[texhax] dvi vs pdf

Jim Diamond Jim.Diamond at acadiau.ca
Thu Dec 2 20:12:44 CET 2010

On Thu, Dec  2, 2010 at 13:40 (-0500), Michael Barr wrote:

> Here is my reaction to the various replies I have received.  First,
> as long as TeX is TeX it will be required to produce dvi files.  As
> for pdf, I have no doubt that when it is no longer supported, there
> will be converters.  But the journal I help edit has several hundred
> papers in pdf format (most also in dvi and ps).  Who will convert
> them.  It would be a huge job and we run on zero budget.


If you think it is a huge job, I think you are running the wrong OS:

for i in *.pdf
    convert-pdf-to-new-whizzbang-format $i

As the Staples ads say, "That was easy".  :-)

> To see what can happen, what would you do with a Word file from,
> say, 1990?  Each version of Word can handle files from the previous
> version or two, but no further.  So unless that file was continually
> updated from version to version, it is effectively dead.  I don't
> expect this to happen with pdf, but it illustrates the problems.
There is a bit of a difference between a file format whose owners want
to force people to upgrade their software regularly (to keep the input
stream going) and PDF.  Not that I'm saying Adobe couldn't do
inconvenient things, but I don't think the analogy is sound.

> I have one further problem with pdf.  I am accustomed to compiling a
> file, previewing it, making changes and then iterate.  I cannot do
> that with the Adobe reader.  I cannot write a new pdf file while the
> old one is loaded. So exit the file from the reader, then compile the
> new version, load the new file, and then find your place again.  I
> find this intolerable.  Someone once suggested a different pdf reader
> and I tried it and found it unsatisfactory in other ways (I no longer
> recall why).  I'll stick to dvi, thank you.

The problem is not with Adobe reader, I'm guessing more likely the
problem is that you are using a brain-damaged OS.

As others have pointed out, xpdf and evince can refresh the PDF file,
and if you look at pdfopen on texlive (at least for Linux) you will
see that PDF files can be reloaded easily enough.  (For example, I
have an emacs macro which re-loads the new PDF version when I re-TeX a
file I am working on.)

Having said that, I do much of my work using dvi, because I find xdvi
is (normally) more convenient for the change/re-TeX/reload cycle than
is pdf+acroread.  If dvi goes away, I guess you and I (and many
others) are either going to have to hold on to the last version of TeX
that supports it or we will have to move on.


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