on macOS new user experience likely to be frustrating

mn mnork0 at gmx.net
Thu Feb 13 08:42:38 UTC 2020

On 12.02.20 23:51, Stephan Witt wrote:

> Sorry, now I think it is „Forward Search“ what is configured here.
> The „Reverse Search“ operation is the jump from PDF-Viewer to LyX-document.
> This has to be configured in Skim to get it right.

Thx. Not quite what I was intending.

[On my setup, I can do reverse search, (jump from passage in PDF to LyX)
but not forward search.]

The following is the longer form of
'how I have to assume a novice user on Mac experiences the situation.'
That is quite suboptimal, to say the least.

The thing is that three different documentation places tell you three
different things, none being uptodate and complete, but all quite hard
to find initially and then a bit disorganised internally.

Goal is to use LyX on a Mac with Skim for reverse and forward search.

Problem is reverse search works, now, but neither intuitively by looking
through the application, nor by reading the fricking manuals (of which
UserGuide will not display, whether compiled by yourself (as Pavel
points out to be itself problematic on some Linux version) or
downloaded) coming with LyX, nor with the wiki documentation on the web.

Problem is further that eventually you can achieve reverse search with
Skim, but not forward search.

The main documentation to look for, or to find if you Google for the
problem are:

- wiki LyX/Mac (2017-09-15)
- wiki LyX/Synctex  (2020-02-07)
- Additional Features.LyX

Problem is that they are all lacking, in a 'workflow' that is very
unlike any standard Mac workflow or HIG behaviour for preferences and

1. LyX needs to be (un-renamed) *directly* under /Applications, or a
symlink called *exactly* LyX.app in that place.

When I set up a Mac I try to place all non-Apple stuff into a
subdirectory for easier backup/migration etc. That works for all
non-Apple/AppStore applications. Almost that is, but those who really
demand this special place tell you upfront when you launch them that
they need to be directly under /Applications, some even offer you to
relocate themselves there. On some setups /Users/Alice/Applications is
also a viable and often found alternative.

This requirement is not found in the official documentation!

When testing alpha/beta or self-compiled versions, it is very
inconvenient to have just one 'LyX.app' available at that place so that
you then more or less have to run the unstable version or constantly
switch symlinks?

1.1 Therefore: what's the holdup to LyX recognising its own relative
position on the FS to make synctex work regardless of which version you
run from where under whatever name?

1.2 This sine-qua-non condition is mentioned on wiki/synctex, but
neither in LyX/Mac nor in Additional features!

2. Assuming Additional.lyx is the most recent and watched document:

The recommendations and instructions for Skim seem outdated.

Additional says:

2.1 (5.6.1) Automatic setup

Doing that seems to achieve nothing for users on macOS, since Preview is
the default PDF viewer and cannot handle any synctex stuff. What the
user gets to know here is that either a Document-pref-dialog has to be
searched and clicked or a Toolbar button clicked for the 'automatic'
aspect of synctex.
The 'automatic' seems a misnomer at that point, as the expectation for
'automatic' is: first no button to be clicked at all, second, if you
have to enable 'automatic' then the rest is *really* automatic, no
additional clicking and fiddling. But obviously the hunt continues…

The next 2 paragraphs are then thoroughly confusing:

- It lumps together DVI and PDF instructions
- It suggests for PDF to enter a parameter that is perhaps not needed in
the first place ('-synctex=1 $$i'; I see no difference whether it is
there or not. Reverse search works on my setup without?), without
telling you how to handle that part of the preferences dialog,
- - that seems to behave differently than standard macOS pref-dialogs
and the rest of the LyX-preferences
- you have to find the pane/section, then scroll through a long list,
then all buttons for action are greyed out.
- It is very counter-intuitive to first type in the changed parameter,
then go back up to click 'modify' (before you typed that button being
greyed out as well), and only then become able to click 'Apply'/'Save'.

That frankly doesn't make any sense to me: if you want to change a field
below and have to click 'modify' *before* anything could be entered,
hmkay. But the line wanted is already editable, just as in other panes
in Prefrences. And why that extra step in the first place? Suggestion:
either grey out entry in the lines with parameters or just get rid of
> Enter open -a Skim.app $$i to the viewer setting in Preferences->File
Handling->File formats->PDF (pdflatex), and then in
Skim->Preferences->Sync choose custom preset and enter command

On to 5.6.3: In Skim 1.5.6 (and earlier) there *is* a LyX-preset
preconfigured. It just says 'LyX' and has the parameters Command:
lyxeditor; Arguments: "%file" %line

What is the user supposed to do? Use that preset offered by recent Skim
versions, or override it with what the most recent LyX manual says?

For 5.7: I just can't get Forward search get to work. Clicking 'Forward
search' just activates the PDF in the viewer.
It says
> "To make forward search possible, you first need to provide the
generated output PDF/DVI file with additional information about the TeX
sources. This can be done via the methods described in the section"
Since that I seem to have configured that rev-search successfully,  on
to the next paragraph.
It says:
> "Additionally, you need to configure LyX for using your viewers in

Only on Mac it is ***LyXAppMenu*** > Preferences > Output > General

In Additional it mentions Skim for reverse search, but not for forward,
and insinuates that many PDF viewers cannot do forward search at all. It
mentions some that should be able to do that but unlike in previous
section, it omits Skim. Impression: Skim cannot do that.
But then: If we look into the built-in preset we do get a preset for Skim:

> `/Applications/Skim.app/Contents/SharedSupport/displayline $$n $$o $$t`

Problem now is that if we just followed the steps outlined above ——
which are a streamlined version of my previous odyssey —— via manual
reading for all the correct buttons to press, inferred the discrepancies
to circumvent and now test our first document to reverse and forward
search in Skim: we get an output that is shown in X11/xpdf, no Skim at all.
And that is confusing again, as a Mac user would set Skim as PDF viewer
per default in the system, and then got all previous LyX PDFs displayed
in Skim instead of Preview, no changes to make within LyX.
But now, after changing some LyX internal variables to call Skim even
more explicitly, the result is xpdf?

Stephan replied to that with:

> The LyX configure utility checks for the existence of the xpdf viewer
and you get it probably because of having homebrew utilities in PATH.

> After changing it manually to e.g. Skim or „None“ (Auto) you’ll get
Skim.app or Preview.app as you like. That’s the price you have to pay
for having xpdf installed.

To which I would object:
Why is the reconfigure script picking up xpdf on Mac and treat it so

So we dig through preferences again and find that xpdf was picked up in
configuration, change that to Skim again.

Now a synctex enabled PDF appears in Skim, we reverse search and the
passage in LyX is highlighted, as expected (although LyX is not
activated). Then we try to forward search in LyX, Skim activates but
doesn't move anywhere within the document.

Since this is long already I won't go into details on the flaws for the
two wiki entries in much detail (just note that we find info on how to
use LyX 1.6, an undertaking quite rare nowadays). But the LyX/SyncTeX
page is the only one that hints at the need to have either the actual
app or the symlink of the precise name under /Applications.

In summary:
Getting Skim to work with LyX and reverse search is a nightmare in
Getting Skim to work with LyX and forward search is a nightmare in
usability that just goes on.

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