[OS X TeX] latex and xelatex

Herbert Schulz herbs at wideopenwest.com
Mon Mar 15 03:07:13 CET 2010

On Mar 13, 2010, at 9:17 PM, david craig wrote:

> The latest digest makes me curious what the end game of this forking brands of (la)tex (latex, pdftex, xelatex, luatex, whatever ...) is going to be.
>> From the point of view of someone who does a lot of work in tex that 
> needs to be very portable, and is often destined for third parties who insist on straight latex, I really don't want to have to keep track of which tex implementation I need on a document-by-document basis.   The merging of pdflatex with latex was a truly welcome development.
> Is there some hope of this occurring with xelatex/luatex?  (If not, why not?)  I don't really see how it helps anyone to have this proliferation of (la)tex implementations with differing abilities.
> Curious, and somewhat hopeful...
> David Craig


The biggest differences between the variations on latex (actually different engines all using the latex macro/format set) is in graphics inclusion and font usage.

latex: the old traditional version (well... not really since it now is actually using pdftex [which is really pdfetex] in dvi mode). Needs a ``back-end'' processor to convert the dvi file to ps or pdf; usually done using dvips+pstopdf(or another distiller). Graphics has to be in eps or ps form. Fonts are any of the latex fonts available.

pdflatex: direct production of pdf output. Graphics include pdf, pgn and jpg. Fonts are any of the latex fonts plus the possibility of using ttf fonts (but need map files, virtual fonts, etc.). Can do micro-typography.

xelatex: produces xdvi file which is converted to pdf transparently usually using the xdvipdfmx ``back-end.'' Graphics, using xdvipdfmx, includes eps, pdf, jpg and I'm not sure what else. Can use system fonts (otf, dfont, ttc) with no special setup including most (all?) of the special features. Assumes UTF-8 Unicode input by default.

lualatex: purely experimental at this stage in development. It's a highly programmable engine able to do amazing transformations, etc., using the lua programming language. I know little about this one.

As far as pdftex, xetex and luatex are concerned they use the Plain macro/format rather than the latex macr/format set.

I'm sure others will add and clarify further.

Good Luck,

Herb Schulz
(herbs at wideopenwest dot com)

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