[texhax] latex --version = pdfTeX ... ?

David Carlisle d.p.carlisle at gmail.com
Sat Nov 14 00:43:17 CET 2015

in platforms that support symbolic links, latex is just a symbolic
link to pdftex so they are the same executable

web2c tex uses the name of the program to control the behaviour so if
linked (or copied) to newname then calling
newname file
is equivalent to running
pdftex &newname file

which runs tex with the format (ie saved pre-loaded macro definitions) loaded.

So what you see is the tex version string, latex's version is in the
\everyjob banner
so for example

latex \\stop


$ latex \\stop
This is pdfTeX, Version 3.14159265-2.6-1.40.16 (TeX Live 2015)
(preloaded format=latex)
 restricted \write18 enabled.
entering extended mode
LaTeX2e <2016/01/01>

(or perhaps more likely

<2015/10/01> patch level 2


LaTeX versions are date-like strings such as 2015/10/01


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