Wednesday, March 5, 2008

LaTeX’s new era started: XeTeX

My serious interest in LaTeX started in February 2008 when I realized that there is a Unicode-capable version of it at last, called XeTeX. Since I use primarily Windows, I immediately downloaded MiKTeX 2.7.2960 and installed it full with all possible packages to make sure I won’t need to install any additional stuff. The installation files took 625.5 MiB, the MiKTeX installation 1.1 GiB.

I started to learn with XeTeX right away, before knowing LaTeX. XeTeX source file differs from LaTeX practically just by few commands in the preamble for a more comfortable font selection (through the fontspec package) and in the document body by the respective font selection commands. Another difference is that XeTeX source is preferably encoded in UTF-16 or at least UTF-8 and when typesetting the document you run xelatex instead of pdflatex. Hence the URL of this blog: http://xelatex.blogspot.com. (Actually it is because xetex.blogspot.com was already taken by some inactive dude.) ;-)

After a week of reading and experimenting with XeTeX I took a LaTeX Beginner’s course at the University of Leipzig and learned some useful startup suff about LaTeX and also the troubles with encoding and fonts LaTeXers have to face, which are a piece of cake and joy for XeTeX.

More and more I feel that the native Unicode support of XeTeX (at least fot the Basic Multilingual Plane) and its comfortable access to system’s OTF/TTF fonts is a real breakthrough. Many more scientists in the world can use it and need not to stick with MS Word which is until now pretty much the only wide-spread typesetting word-processing software to support Unicode.

The actual XeTeX homepage is at SIL, but a very nice presentation of its features (which I hereby recommend to everybody) is found at CSTUG. (There is also a video recording of the whole XeTeX presentation by its developer Jonathan Kew. - Which imo is not worth watching.)

I plan to write my dissertation in XeTeX so there will be a lot of practical stuff to deal with. My field of study is Linguistics, so Linguists which certainly will switch to XeTeX en mass will find valuable information here.

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LATEX certainly is a great program. but it's complicated as hell knows what. no one has a guide on it?

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