[XeTeX] which TeX-based software

Wilfred van Rooijen wvanrooijen at yahoo.com
Tue May 1 13:38:06 CEST 2018

Following Mojca's explanation, I feel I should switch to ConTeXt :-))

    On Tuesday, May 1, 2018 3:43 PM, Mojca Miklavec <mojca.miklavec.lists at gmail.com> wrote:

 On 26 April 2018 at 14:20, Carrs wrote:
> Hi,
> a newbie question. I would like advice on which TeX-based software it would
> be best to learn in detail for my typesetting plans. So far, I have learned
> a little TeX and a little LaTeX, but not enough of either to tell me which
> will work best for me.

You can also look into ConTeXt.

It is based on TeX, so you get support for all the fancy math stuff
and typographical quality.

The basic syntax is not that much different from (La)TeX. Instead of
\begin{itemize} ... \end{itemize} you use \startitemize ...
\stopitemize for example, but syntax for math is mostly the same. The
internals/programming is cleaner in my opinion (but much different in
any case).

It works well on all platforms you need (Linux, Mac, Windows, but also
many others), like any other TeX flavour.

It works with both Unicode engines (LuaTeX and XeTeX, even though
ConTeXt's support for LuaTeX is much much more advanced nowadays). It
supports more scripts than just Latin script and can also
automatically compose characters for you even when some font of lower
quality is lacking those characters.

Its support for very different and very flexible styles is great and
very well integrated into the package. Support for multiple columns is
quite advanced and allows you to place pictures across multiple
columns and across multiple pages if needed.

It is of course completely free and opensources, no licences (that is
also true for nearly all TeX anyway). There are TeX user groups around
the globe (TUG in US, DANTE in Germary, as well as some others in
Poland, UK, France, Italy, Denmark, ... ConTeXt group as well) where
you can enrol as a member and support TeX development, but those are

Beginner manual is here:
along with a lot of other manuals. The only drawback is that there are
so many different document spread around that it's sometimes tricky to
figure out where to look unless you read them all.

You can also get face-to-face help at the meeting:
which is a great place to meet people, exchange ideas, learn about new
development, get your questions answered.

What I particularly like about ConTeXt is that:
- it is very actively developed
- it has a consistent user interface and no need to find a different
package for every feature you need in your document
- it has a very active mailing list and you can usually get your
questions answered very quickly
- new functionality is often added on user requests, sometimes within
a few hours
- it has a lot of amazing functionality with respect to new
technologies (like fonts) that not even the expensive commercial
products can offer
- built-in clean programming language (lua)
- ability to interface with external libraries (nearly built-in
support for reading from databases)

The only "drawback" of ConTeXt is that for historic reasons (ConTeXt
is younger) LaTeX has more users, so if a complete newbie seeks help
nearby (not online), it is slightly easier to find someone familiar
with LaTeX. But as soon as you have some specific needs like advanced
support for image placement and other trickery, the fact that your
neighbour has written a paper with LaTeX some time ago will usually
not help that much anyway.


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