[OS X TeX] xetex, latex, and plain tex

Bruno Voisin bvoisin at mac.com
Fri Dec 10 11:01:24 EST 2004

Le 10 déc. 04, à 16:19, Frederick Hoyt a écrit :

> I am in a bind in that there are features of each of xetex and latex 
> that I would like to use but which do not seem to be compatible with 
> each other. Xetex offers the ability to typeset using a variety of ttf 
> fonts (arabic in particular), while latex has commands for margin 
> notes. Since both xetex and latex are based on "plain" tex, I am 
> wondering if working in plain tex would allow me to have my cake and 
> eat it too.
> [...] However, the professor also wants to have left- and right-hand 
> margin notes containing glosses for words in the text. These notes 
> need to align properly with the line containing the word being 
> glossed. This is possible in latex using the \marginpar command, but 
> as far as I can tell this is not possible in Xetex.
> So, can someone tell if there are (non-latex) plain tex commands for 
> margin notes that would work in xetex? Or alternately, is there a way 
> to embed the way xetex uses fonts inside a latex document?

I don't see any reason why marginal notes would not be possible in 
XeTeX. I think you're making a confusion between typesetting engine and 

- TeX and XeTeX are two engines, executable programs that take as input 
a .tex file and produce as output a .dvi file for TeX and a .xdv file 
for XeTeX. pdfTeX is a third separate engine, taking a .tex file as 
input and producing a .pdf file as output.

- LaTeX is a format, a collection of precompiled macros added to those 
built-in in TeX itself. TeX actually comes with a bare-bones format 
called plain, and because of this people often use the name TeX for 
this format. (Writing this I realize you mention plain TeX in your 
message, so you probably know all this already.)

There is thus no incompatibility between standard LaTeX and XeTeX, in 
the same way as there is no incompatibility between standard LaTeX and 
pdfTeX. Hence you have LaTeX, pdfLaTeX and XeLaTeX which are the TeX, 
pdfTeX and XeTeX engines preloading the LaTeX format, and TeX, pdfTeX 
and XeTeX which are the TeX, pdfTeX and XeTeX engines preloading the 
plain format. (Yes, this is confusing indeed.)

Now, this applies to standard LaTeX only. Many additional LaTeX 
packages rely on specific features of a given engine to work properly. 
For example:

- pstricks.sty rely on the TeX engine to produce a .dvi file, followed 
by dvips to produce a .ps file.

- microtype.sty rely on the pdfTeX engine.

- Will Robertson's fontspec.sty rely on the XeTeX engine.

But since marginal notes are a feature of standard LaTeX, these should 
not cause any difficulty with XeTeX, AFAIK.

Hope this helps,

Bruno Voisin
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