[XeTeX] The future of XeTeX

Zdenek Wagner zdenek.wagner at gmail.com
Wed Aug 1 10:48:44 CEST 2012

2012/8/1 Keith J. Schultz <keithjschultz at web.de>:
> Hi Adam,
> Yes, LuaTeX is a evolving project, especially at the lowest level.
> Am 01.08.2012 um 02:54 schrieb Adam Twardoch (List) <list.adam at twardoch.com>:
>> 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.
>         XeTeX has is strength in typography, and support for languages, due to polyglossia. This is definitely missing in LuaTeX.

This is not a principal problem. LuaTeX can still use babel and
polyglossia may be ported. I think that it makes use of
XeTeXinterchartoks for French, this has to be implemented in another
way but it can be solved.

>         Using low-level XeTeX is not at all that easy, if you do not know the TeX-way of doing things.
>> 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.
>         LuaTeX has a very small developer base and their goal is very high. a long needed rewrite of TeX. That is a complex task.
>         From the simple user side. LuaTeX is about as easy as it gets. For most purpose I can teach you all you need to know how to use Lua for TeX in 2 hours!
When trying to compile my first document written in Czech using UTF-8
by lualatex it took me just a few minutes because from the user's
point of view fontspec is almost the same as in xetex.

>         Did I say 2 hours!, Well, that is only for the simple user. For the TeX Macro Package developer things are harder. That it is, you have to learn how to manipulate TeX with Lua.
>         Due to the complexity of TeX that is no easy task. Especially, since the only documentation is a reference manual, that does not explain anything! So, you either know low-level
>         TeX or you are out of luck.
Yes, this is the problem. If I take the TeXbook, it explains chapter
by chapter all algorithms. It would be nice to have luatex
documentation that will explain, how all these algrithms may be
affected be lua, where the hooks are, what are the data structures.
The reference manual lists the hooks and provides syntax but I am
afraid that without reading the luatex source code I will not be able
to use them.

>         I think you can throw almost standard LaTeX at LuaLaTeX and that should work. That, is everything that is not dependent a encoding. It's price for unicode support and using
>         fontspec. But, those ancient packages using encodings should be a thing of the past, IMHO.
It is not a problem to modify the font selection part. A few years ago
I had to develop a package for a journal that had to be typeset with
XeLaTeX. However, some authors may not like it and there documents are
so simple that old LaTeX could be used. The package had to support
both. It was very easy to do it.

>> 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.
>         XeTeX is really, great and I had began to love it. I did what I wanted, unicode and use of system fonts.
>         Well, LuaTeX can to that to thanx to fonspec. Furthermore, due to Lua I can do the things I always wanted to do with TeX for decades!
>> 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.
>         I was not happy with the choice of a "odd-ball" scripting language. But, due to its simplicity it seem to me to be the perfect choice. Very easy to learn. At least
>         for getting things done. I have not gotten into its advanced features. Old school programming will do!
>         Python would have been nice. But, the average LaTeX user would have extreme problems. Though from the programmers side it most likely would have made things
>         easier. Yet, with the evolution going on with python you open up another can of worms. Sorry, for going OT here.
>         If we could get more XeTeX and its advances into LuaTeX, them everybody would be very pleased. Time will tell.
Yes. The reason why I do not use LuaLaTeX is that I need features that
are not yet available.

> regards
>         Keith.
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Zdeněk Wagner

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