[tex-live] tlmgr query

Rowland McDonnell rjmmnet-lists at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Jul 24 18:39:02 CEST 2009

(can someone tell me if I'm doing the wrong thing by emailing this to
multiple recipients directly rather than to the tex-live mailing list

>Rowland McDonnell wrote:
>> I've spent some hours on this - and got only headaches.  I cannot
>> find any documentation on the TeX Live Package Database.
>Norbert has a number of publications and presentations here that  
>describe it:

Oh!  Great!  Thanks!  <excited> <downloading> <reading>


I wouldn't say that those notes describe anything to anyone who's not a
stone cold expert in TeX system development.  I certainly can't learn
much from it, except that Norbert Preining's done an awful lot of work
sorting out a new way of - well, I'm not sure exactly what he's achieved
aside from mis-spelling `Italia' ;-).

It seems that the talk is only for people who already understand a lot
about Unix system development and Unix TeX and internal CTAN ways of
doing things.  I know almost nothing about all of those things.

One of his bullet points is:

Better documentation 

since TEX Live is replacing teTEX we want to give people 
incorporating TEX Live into distributions a better 
documented and easier to handle system 

What we've got now (MacTeX 2008 in particular compared to the teTeX and
i-installer days) is indeed *VERY* much better documented than what we
had, but the current documentation is still not good.

For example, I'm none the wiser about the tlpdb through having read the
above slides which appear to be the only available `documentation' on
the subject!

>More Mac-centric notes can be found here:

Ah!  Great - thanks!  Now that's more like it - very useful information
in a lot of ways, but I can't find any info on the tlpdb.  And - oh
dear, I've run in to trouble again.  I expect this must be very strange
to hear for you people who already understand how TeX Live works, but
I'm a newbie and I'm stuck again due to terminology problems.  Argh.

I read the following (linked to it from a tlmgr jargon use of the word
`collections', which I've failed to understand so far):


Before using the TeX Live Manager, it is helpful to understand a little
bit about the organisation of TeX Live. In particular, it helps to know
the following:

    * the distribution is organised into collections;
    * each collection contains a number of packages;
    * packages include all the familiar packages you might load in the
preamble of a document or download from CTAN;
    * a TeX installation - one you have on your Mac, for example -
includes a number of collections. 

Which only informs me that:

Packages are subsets of collections are subsets of distributions.

That is useful but not hugely so.  I can't work out where the concept of
`installation' fits in amongst all that and there is no definition of
any of the special terms (package, collection, distribution,

page=1> doesn't tell me either.

I still need to find out what exactly *are* packages and collections and
distributions and installations in this context?

Can anyone help me out?

Thanks to all who have had the patience to offer me advice so far,

P.S.  I'm busy writing my own notes on how to set up and use MacTeX.

If I manage to kick the result into a half-decent shape, I will of
course release it into the wild.  That's far from guaranteed, though.

If anyone wants to see the junk I've generated so far, I'd be happy to
email a copy on the understanding that it's only for laughing at, not
for distribution.

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