[tex-live] tlmgr query

Rowland McDonnell rjmmnet-lists at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Jul 24 03:51:16 CEST 2009

> Rowland McDonnell wrote:
>> `Like any good GUI app,the program which appears is mostly self
>> explanatory.'
>> Unfortunately, I do not find it so and I daren't press any buttons
>> for fear of what might happen.
>That is bad, but we can work on that.

Thank you.

I have been working on trying to understand the basics of setting up and
looking after TeX Live (MacTeX 2008) installation for quite a long time
(I've been trying to understand how to manage TeX Live since I first
installed MacTeX 2006, but I've not got very far yet).

I should explain that it normally takes me a HUGE amount of effort to
find out the basics of `how a bit of software works and how to manage
it' to the extent that I can start to make intelligent use of the
software, but once I've got the basics understood, then I can usually
get on with things without too much trouble.  All I have to do is
overcome the initial hurdles, which are very high in my case.

(once upon a time, I could learn how to use software much more easily,
but that was in the days when software came with proper manuals)

I have spent about four or five hours on the job today (well, yesterday
and today - it's past 2am now), trying to understand the answers I have
been given to my questions well enough to make some useful notes.  I
have made a small amount of progress and got a big headache.

What I have achieved in all that time is to have found out a little bit
about how to tell TeX Live (MacTeX 2008 installation) to generate
locally specified formats and how to add new fount map files.  I have
not yet found out all I need to know on that subject.

It is very slow and frustrating: no-one involved seems to understand
what a newcomer to the wonderful world of looking after TeX Live needs
to understand...

Do please understand that I am a Mac user and not any sort of Unix
expert at all.  In particular, I find it very hard to understand man
pages and I am *NOT* familiar with the structure of TeX Live.  I have
tried to become familiar, but I have failed to find much documentation I
can learn from.  Remember, I'm not a Unix expert: I'm a bewildered Mac

>> I'd like to find out how to get tlmgr -gui to generate a
>> configuration information listing as:
>> texconfig conf
>It does not, neither does tlmgr. Use texconfig.

Thank you again.  I had read a lot of things telling me that I should
use tlmgr instead of texconfig.  It seems that the advice is not
properly thought out since texconfig can do things that tlmgr cannot.

>> I would also like to know what exactly tlmgr -gui does when the
>> `Re-create all formats' button is pressed.  I have some custom
>> formats
>It calls
>   fmtutil-sys --all
>not surprisingly.

Thank you.  It is not any surprise, but not something that could be
relied upon.  For all I knew, tlmgr might have been calling a
fmtutil-sys (or plain fmtutil) and asking for a special fmtutil.cnf

(and someone else told me that the command executed is fmtutil --all).

Now I have to find out what fmtutil-sys --all does and exactly how it
differs from fmtutil --all.  I'm stuck at the moment.   I have read the
man page, but it does not tell me what the commands do in exact detail.

>> Obviously, tlmgr -gui won't be using that fmtutil file - so which
>> file /does/ it use and what's the approved method of adding formats
>> to those
>kpsewhich is your friend,

I've read the man page and asked questions.  I still do not understand
how to use kpsewhich, nor do I understand exactly what it is that
kpsewhich tells the user.

In short, kpsewhich has not yet been my friend.  I often have to use
find to supplement kpsewhich.  I cannot work out which file in a texlive
installation kpsewhich will find when I ask it to find a file - will it
find the file I'm interested in, and if not, why not?  I cannot tell.

Remember that I'm a Mac user and I do not - yet - understand the
structure of texlive.  A lot of things you take for granted are alien to

> it is for 
> ROOT/texmf-var/web2c/fmtutil.cnf

Could you explain how you know that?  You said kpsewhich is my friend,
but I don't see how kpsewhich could tell you that.

>which is generated every time a format is installed or removed from the
>information in the database (see below).

Thank you again.

I'm afraid I do not quite understand this part.  When you say `is
installed', what does the installing (or removing for that matter)?

There are other questions I am trying to find the answers to, but I have
failed to find any information so far.

Where does the information in the database come from?

What processes add or remove data from it?

And what data exactly is the file ROOT/texmf-var/web2c/fmtutil.cnf
generated from?

I've read your email /thoroughly/.

I've read all the man pages I can find that might be relevant.

I've spent some hours on this - and got only headaches.  I cannot find
any documentation on the TeX Live Package Database.

>> What does `Re-initialize file database' mean?
>   mktexlsr
>(was that difficult?)

I do not understand your question.

It was impossible for me to work out what `Re-initialize file database'
meant.  I had absolutely no hints at all.  It was not hard: it was

I am not familiar with the command mktexlsr.  I am not a Unix guru.  I
am not a long-standing expert in the care and maintenence of texlive.  I
am a Mac user who used to know exactly what he was doing with OzTeX and
is now trying hard to come to grips with a radically different approach
to setting up and using a TeX system.

I'm finding it very hard work.

>> I see a setting for `Default backup directory' (and `Auto backup
>> setting).  What exactly does tlmgr do by way of backing things up?
>tlmgr -help, man page, web page generated from man page, I don't repeat
>here what is written there.

The reason I asked about backups is that I've read the man page, found
the section on backups, and I've found it impossible to work out what
tlmgr does by way of backups.

This is the way it is for me: if I want to use the information in a man
page, I usually have to get someone to explain it to me so I can write
my own documentation (as I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm a Mac user and no
sort of Unix expert; I cannot write shell scripts, I do not speak Perl,
I'm not familiar with the structure and jargon of Unix or texlive).

One reason texlive man pages are often not very helpful for me is their
excessive use of the passive voice.

For example: `these two options control the creation of backups of
packages before an update is started'.

Before an update is started by what, exactly?  I can't find anything
that tells me and I can't work it out.

I don't even know what `backup' means in this context.  Nor do I know
what a `package' is in this context.  Of course in /general/ terms I
know what a backup is, but in this /particular/ case, I find myself
needing the answers to the following questions:

what *exactly* will be saved (and how is that worked out)?
what does the saving?
what events exactly prompt the save to happen?
what does `update' mean in this context?
And what's a package?

I know about LaTeX packages (pkg files - and their dtx/ins source code
etc), but I find it hard to credit that `something' makes backups only
in response to something unspecified updating particular LaTeX packages
rather than this unspecified something updating any part of a TeX Live
installation.   Therefore, I conclude that I do not know what `package'
means in this context.

Please believe me that I have put a lot of time and effort into finding
my own answers to the above questions.  I'm not asking because I'm lazy:
I'm asking because I simply can't get to grips with the available

(In my experience, man pages are only really useful for people who
already understand the subject of the man page.  I've read many of them
and I always get a headache when reading man pages.)

>> What's `the installation's TeX Live Package Database' and how can it 
>> be
>> used to generate language.dat, language.def, fmtutil.cnf, and
>> updmap.cfg?)

Thank you.

Okay, that's where the database is.    But again I have more questions I
cannot find the answers to myself.  What puts data in the database?  And
where does this data come from?

>and it contains for each package the contained map files to be
>(de)activated, the contained/supported formats, and hyphenation

Righto - thank you for that.  Do you know how I might find out more
about it?  In particular, where does the information in that database
come from?

>BTW, again all this is documented in the man pages for TLPSRC, TLPOBJ,
>TLPDB, etc ...

Can you tell me how I might access the man pages you are referring to?

I have no idea what TLPSRC and TLPOBJ refer to.

$ man tlpdb
No manual entry for tlpdb
$ man texlivepackagedatabase
No manual entry for texlivepackagedatabase

I get similar results when I try texdoc.

I've searched using all three methods available at
<http://ctan.org/search.html#byDescription> for both `tlpdb' and `tex
live package database'.  I get no results in all six cases.

Thank you for your help,

>Best wishes
>Dr. Norbert Preining <preining at logic.at>        Vienna University of 
>Debian Developer <preining at debian.org>                         Debian 
>TeX Group
>gpg DSA: 0x09C5B094      fp: 14DF 2E6C 0307 BE6D AD76  A9C0 D2BF 4AA3 
>09C5 B094
>A perfectly reasonable explanation (Such as the one offered by a
>person with a gurgling cough which has nothing to do with the fact
>that they smoke fifty cigarettes a day.)
>           --- Douglas Adams, The Meaning of Liff

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