[tex-live] Stop providing a4.sty and a4wide.sty for texlive-2009

Robin Fairbairns Robin.Fairbairns at cl.cam.ac.uk
Sat Jul 18 16:16:58 CEST 2009

Pacho Ramos <pacho at condmat1.ciencias.uniovi.es> wrote:

> Currently, texlive is providing these deprecated and failing packages:
> /usr/share/texmf-dist/tex/latex/ntgclass/a4.sty
> /usr/share/texmf-dist/tex/latex/ltxmisc/a4wide.sty
> Its usage is discouraged as can be seen in:
> ftp://dante.ctan.org/tex-archive/info/l2tabu/english/l2tabuen.pdf (section
> 1.1):
> "1.1 a4.sty, a4wide.sty
> Do not use these ‘two’ packages any longer. You should delete them
> without replacement from your LATEX source.  Use the class option
> a4paper instead.

this is correct behaviour for the individual user.

the claim that the distributions (or even ctan) should enforce such
behaviour is more dubious

the name a4.sty itself appears [used to appear] once on ctan:
and i've moved that one (and the corresponding a4wide.sty) to
ctan:obsolete.  such a move makes little change to the way people will
view the packages, but it does provide a reference point for explaining
why those particular files are unreliable.

the a4.sty in tex live comes from the ntgclass distribution, where it's
generated from a .dtx.  ntgclass was written (by respectable macro
coders) after an analysis of the needs of european latex users; the main
part of it is the classes to replace the standard classes, but it also
provides this package.  while it's clear it arose in the days of 2.09,
it's also clear that it was thought through, and it seems to me to that
the package behaves rather well.

a4wide has been replicated in macros/latex/contrib/misc (apparently some
time in 1995, less than a year after the introduction of latex 2e, and
hence of the multiple latex trees.  it works by loading a4.sty, and then
modifying its effects.

in addition to the version mentioned above, there are several copies,
mostly of some version of a4.sty, hidden away in documentation bundles
and the like.  (the source of one thing has a separate copy of a4.sty
for each chapter!)  one simply cannot remove those from their
distributions -- unless there's the time available to sort out the
respective compilations, and to put the distributions to rights.

> I also got this problem while using lyx and this recommendation was "enforced":
> http://www.lyx.org/trac/ticket/4872
> http://www.lyx.org/trac/ticket/6084

it doesn't do to examine automatically generated latex too much.  almost
all of it, not just lyx's output, is duff in various ways.  sure, the
failure with baseline-stretched text is unforgiveable, but anyone doing
that is unlikely to be worried about appearances anyway.

> I think that these should be removed to take advantage of next major
> texlive version, this way, people would do the migrations in their tex
> files preventing collateral problems (like problems with margins and
> so...). This would, of course, be documented in Changelog

think through the results of your proposal.

1. lots of people, working on inherited documents, will find they no
longer work, since a package has disappeared.  complain, and they're
told to edit parts of the document they've previously never touched.

2. people working with latex generators such as lyx find themselves
isolated.  complain, and they're told (at best) just update your copy of

3. much work needs to be done on other bundles in the distribution, to
get rid of references to the packages.

in short, this isn't something one could possibly do this near to a
release.  it may be worth thinking about, but not for this year.
personally, i wouldn't bother.


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