Sunday, March 23, 2008

SEEing LaTeX 28: Some Critical Notes on the 'see' Command Line Tool

I've used the see command line tool to relate a LaTeX previewer to SubEthaEdit using pdfsync. Unfortunately, I've become aware that the natural usage of see has a definite problem. Plugging in see and -g %line "%file" for the "PDFSync support" preferences in Skim doesn't work quite the way one would hope.

With that usage, which I'd consider to be the most natural, you wind up producing a new see process each time you command-click in Skim to switch over to SubEthaEdit. That process, due to shortcomings in the design of see, will hang around until you close the document in SubEthaEdit. Of course, if you're using SubEthaEdit and Skim together like that, you're in the middle of editing a LaTeX document, so you're not likely to be closing the document very promptly. Do that enough, and you could consume all the user processes allowed by Mac OS X. If you've not experience running out of user processes, let's just describe it as Not Fun.

I don't think it is likely to be a big problem, especially with the more friendly process limits in Mac OS X Leopard, but it is definitely a real problem. The problem gets compounded with each new usage of see for integrating external applications or reporting from a mode script. End result is that some caution is warranted when using see, and it should be omitted in favor of another approach, if necessary. Personally, I'm still using it.

I've requested an enhancement to see consisting of a 'quiet' mode, like seen in, e.g., grep. That would eliminate the issue, and, as a side benefit, considerably simplify using see from AppleScripts for SubEthaEdit modes. Let's hope the Coding Monkeys act on it.

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