TeX is a typesetting system invented by Donald Knuth with the help of many others (including, but not restricted to, Scott Kim, Hermann Zapf, Matthew Carter, Kris Holmes, Charles Bigelow, etc.) It is used in a wide variety of projects, though to the new user it may seem dauntingly perverse, and unnecessarily complex.

Knuth has frozen the development of TeX, and every three years he reviews bugs. TeX is presently at version 3.14159, and metafont at 2.718. He will issue a finder's fee for every bug found in these computer programs. Upon Knuth's untimely death (whenever that will occur), TeX will be at version $\pi$, and metafont will be at version $e$, representing (respectively), the ratio of the circle's circumference to its diameter, and the base of the natural logarithms

As the development of TeX and metafont has stopped, a number of extensions to TeX have been proposed. eplain, etex, and elatex are modifications to the core of TeX which are written in the same language that TeX is written in, and (in most cases) process .tex source files identically to tex or latex respectively. Omega is another extension to the core of TeX, implementing unicode input and output

The language that TeX source files are written in should be distinguished from what the tex program (and other associated programs) do. Each entity on the page is a box and TeX arranges these boxes (with the use of a pretty clever line breaking algorithm) into pleasing patterns, ensuring that the text is neither too bunched up or too spread apart. Metafont's role is to draw the shapes of each character

There are a series of macro extensions to TeX, including (but not limited to -- see CTAN) LaTeX, Context, Lollipop, amongst others

you can use postscript fonts with TeX. the learning curve is awfully steep though

test = T = text

TeX /tekh/ n.

An extremely powerful macro-based text formatter written by Donald E. Knuth, very popular in the computer-science community (it is good enough to have displaced Unix troff, the other favored formatter, even at many Unix installations). TeX fans insist on the correct (guttural) pronunciation, and the correct spelling (all caps, squished together, with the E depressed below the baseline; the mixed-case `TeX' is considered an acceptable kluge on ASCII-only devices). Fans like to proliferate names from the word `TeX' -- such as TeXnician (TeX user), TeXhacker (TeX programmer), TeXmaster (competent TeX programmer), TeXhax, and TeXnique. See also CrApTeX.

Knuth began TeX because he had become annoyed at the declining quality of the typesetting in volumes I-III of his monumental "Art of Computer Programming" (see Knuth, also bible). In a manifestation of the typical hackish urge to solve the problem at hand once and for all, he began to design his own typesetting language. He thought he would finish it on his sabbatical in 1978; he was wrong by only about 8 years. The language was finally frozen around 1985, but volume IV of "The Art of Computer Programming" is not expected to appear until 2002. The impact and influence of TeX's design has been such that nobody minds this very much. Many grand hackish projects have started as a bit of toolsmithing on the way to something else; Knuth's diversion was simply on a grander scale than most.

TeX has also been a noteworthy example of free, shared, but high-quality software. Knuth offers a monetary awards to anyone who found and reported bugs dating from before the 1989 code freeze; as the years wore on and the few remaining bugs were fixed (and new ones even harder to find), the bribe went up. Though well-written, TeX is so large (and so full of cutting edge technique) that it is said to have unearthed at least one bug in every Pascal system it has been compiled with.

--Jargon File, autonoded by rescdsk.

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