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1.2 TeX etc. tools 

First of all TeX etc. has been around since the late seventies, and the users have contributed to the components and to the porting to all conceivable platforms, with the result that it is not easy to really survey the whole complex.

Going back to the roots we can say that TeX is a program for formatting documents, born as a twin with its sister Metafont, for creating fonts. TeX and Metafont have been designed to facilitate the high-quality computer-assisted production of books. A more modern way of talking is that TeX is a markup language with Metafont the accompanying tool for designing the needed graphics, starting with the fonts. In the mid-nineties John Hobby released his METAPOST in the public domain. METAPOST complies with the Metafont language and is aimed at creating pictures as PostScript files.

A nice survey of the most important components and files when working with TeX is supplied by the diagram in Figure 1.1, which illustrates the two main fields: font design and typesetting, with the relations between the components and files, all in one, and abstracting from details.  

Figure 1.1Overview of TeX & Metafont

That is

The important files are indicated by their extensions and are depicted within ovals. What holds for creating the .tex file holds also for the .mf file.

Working environments 

The needed tools are nowadays embedded in computer-assisted (scientific) working environments. At first sight this seems trivial, but it is really handy that the tools are integrated, also with non-formatting applications per se, such as email, database applications, spreadsheets, and the use of programming languages such as c or good old Fortran. A model of thinking is that, for example, a thesis is prepared and all the simulations and calculations are done as a side-step of the main work: publishing! That is document preparation, formatting, typesetting, and dissemination. The graphics-oriented PCs like Macintosh and Atari paved the way. Nowadays the MS-Dos, os/2, . . . PCs with their (graphics) window facilities allow this way of working too.


The products are usually accompanied by their installation documentation. Famous, and top class, are the ams installation guides for their formats and fonts. With the PD PC versions the idea is to supply turn-key scripts so that the installation goes automatically. When you have questions during installation or afterwards the `100 Frequently Asked Questions,' ukTUG Baskerville 4, 6, is handy.


The TeX and Metafont programs have been designed with flexibility, portability, and open-endedness in mind. Knuth envisioned that the two could be used a hundred years from now, just as we do today, with the same input and with the same or better results! In order to make this possible Knuth

Because of these goodies the user community could port the systems to all platforms, and add layers on top to adjust for users' wishes and demands. All-in-all one can say that the twins are portable in place and time, are powerful, useful, and will serve a lifetime.

The working environments suffer from a much shorter lifetime. Read: need continuous maintenance and that is something, especially in a volunteer-based world. It is always a matter of the right balance: how fast do I need to do the day-to-day work and how often do I wish to upgrade the working environment.

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