[texhax] Choosing TeX um ... stuff

Philip Taylor (Webmaster, Ret'd) P.Taylor at Rhul.Ac.Uk
Wed Nov 17 22:51:52 CET 2010

Peter Davis wrote:

> I've been on the periphery of TeX for years, as a casual user of LaTeX
> and also as an implementer of publishing software.  However, I'm afraid
> I haven't kept in as close touch as I'd like, and now I find myself
> trying to absorb a lot in a short time.  I'm trying to choose what
> software to use in building an XML->TeX workflow.
> I'd appreciate any help with the following questions:
>    1. True or False: TeX can be categorized along three orthogonal axes:
>          1. by format (plain TeX, LaTeX, ConTeXt, others?)
>          2. by implementation (web2c, pdfTeX/pdfLaTeX, LuaTeX, others?)
>          3. by distribution (MikTeX, TeXLive, MacTeX, others?)

2) is false; whilst "web2c" is a methodology and
an basis for implementation, pdfTeX is a derivative,
pdfLaTeX is simply LaTeX layered on top of PdfTeX,
LuaTeX is a major fork, and so on.

>    2. True or False: plain TeX and LaTeX(2e) are warhorses ... been
>       around for decades, quirks well known, lots of documentation, etc.

Yes, except that while Plain TeX has more-or-less remained
static (modulo essential bug fixes by Don), LaTeX2e has
continued to evolve.  I have heard rumours that this particular
evolutionary branch may have come to an end, but I have
no definite knowledge of this.

>    3. True or False: ConTeXt is newer, with a lot of built-in features,
>       but still changing quite a bit from build to build.

Context is a L O T newer : it has many devotees, but is still
something of an outside to mainstream TeX usage.

> Other comments welcome vis. picking which software to use.  One point is
> that since the actual TeX input files will be generated
> programmatically, readability or ease-of-coding is not a factor.  I was
> going to use plain TeX, but it seems a lot of features like placing text
> boxes and graphics anywhere, using system fonts, etc. are more available
> for LaTeX and ConTeXt.
> Thank you for any comments!

Talk to River Valley and/or Sebastian Rahtz; both have considerable
knowledge of the matters that interest you.

Philip Taylor

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