Troubleshooting Browser Displays of Technical Papers
Problems with Viewing
A properly installed browser will have no problem displaying our
technical papers. If things don't work, the problem is at your end.
Almost all repositories of computer science papers worldwide use the
same file formats that we do, so if you're having trouble here, it'll
be the same everywhere else.
(Try any of
these computer science repositories.)
The following notes are intended to help
you diagnose the problem. The discussion is in terms of Unix
machines. Please mail me corrections if things are different on other
Our technical papers are stored as LaTeX dvi (file extension .dvi) and
as postscript files (file extension .ps). Most, but not all papers
are available in both formats. Most of the files are compressed with
either the Unix "compress" (additional extension .Z) or the GNU "gzip"
(additional extension .gz) programs. For the most part, the dvi files
use compress (so the extensions become .dvi.Z) and the postscript ones
use gzip (with extensions .ps.gz).
To display our papers, you need to have the appropriate programs for
undoing the compression ("uncompress" for .Z and "gunzip" for .gz
files), and the appropriate viewers (usually "xdvi" for .dvi and
"ghostview" or "gv" for .ps), and your browser needs to know which
program to apply to which type of file. This is done by various
system files, and by a local file which, on Unix machines, is usually
First, check whether you can read this plain dvi file and/or this plain postscript file.
If that didn't work, you may either be missing the necessary viewers,
or your browser doesn't connect them up to the file extensions
Try typing "xdvi", "ghostview", or "gv" directly to a shell. If none
of those did anything, then either you don't have the viewers, or
they're called something else. In these cases, get your systems guy
to tell you what they're called, or to install them. You can get
the Ghostview and GV viewers for postscript from
http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~ghost/. You'll need ghostscript (the
actual postscript interpeter) as well.
here to download the GSview viewer for postscript (it's just over
a megabyte). Windows will
ask what you want to do with the file--choose the "run this program option".
(If you save it to disk, then you'll have to
run the downloaded
self-installing program gsv34w32.exe yourself.)
Click on the GsView icon that appears following the install
(or run the program gsview32), which will set up an association
with the mime type application/postscript.
Associating Mime Types Correctly
If you have the viewers but things still don't get displayed
correctly, then your browser must not be associating them with file
extensions correctly. These associations refer to what are called
MIME types, and are set up in system files or in the .mailcap file
(usually) in your home directory in
On Unix, adding the following lines to
your .mailcap file will do the job (mutatis mutandis if your viewers
are called something else).
application/postscript; ghostview %s
application/x-dvi; xdvi %s
On both Unix and Windows
you can also do this easily in Netscape: click on Edit, then
Preferences, then Applications (under Navigator). Scroll down to (e.g.,)
"application/postscript" in the left hand column and click to select
that line. Then
click on Edit, then Application. Then browsw to find the Ghostview
click OK, then OK again. Postscript files should now display correctly.
Problems with Decompressing
If you can read the plain dvi and postscript files,
then the next thing is to check whether you can read this
compressed dvi file and/or this
gzipped postscript file.
If not, try typing "uncompress" and "gunzip" directly to a shell. If
they don't work, ask your system guy to install these programs, or to
tell you what they're called. You can get gzip/gunzip (which can also
do uncompress) from the Free Software Foundation at
If the programs are available, then it's
probably the associations that are broken. Try adding the following
lines to your .mailcap file.
application/x-gzip; gunzip %s
application/x-compress; uncompress %s
You'll never get this to work on Windows or Mac machines because
their Web browsers are faulty. Here's an
explanation from the
Los Alamos National Laboratory. We offer a
workaround by decompressing gzipped postscript files locally.
(Note that gsview on Windows seems to deal with gzipped files ok.)
Problems with Printing
Our papers are formatted for 8.5 by 11 inch paper (US letter size) and
may look a bit awkward, but should still be readable, on A4. Please
mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if
any file looks really bad on A4.
You can also resize pages from letter to A4 yourself with the command
"psresize -Pletter -pa4" using the psresize program from the psutils
package, which you can get from
Pages Stack in Reverse Order
Most of our papers are stored in acsending page order,
which is convenient for printers that stack the pages face down (e.g.,
HP printers). If your printer does it the other way, use "psrev
foo.ps | lpr" or "pstops 1:-0 foo.ps | lpr" to print the pages of
foo.ps in reverse order (use "lpr -s" if you run out of spool space).
psrev is distributed as part of Sun or Adobe's software, while pstops
is part of the psutils package, which you can get from
(Another program in the psutils package, called psselect, can also
reverse pages and has simpler command arguments.)
Don't try to print from ghostview if the files come out backwards.
Either explicitly download and save the file, or grab the temporary
file while ghostview is displaying it (this will have a name like
hbaa11346.ps in /tmp or /usr/tmp and is deleted once you exit
ghostview) and use psrev or pstops as above.
Problems with slow downloads aren't our fault. We have a dedicated
Web and FTP server directly connnected to the main backbone of the Bay
Area Research Net (BARNET), which uses fast routers and numerous
redundant T1 and T3 lines. If you're coming in from Europe, try to
do so from a country that has adequate external bandwidth (Germany seems
particularly bad in this regard), and outside European and US East Coast
working hours (I've found things best in the morning, up to about 9am
European/8am UK time, and at weekends). Alternatively, try the
site in London (this link gets you to .dvi files, postscript files
are in a subdirectory of that name)
If all else fails, you can download the files by ftp and deal with
them by hand. The ftp directory for dvi files is
and that for postscript is
Return to the Computer Science Laboratory home page
John Rushby (Rushby@csl.sri.com)