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In Appendix D of The TeXBook, p. 387, in a discussion about automatic column sizing, Knuth tantalizes us with this:

Some implementations of TeX display the output as you are running, so that you can choose column widths interactively until a suitable balance is obtained.

What are these other “implementations” of TeX? Are they moribund or do they still exist?

  • Predecessors of LyX perhaps? – Paul Stiverson Jun 18 '15 at 3:30
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    This is more a question of history for me, especially because it's my understanding of TeX itself I want to refine for its own sake. The modern systems are mostly geared toward LaTeX rather than the fundamentals. – Daniel Lyons Jun 18 '15 at 4:21
  • Systems which use Unix IPC (Inter Process Communication) are able to do something of this sort (e.g., TeXview.app on NeXTstep). I suspect that Dr. Knuth was talking about systems running on one of the large computer systems which he used at Sanford though. – WillAdams Jun 18 '15 at 13:22
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    @WillAdams -- the "large computer systems at stanford" were sail (a decsystem 10) and score (a decsystem 20). neither of them ever had an "interactive" mode. (knuth didn't feel the need, i think.) first implementation was on an early mac -- textures, as identified in the accepted answer. – barbara beeton Jun 18 '15 at 13:40
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Textures was such an implementation, on Mac OS, and it was created in the mid eighties. It had a “Flash Mode” feature which worked exactly as Knuth describes in the TeXbook. I suppose Knuth was referring to Textures among others. It has been extant until a couple of years ago. Since then, I've got no news about it…

What happened to Textures and Bluesky Research?

On Mac OS X, Claus Gerhardt's Flashmode allows this feature on TeXShop. (I've not tested it yet, but others do use it and it seems to work well.)

http://www.math.uni-heidelberg.de/studinfo/gerhardt/Flashmode/

Edit As indicated in the previous link about Textures, there is a new site dedicated to it: http://www.blueskytex.com. It provides a (free) download link to a no longer developed beta version for Mac OS X. More news are promised for soon (2015 July 1).

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