The future of Textures

Textures is a Macintosh implementation of TeX, the now universal typesetting system for mathematical texts designed by Don Knuth. Written soon after TeX itself in the mid 1980s, Textures was for many years the leading Mac OS implementation of TeX. This changed with the transition to Mac OS X, which coincided with a time of deteriorating health for the creator of Textures, Barry Smith, who finally passed away in 2012.

The core of Textures is a very skillfully crafted TeX engine, which makes it much faster than other TeX implementations for any platform. A typical LaTeX document of 30 pages takes less than a tenth of a second to compile on a 5-year-old MacBook under OSX10.10, a book of 400 pages less than half a second. In addition, Textures offers a very precise switching tool which, when you command-click on a single letter in the output window, takes you to exactly that letter in the input window and highlights it there. These two features alone set Textures apart in quality from all other implementations of TeX, even today. To this day, therefore, Textures has retained a base of dedicated professional users that work with it daily and prefer it to the many current alternatives.

The transition of Textures to Mac OS X was never completed. When OS X was first introduced it offered software developers two frameworks, nicknamed Carbon and Cocoa. While Cocoa was the more radically new variant, Textures was first ported to the Carbon framework and reached a nearly complete beta stage there. However, when it became clear that Apple were going to deprecate Carbon, Barry began to develop a Cocoa version in parallel, pretty much from scratch but with the same fast engine. No version of this was ever circulated even for testing.

We have now completed our assessment of the code that Barry left, with the following results.

In order to make the completion of Textures for OSX Cocoa possible, we are taking two steps:

Carbon Textures now freely available

Although the last official release of Textures continues to work well in most existing configurations, also after system updates, users have been unable to move their installation to any new computers. This is because on every new machine Textures first attempts to contact the authentication server at the former website of BlueSky, which is no longer available.

In order to enable licensed users to continue to use Textures on the computer of their choice, but also to encourage new users to convince themselves of its advantages, we are making a modified version of Carbon Textures available for download for evaluation purposes. This modified version was kindly made available on the internet by a dedicated user soon after the demise of the old BlueSky website, and we are happy to share it with you here. It comes without any warranty or promise of support, but please use it to convince yourselves of Textures' continuing edge over other implementations of TeX: in speed, accuracy of the toggle tool between the input and output windows and, of course, the iconic traffic light that warns you immediately of any input errors as they are entered. Please enjoy it!

The download provided through the link above includes the CM fonts you need, some Latex style files specific for Textures (as well as an old collection of standard style files), and installation instructions. If you need further help with the installation, please contact help@blueskytex.com. We shall not, however, be able to give any technical support beyond this for the moment.

The Appeal

The effort to revive Textures, and thereby to preserve some of its unique advantages for the future, is driven by a group of academics that are still using Textures for their daily work. We are immensely grateful to these people for their freely given time and dedication to this project. The members of this group have begun to fund, from their own resources, the programming work that is currently going on to complete the Cocoa version of Textures. If you would like to join their effort, you can write to them directly at donations@blueskytex.com. Their aim is to raise enough funds to pay for about a year's work by a dedicated specialist programmer, which they have estimated should be enough to reach this goal and bring Textures back to life.

Thank you for your patience and continued support!

The next announcement here is planned for 1 July, 2015.