[XeTeX] The future of XeTeX

Adam Twardoch (List) list.adam at twardoch.com
Wed Aug 1 02:54:32 CEST 2012

On 31.07.2012, at 13:02, Peter Dyballa <Peter_Dyballa at web.de> wrote:

>  it's questionable whether it's worth when XeTeX has reached its end of life cycle and LuaTeX is taking over – without micro-typography that seemed to have started in ConTeXt…

I don't think this is an accurate description of the situation. In my opinion:

1. XeTeX is a more encapsulated, "pragmatic" system that may not be endlessly extensible and may not be suitable for arbitrarily complex projects, but it's simple to use (hey, even I can use it), is very much feature-complete in what it's supposed to do, and is very stable. For 80-90% of TeX use cases, it's the perfect system. Conceptually, it's very much like an Apple product: it does the things that it claims it does rather well, and simply doesn't do many things, but doesn't claim to do them. It's also very reasonably documented.

2. LuaTeX is more a "project" than a "product". Potentially, it's extremely extensible and can potentially do things that no other system practically can. But it doesn't (by its very nature) offer stability, it's evolving constantly, and while some features it claims to offer are at a "version 1.0" level, others are at a "version 0.2" level — and if you're not careful, you may not easily distinguish these. It's idealistic, ambitious but also complex. 

If you just need a practical tool that works and don't want to get into a developer's mind, XeTeX is a great choice. If you're creative and experimental, and want to do new things that were never attempted before, LuaTeX may be better. 

If LuaTeX was PythonTeX, I'd adopt it instantly. IMO, Lua was a very unfortunate choice, which seriously limits the potential usefulness, but let's leave it at that.


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