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What is the difference between miktex-*.exe and *.exe, where * is any one of bibtex, kpsewhich, luatex, makeindex, mf, mpost, omega, pdftex, tex, texlua, texluac, texworks, or xetex? These files are all in texmf\miktex\bin. In all of these cases, the two files have identical sizes and (almost) identical timestamps. Why do they seem to be duplicated?

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This can IMHO correctly only be answered by Christian Schenk, the MiKTeX developer. – Speravir Feb 8 '13 at 1:47
Almost forgotten: As far as I can tell, they also behave exactly, for example they print out the same version string. – Speravir Feb 8 '13 at 2:20
@Speravir Handily, he's answered :-) – Joseph Wright Feb 8 '13 at 9:30
up vote 13 down vote accepted

The miktex- prefix is preferred when MiKTeX specific command-line options are used, i.e., when it is necessary that the MiKTeX variant is executed. For example, if you have MiKTeX and another TeX distribution installed side by side, then

miktex-pdftex --include-directory=C:\MyTeXMF mydoc.tex

would work, even if the MiKTeX bin directory is searched after the other bin directory.

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Welcome to TeX.sx! – Joseph Wright Feb 8 '13 at 9:31
I’m glad as supposedly a lot other people that you joint TeX.SE! (On the other hand this is bad for me and some others, because from now on we’re not authorized anymore to answer MiKTeX questions.) ;-) – Speravir Feb 8 '13 at 20:37

In Unix there is the possibility for files (executable programs, in particular) to have several names (hard links), when a program is run it gets the name of the executable as the zeroth argument. This is (was?) (ab)used to write programs that behave differently depending on the name with which they are invoked. This is used in LaTeX to run the base typesetter (essentially the executable you are seeing) with different formats, so it behaves like latex, pdflatex, or whatever other format is available.

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Sorry, but this is not an answer to the question … The topic here is MiKTeX the most (I guess) widespread TeX distribution for Windows (though there is an experimental Linux version). – Speravir Feb 8 '13 at 1:45
@Speravir, that it is done this way in the C code on which all current TeX implementations are based, and said C code was created for Unix, the above is a reasonable guess... – vonbrand Feb 8 '13 at 2:07
OK, but on the other hand the question is not about latex vs. pdflatex but about e.g. miktex-pdftex.exe vs. pdftex.exe, that actually seem to be dupes. – Speravir Feb 8 '13 at 2:21

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