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Brief TeXShop History


The release of TeXShop 3.0 is a good time to think back on the history of TeXShop. In 1996, Apple was in terrible shape; rumors swirled that the board was trying to sell the company, and an attempt to construct a new operating system, Copland, collapsed. In the fall of that year, Apple was in negotiation with Be Inc. to buy their operating system. Then around Christmas time, a new rumor said that Apple would instead use NeXtStep. Shortly afterward in rapid fire succession, Apple announced that they had bought NeXt lock, stock, and barrel, that NeXtStep would indeed become OS X, and that Steve Jobs had agreed to become an adviser of the company.

As one of the few owners of a NeXt machine, I celebrated. But Apple wasn't out of the woods. A few months later, the provost of the University of Oregon sent faculty a note saying that because Apple was in such desperate straits, special permission from him would be required to buy a new Macintosh machine. This on a campus with a substantial Macintosh presence. I wrote a bitter reply.

One of the virtues of the NeXt was that it came with a free TeX system, including a wonderful GUI for TeX called TeXView, written by Tom Rokicki. I began telling our Apple representatives that TeX was important on OS X, and asked them to investigate TeXView. Porting TeXView to OS X became much harder when Apple switched from Display Postscript to the PDF-based Quartz system. Around this time, I got a chance to attend an Apple Developer Conference; I believe it was WWDC 1999. During that conference, I realized that it might be possible to write that TeX interface myself with Cocoa. After the conference, I began planning, and made the crucial discovery that pdfTeX, which claimed to be version 0.14, was mature and could directly output pdf. That made writing TeXShop a piece of cake.

When the program began working, I released it under the GPL, and immediately attracted collaborators. For a few years, I suspect there were more collaborators than users. You'll find a list of people who worked on TeXShop on this site. Thanks to every one of them.

The Release of OS X

Apple's initial support for PDF display was spotty; in beta versions of OS X, the software could not interpret embedded fonts in pdf documents. Therefore, TeXShop could only preview TeX documents which used the Times Roman font and contained no mathematics. Quite a limitation. To get around this, early versions of TeXShop had a preference setting which caused TeXShop to convert pdf pages to bitmaps using Ghostscript, and display these bitmaps in the Preview window. As you can imagine, the output was blurry and just barely useable. But hey, you could write TeX on OS X for free.

I next attended the Apple Developer Conference in 2000. At that conference, Apple was expected to give developers a preliminary copy of the release version of OS X. I bought a portable just before the conference and partitioned the disk so I could install that copy as soon as possible. In the keynote, Steve Jobs said "sometimes in this business, a name change is needed for marketing reasons even when the strategy is unchanged'' and then he announced that the release version of OS X would instead be called "Mac OS X Public Beta", and would sell for a stocking fee of $29.95 rather than the usual $129.00. I was sitting next to a friend who was a professional developer in Portland, and after the keynote he said to me "wasn't that slick. He actually announced that OS X is delayed for a year." I took the public beta home that night, installed it on my portable, ran TeXShop, and discovered that the pdf display system still could not use embedded fonts.

The real release of Mac OS X occurred on March 24, 2001. Contrary to tradition, Apple gave developers a copy of this system only a week before the release. I installed, ran TeXShop, and discovered that embedded fonts worked. That was the single most thrilling moment in the life of TeXShop. I spent that week tearing out the "construct bitmap with Ghostscript" code, and finally had a program which worked as planned.

Collaboators; Exploiting Cocoa

Although Apple's PDF display code was brand new when OS X was released, the Cocoa development environment in Mac OS X was mature from the start because it had been used at NeXt since 1989. Consequently, a wealth of opportunity existed for the development of TeXShop, and collaborators began exploiting these opportunities soon after Mac OS X was released. Soon TeXShop had toolbars, applescript, a proper Help system, Key Bindings, Command Completion, and a LaTeX panel. Thanks to my collaborators.

Perhaps the single most important contribution came from Mitsuhiro Shishikura, who completely rewrote the pdf display system to support Single Page, Double Page, Multiple Page, and Multiple Double Page display, and to support Fixed Magnification and Fit To Window Magnification. Shishikura also added the magnifying glass. I'd still in awe of these additions.

During these first years, TeXShop didn't exploit new features in the operating system as further releases occurred because there were already lots of opportunities in Cocoa.