Testing MiKTeX 2.8 and TeX Live 2009

Both MiKTeX and TeX Live have new versions in the offing. I’ve been testing out both MiKTeX 2.8 and TeX Live 2009, to keep up to date with what is happening. In the past, I’ve tended to stick with MiKTeX as it is designed for Windows, and so can make some platform-specific decisions and be more focussed. However, the TeX Live team have done a lot of work to make TeX Live usable across platforms, and there are advantages to that approach.

Looking through the feature lists, a lot of the new features are common to the two systems, for example:

  • TeXworks installed as a distribution-maintained editor.
  • XeTeX version 0.9995 (which includes the new primitives that the LaTeX3 team asked for).
  • Some \write18 functions enabled without turning on full \write18 support: this is used to allow “safe” functions.

There are, of course, also differences. For example, only TeX Live includes LuaTeX at present. I also notice that MiKTeX 2.8 is adding the full path of files to the log, whereas in the past you got the relative path. I’m not so sure this is a good idea: it makes things rather wordy, and also the log will vary between systems: not so great. On the other hand, MiKTeX 2.8 does provide user-specific texmf directories. For multi-user systems, this is a real bonus: you can use the auto-install system without needing to be the Administrator.

As I said, I’ve tended to use MiKTeX to date as it’s been the best “fit” on Windows. The latest version of TeX Live makes this a pretty tight call, I think. If you are happy installing a full TeX system (which I do), then there is very little in it. MiKTeX still has the edge for small installations, as the auto-install system really pays off there.

8 thoughts on “Testing MiKTeX 2.8 and TeX Live 2009

  1. Pingback: Jürgen Fenn (juergenfenn) 's status on Sunday, 02-Aug-09 21:00:28 UTC - Identi.ca
  2. Hi Joseph,

    and first of all thanks for your blog, full of interesting information. I often have to give advice about installing TeX (sometimes on windows) and I found your comparison betwenn the two challengers very interesting (I must admit I lost track of MikTeX development recently and didn’t know they are including TeXworks too, which is very good news).

    You say: “you can use the auto-install system without needing to be the Administrator.” I’m under the impression it is also possible with TeX Live (though I never did it myself on windows). I also think TeX Live does provide user-specific texmf directories, such as TEXMFHOME (default: ~/texmf of %USERPROFILE%/texmf). Maybe I misunderstood your point?

    • Hello Manue,

      Thanks for the comment. The point about MiKTeX and non-admin installation is to do with auto-installation. With MiKTeX, if you ask for a package in your source and it is not installed, MiKTeX will try to download and install it automatically. That makes it easy to have a small installation, and let the package manager find “extras” as needed. However, in the past if you had a MiKTeX installation in, say, C:Program FilesMiKTeX 2.x, and you are not the administrator, then things will fail as you (probably) can’t write to the installation folder. With the latest version, MiKTeX will instead install the package just for the current user, so everything works. Of course, there will be more disk usage if several users install the same package, but there is always a pay-off!


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