrictive internet permissions. Users can copy TeX Live Root\tlpkg\dviout\dvioute.chm to their local harddisk and open this copy, or you can ask the sysadmin to do something about it.


Windows does not include every piece of user configuration in the roaming profile. In particular, file associations are only stored on the workstation itself. Possible workarounds:

XeTeX font caches

If different clients have different fonts, you may consider letting users have individual font caches. See the README in the zipfile for details. Be aware that generating a font cache can be a time-consuming process. If you specify the generation of a per-user font cache while XeTeX is not installed, this action will be quietly skipped.

Copyright (C) 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 Siep Kroonenberg
s i e p o _ at _ c y b e r c o m m _ dot _ n l

Last revised on Febrary 3 2017