LaTeX forum ⇒ GeneralCan package updates ruin my books? Topic is solved

LaTeX specific issues not fitting into one of the other forums of this category.
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Can package updates ruin my books?

Postby bstex » Tue Jan 14, 2020 4:31 pm

I created my books on LaTeX and they work perfect.
Some time ago, one package made an update and when I tried to compile my books, some errors showed up and it couldn't be compiled.
After 1-2 days, this package updated again (obviously it had problems) and everything was working well again.
I'd like to ask you, is it possible with a future update of some packages to have problem with my books?
I mean, the fact that my books are OK now, it means that they will be OK forever? Or their situation depends on packages updates too? I'm referring to "good" future package updates (with no bugs) and not the "bad" ones just like the one that caused the problem I mentioned.
Thank you.

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Stefan Kottwitz
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Postby Stefan Kottwitz » Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:34 pm

LaTeX itself can be considered as very stable. But packages are often updated with more features or improvements. Sometimes an issue can happen, as there are a lot of packages and there may be, for example, a conflict with another package. A change of a package could also cause an error, mistakes can happen. That's often fixed as many other users would notice and inform the package maintainers.

I would say, package updates cannot ruin your books. It may happen that errors appear, but that usually can be fixed by the package author, by yourself or with the help of us. Or by using a previous version of the package. In any case, your book is not ruined, your content is still there as your content, that can be just a compilation error and usually even that is fixable.

Stefan admin

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Ijon Tichy
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Postby Ijon Tichy » Wed Jan 15, 2020 11:25 am

Stefan Kottwitz wrote:LaTeX itself can be considered as very stable.

Very stable but from 2015 the policy has been changed and from 2018 there are a lot of changes in the kernel. All (or as least most of the) changes of the LaTeX kernel can be reverted by using package latexrelease. However, new releases of packages may depend on new releases of the kernel. So fixing one issue using latexrelease could result in another issue.

Nevertheless, I agree with Stefan: Every problem can be fixed. You will never lost the whole work. Even if you are using a not longer supported package like tabu this can be fixed, e.g., by removing the package and changing the code.

But how can you know that there could be a problem before doing an update? You cannot. But you can have a look at the list of package to be updated (before doing the update) and read announcement lists (like CTAN-ANN or the TeX-Live-Mailing list) to get a notion of recent changes and already known issues.

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Postby sommerfee » Wed Jan 15, 2020 9:08 pm

There is no quality control when new versions of packages are uploaded to CTAN and distributed through the TeX distributions. How the maintainer tests its package before uploading it to CTAN is completely his own business.

Therefore there is a good chance that new bugs are introduced with new package versions which have new features implemented.

Another thing which could break LaTeX documents: On stackexchange often patches are offered as solutions, surrounded by \makeatletter and \makeatother so internal package commands could be redefined. These may work fine for one version of a package, but if the redefined internals change in the next version the patch does not work correctly anymore.

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