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Last modified: July 15, 1998
SGML/XML: The LATEX3 Project

Description of the LaTeX3 Project

The following description of the LaTeX3 project has been provided by Frank Mittelbach and Chris A. Rowley, and is an extract from their 1997 article: "The LaTeX3 Project," TUGboat: The Communications of the TEX Users Group [Proceedings of the 1997 Annual Meeting] Volume 18, Number 3 (September 1997) 195-198. This description is provided to the readership of the SGML/XML Web Page in light of its potential relevance to the Extensible Markup Language (XML) and to SGML. See the full bibliographic entry for other details.

The LaTeX3 Project: Description

The strengths of the present version of LaTeX are as follows:

  • excellent standard of typesetting for text, technical formulas and tabular material;
  • separation of generic mark-up from visual formatting;
  • ease of use for authors;
  • portability of documents over a wide range of platforms;
  • adaptability to many languages;
  • widespread and free availability;
  • reliable support and maintenance by the LaTeX3 project team.

These will be preserved and in many cases greatly enhanced by the new version which is being developed to fulfill the following requirements.

[New syntax]

It will provide a syntax that allows highly automated translation from popular SGML DTDs into LaTeX document classes (these will be provided as standard with the new version).

The syntax of the new LaTeX user-interface will, for example, support the SGML concepts of `entity', `attribute' and `short reference' in such a way that these can be directly linked to the corresponding SGML features.


It will support hypertext links and other features required for on-line structured documents using, for example, HTML and XML.

[Style-designer interface]

It will provide a straightforward style-designer interface to support both the specification of a wide variety of typographic requirements and the linking of entities in the generic mark-up of a document to the desired formatting. These two parts of the design process will be clearly separated so that it is possible to specify different layouts for the same DTD.

The language and syntax of this interface will be as natural as possible for a typographic designer. As a result, this language could easily be interfaced to a visually-oriented, menu-driven specification system.

This interface will also support DSSSL specifications and style-sheet concepts such as those used with HTML and XML.

[User interface]

It will provide an enhanced user-interface that allows expression of the typesetting requirements from a large range of subject areas. Some examples are listed here.

  • The requirements of technical documentation (e.g., offset layout, change bars, etc).
  • The requirements of academic publishing in the humanities (critical text editions, etc).
  • The requirements of structural formulas in chemistry.
  • Advanced use of the mathematical-typesetting features of TeX.
  • The integration of graphical features, such as shading, within text.
  • the integration of hypertext and other links in on-line documents using systems such as HTML, XML and PDF.

Special care will be taken to ensure that this interface is extensible: this will be achieved by use of modular designs.

[Author interface]

It will provide a more robust author-interface. For example, artificial restrictions on the nesting of commands will be removed. Error handling will be improved by adding a more effective, interactive help system.


It will provide access to arbitrary fonts from any family (such as the PS and TrueType fonts) including a wide range of fonts for multi-lingual documents and the specialist glyphs required by documents in various technical and academic areas.

[Interface documentation]

The new interfaces will be documented in detail and the system will provide extensive catalogues of examples, carefully designed to make the learning time for new users (both designers and authors) as short as possible.

[Code documentation]

The code itself will be thoroughly documented and it will be designed on modular principles. Thus the system will be easy to maintain and to enhance.

The resulting new LaTeX will, like the present version, be usable with any standard TeX system (or whatever replaces it) and so will be freely available on a wide range of platforms.

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