[XeTeX] XeTeX and TeX documentation

Mojca Miklavec mojca.miklavec.lists at gmail.com
Sun Aug 6 02:02:04 CEST 2006

On 8/5/06, Joshua Grauman wrote:
> I'm not sure where to look for documentation. I guess my main problem is
> I'm not exactly sure what version of TeX XeTeX is based upon. I presume
> that xelatex takes LaTeX input. What about the xetex command? Is it based
> upon ConTeXt or is it it's own? Where do I find documentation? What
> commands and macros are available? Does XeTeX merely add commands to an
> existing system, and all the available macros/etc from that system will
> still work?

I don't know how you came across the word "ConTeXt", but if you need
help for it, feel free to ask more specific questions on the ConTeXt
mailing list. See
for links and
for some additional notes about XeTeX and fonts, for documentation see

You just have to make a decision whether you want to learn and use
LaTeX or ConTeXt.

The difference between a XeTeX and pdfTeX document is mainly in a few
definitions at the top of the document where you specify fonts (and of
course XeTeX is much better than pdfTeX for handling Unicode and Fonts
in general).

The difference between LaTeX and ConTeXt is big, but if you're still
contemplating which one to use (the information about which language
you need to write with XeTeX might be relevant as well):

- high-level support for the most strange font features is surely
better in LaTeX (the XeTeX/font guru in the ConTeXt community is
rather busy at the moment), but basic/frequently used things should
work fine with ConTeXt

- some packages for LaTeX were rewritten to work with XeTeX, some
might work out-of-the-box, but you can forget about using those that
don't work (drawing in PSTricks for example). In ConTeXt there there
is far more functionality built in the core itself (and by far less
additional packages available, but they are more consistent than the
LaTeX ones and everything should work with XeTeX out-of-the-box). One
of the best features I like about ConTeXt is a tight integration
between text and graphics
(http://www.pragma-ade.com/general/manuals/metafun-s.pdf) which works
well with XeTeX as well.

- general support for ConTeXt issues on that mailing list is very good
(don't ask ConTeXt-related questions on this list), support for
XeTeX-specific issue for both TeX and LaTeX is very good here (for
general LaTeX questions you have to find some other place). Bugs in
ConTeXt, XeTeX itself and XeTeX-specific LaTeX packages get fixed
quickly. For other LaTeX packages you might be on your own.

- Migration (back and forth) between pdfTeX and XeTeX might be more
straightforward in ConTeXt (but probably not relevant for you; I have
problems using external figures in XeTeX on non-Mac platforms, so I
still have to combine both pdfTeX and XeTeX according to specific
needs of single documents).

A basic ConTeXt document which can be compiled with "textext --xtx
filename" (or tried on http://live.contextgarden.net, but not yet with
XeTeX unless I figure out how to compile XeTeX on that system):

\mainlanguage[en] % use your own for proper hyphenation

% whatever font switching you need, for example
% \definetypeface[MyFontName][rm][Xserif][Proper Font Name]
% \setupbodyfont[MyFontName,12pt]



\section{First section}

Some {\bf bold font}\footnote{same switches as in plain \TeX}, {\it
italic font}, {\bi bold italic}, {\sc Small Caps}, \dots


> Does XeTeX merely add commands to an
> existing system, and all the available macros/etc from that system will
> still work?

Generally yes. But be aware that:
- some LaTeX packages require pdfTeX or TeX + dvips: those might fail
- as already mentioned, I wasn't able to make external figures work on
non-Mac systems yet, but this will surely change in the (near) future
if it didn't already (and go unnoticed to me)


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