[XeTeX] potential new feature: \XeTeXgenerateactualtext

Will Robertson will at wspr.io
Thu Feb 25 07:19:57 CET 2016

Hi Ross,

Great to hear from you.
I thought of you straight away when writing my email :)

> On 25 Feb 2016, at 11:35 AM, Ross Moore <ross.moore at mq.edu.au> wrote:
> You have to be *very* careful with /ActualText, since it must be done using PDFdoc encoding, 
> as it becomes part of the page contents stream.
> Any errors will corrupt the PDF file completely — but that’s true of other things as well.
> Heiko’s  \pdfstringdef  in the hyperref package is very good for handling this…

That’s good to know, thanks.
I think there has been *some* work by one or two of the LaTeX3 members on general methods for this sort of thing, but it’s been a while.

>> This sounds interesting for maths, where there is a chance we could automatically insert \special{}s at the glyph and/or the equation level — has this always been possible in XeTeX or does this require the newest patch for xdvipdfmx you just released?
> … but doing the math-characters correctly, without interfering with spacings, 
> is highly non-trivial.

I have no doubt!!

> Look at some of my papers associated with TUG conferences, to see various
> options that can be used to make mathematics more accessible in PDFs; i.e.,
> papers numbered as 5, 6, 7 on this page: 
>       http://www.tug.org/twg/accessibility/
> Although these were done using pdfTeX, some of these things should be able
> to be implemented for XeTeX + xdvipdfmx  also.

This is exactly where I was going with all this (so we’re getting quite far away from the new primitive).
My understanding is that the extended pdfTeX you were using was included in TeX Live 2015, is that right? Or will be in TL2016?

How much work would it be to translate that work into something that will also function in XeTeX?


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