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Switching TeXLive distributions for arXiv
2017-12-12 04:00:00 -0800
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How to switch TeXLive versions
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Doing bibliography with BiBLaTeX (and having one huge .bib file - mine is public, by the way) works great for me.

One downside is that arXiv uses a specific TeXLive distribution (2016 as of today), and the distribution on my machine is more up to date. Also, arXiv wants .bbl files uploaded instead of huge .bib files (.bbl contains only the references actually included in a given paper, and not all over 900 references which are in my .bib file). The problem is that .bbl files produced by different versions of BiBLaTeX are incompatible (!). So, to upload a paper to arXiv, I need to install a version of TeXLive identical to the arXiv's one.

I have a Mac. To install an older TeXLive version, I use MacTeX. To find an appropriate version, one needs to go to the TUG's ftp at ftp://tug.org/historic/systems/mactex/ where they keep all the historic versions. The download speed from this ftp might be quite slow. When installed, the older version will coexist with the current one, and one can switch between the versions.

MacTeX's page has some things to say about switching, but neither of these ways worked for me. Another (manual) solution I found over the internet is the following:

{%highlight bash linenos%} cd /Library/TeX/Distributions/.DefaultTeX sudo rm Contents sudo ln -s ../TeXLive-2016.texdist/Contents Contents {%endhighlight%}

Namely, /Library/TeX/Distributions/.DefaultTeX/Contents is a symlink to the TeXLive distribution used throughout the system, and redirecting this link will switch the version.

Bingo, a new paper is submitted to the arXiv! (will be in the next post when it appears online)

Update (after trying to update the paper to version 2)

Ok, I could not make this work for the second time. Previously I downloaded the basic installation of TeXLive 2016, and this did the job. Now I went with the full installation, and somehow it was worse (I ended up updating TeXLive 2016 to 2017, so now I have 2 parallel 2017 installations apparently). So, I ended up reusing the .bbl file from v1, which needed only very minor modifications (despite the version update from 2.8 to 2.9). A conclusion is that biblatex is not too friendly with arXiv, unfortunately.