Yihui Xie

Two Upcoming Changes in TinyTeX and tinytex

Yihui Xie / 2022-05-11


Recently I received an email from CRAN, from which I learned about an accident related to TinyTeX. CRAN requested me to make a change to avoid such accidents in the future, and I’d like to mention this change and also announce another upcoming change in this post.

Preventing accidental installation of TinyTeX

For the sake of convenience, the R function tinytex::install_tinytex() would not ask for user’s confirmation before installing TinyTeX. I assume that users know what they are doing when calling this function, just like calling install.packages() would install R packages without confirmation. I knew this could be problematic since the beginning, because users might call this function inadvertently, and there is not a straightforward way to prevent the installation.

I have enjoyed more than four years’ peace… until someone called this function somewhere in his/her package (presumably inadvertently since this is definitely against the CRAN policy), which installed TinyTeX on CRAN’s machines. What a horror story!

In the next version of the R package tinytex, install_tinytex() will prevent the automatic installation in the following two cases:

  1. The environment variable TINYTEX_PREVENT_INSTALL is set to true. This gives the sysadmin a way to disable the installation altogether, and install_tinytex() will simply throw an error.
  2. Another LaTeX distribution is detected. In this case, if the R session is interactive(), users will be asked if they want to continue the installation anyway; if the R session is not interactive, install_tinytex() will throw an error telling users that if they are sure they want to install TinyTeX anyway, they can use tinytex::install_tinytex(force = TRUE).

I guess this change should not affect too many people, but it will affect existing users who install TinyTeX via install_tinytex() in a non-interactive R session (e.g., via the command Rscript -e 'tinytex::install_tinytex()) when there already exists a LaTeX distribution in the system. You would have to use the argument force = TRUE. That may be a minor inconvenience, but the gain is that there should be much fewer accidents like the one I mentioned above.

If you want to check if this change affects you, you may install the dev version of tinytex now:

remotes::install_github('yihui/tinytex')

And see what happens to tinytex::install_tinytex().

If you have any feedback on this change, please feel free to let me know. Currently, I plan to submit the new version to CRAN next week.

Migrating to the rstudio org on Github

We plan to migrate the two Github repositories, https://github.com/yihui/tinytex and https://github.com/yihui/tinytex-releases to the rstudio organization next week (May 16, 2022). That is, they will become https://github.com/rstudio/tinytex and https://github.com/rstudio/tinytex-releases, respectively. We hoped to migrate the two repositories from my personal account to rstudio to make it safer to build and install TinyTeX, and also easier to manage future contributions to this project.

In theory, this should not affect anyone, because Github will automatically redirect the old links to the new ones, including links to the precompiled TinyTeX binaries in Github Releases. Anyway, I want to announce this in advance so that you can be better prepared. If you run into any problems with installing TinyTeX next week, please do us a favor file a report immediately. Thanks!

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