Relative paths with windows path separator does not work in TeXlive2019.

Taylor, P P.Taylor at
Fri Jul 26 10:19:13 CEST 2019

Kirill Balunov wrote:

Maybe I incorrectly described in what, in my opinion, TeX Live can better.  I fully ok with the removal of  8.3 names support,  their time has passed.

But as for the directory separator, I would like to TeXLive (on Windows) to be as agnostic as possible, for two reasons:
1. It works in some parts, but not in the others.
2. No error is produced.

Concerning the 1. as I showed in the example it is ok to use both -output-directory=".\Tex\local" and  -output-directory="./Tex/local", but this does not work for input files ( this is obviously perceived as an existing possibility, but to some extent not coordinated in various places).  Maybe I completely do not understand what difficulties are on the way. If so I would like to know what they are.

Why I am so concerned :) because many cross-platform libraries and utilities that work with paths (directories) use platform dependent directory separators (and usually the user has no control over this). And this miss in the TeXLive functionality in some parts, breaks their lovely attempts. Of course it is not difficult at the end to replace every "\" with "/", but it looks pretty crazy to do this for program running on Windows. And of course it is a very hard to find bug, because no error is produced.

The problem is simply that TeX's escape character is the same as MS-DOS's path-element separator (a backslash).  Once that is accepted, it is clear that TeX cannot of itself unambiguously parse (e.g.,) "TeX \string\filename.extension.  It cannot know whether "string" is a command or a path element.  Therefore a rule has to be implemented, and that rule is "TeX commands take precedence" — wherever "\string" occurs in a context where it could represent a command and could also represent a path element, it will  invariably be parsed as a command.

Philip Taylor
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