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I was wondering, what is the difference between LaTeX, LaTeX2e and LaTeX3. Are the 2 higher versions available for use? I use LaTeX. How can I use the other 2 on Windows 7?

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up vote 48 down vote accepted

LaTeX2e is the latest stable release of LaTeX. When people say LaTeX they usually mean LaTeX2e, not an earlier version.

LaTeX3 is a massive refactoring of the LaTeX2e code base, which is currently in development. Some of the developers are frequent contributors here and will probably chime in.

The difference to end users between LaTeX2e and LaTeX3 will be many more functionalities included "out of the box" rather than requiring packages.

The programmer's interface to LaTeX3 for class and package writers will include lots of enhancements like built-in data structures and methods to control expansion without so many \expandafters. Some current packages use the expl3 package already to implement their features.

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LaTeX2e has been the current version since 1994. Every current TeX distribution supports it. LaTeX, I guess you mean LaTeX 2.09, is outdated.

LaTeX3 is a version in development, have a look at

With Windows 7 you can use MiKTeX or TeX Live.

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LaTeX is a synonym for LaTeX2e, which itself is the successor of LaTeX 2.09. LaTeX3 has been in development for nearly 20 years and shall be the successor of LaTeX2e. The main basic packages for LaTeX3 can be used but are still in an experimental state. I suppose that a lot of LaTeX (which is actually LaTeX2e) users will be retired if LaTeX3 should ever be officially released ... ;-)

All TeX distributions support LaTeX2e which is, of course, not a program but a macro package. The program is tex, pdftex, luatex, or xetex. They use the macro package latex.ltx when called as latex, pdflatex, lualatex, or xelatex.

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I'm tempted to downvote that for "users will be retired" ;-)... It's not very nice. – Bruno Le Floch Mar 15 '11 at 19:23
@Bruno: Probably true, though :-) – Joseph Wright Mar 15 '11 at 20:01
Can anyone say Gnu Hurd? (the OS kernel that never was... in development since 1990. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Hurd .) xkcd.com/844 --> "You can either hang out in the Android Loop or the HURD loop." – Trevor Boyd Smith Jun 6 '11 at 0:38

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