[pdftex] distiller vs pdf(la)tex (not a flame war, just asking for info)

John Culleton john at wexfordpress.com
Thu Nov 13 17:37:22 CET 2003

On Thursday 13 November 2003 11:00 am, franciszek holop wrote:
> hmm, Martin Schröder said that
> > On 2003-11-12 14:07:21 +0100, franciszek holop wrote:
> > > i am just about to engage in a holy war with a word/distiller
> > > man, but being as lame as i am when it comes to typography as
> > > a science i would like to ask you what (if any) advantages does
> > > pdf(la)tex have over adobe distiller (say 4.0).
> >
> > What are you comparing? pdftex is a complete typsetting system
> > capable of producing pdf while distiller is only a ps->pdf
> > converter.
> i thought distiller provides a virtual printer driver you can
> select in e.g. msword.  so your word document is "printed" into
> a pdf file.  but i have never seen distiller.

Exactly right. typesetting is done prior to distiller. A real expert 
like aaron Shephard can squeeze acceptable results out of MSWord 
with a lot of hand tuning but 99% of MSWord users don't know his 
tricks. So most MSWord set documents look amateurish. with pdftex or 
pdflatex you get better results automatically than you can obtain 
with careful hand tuning in MSWord.  And of curse pdf(la)tex 
generates fine pdf output without any plugin. 

distiller does more than gernerate a pdf file of course. So we are 
really comparing apples and oranges. But in my work as a typesetter I 
have never found a need for its special features and so I don't own 

Folks who spent years learning MSWord and spent healthy bucks on Adobe 
Distiller will of course be defensive about their choices. But with 
pdftex, Context and presumably pdflatex you get better results at 
lower cost and with less investment in time per book after you learn 
TeX, and a decent editor like Gvim. 

To me that's a no-brainer.
John Culleton
Able Typesetters and Indexers

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