I am new to TeX world, and I use pdfLatex very often.

But sometimes pdfLatex do not work. So I begin to wonder what the difference between all these tex commands.

Please give me some guiding information about all these command to make me stay away from confusion.

I will appreciate every comment or answer.



1 Answer 1


Basically, tex consumes plain Τεχ files, not LaΤεχ ones. And it generates DVI files, not PDFs. pdftex consumes Τεχ but generates PDFs. latex consumes LaΤεχ, but generates DVIs.

I do not know what do you mean by ‘all the others’. The one variation I use is XəΤεχ, which always generates PDFs; its xelatex command command, thus, consumes XəLaΤεχ files and generates PDFs.

  • 1
    Was editing out the schwa and the Greek characters really necessary, Mr. Wright? Honest question, if it is a rule, so be it, even if I think it quite unnecessary.
    – Leandro
    Jul 24, 2013 at 20:40
  • Thanks, but what do you mean by TeX files, LaTeX files, XeLaTeX files ...? I think the have the same file extension .tex. Do they have different styles? If so, how can I decide which is which style?
    – eccstartup
    Jul 25, 2013 at 0:38
  • @lfd: Using plain ASCII makes things more searchable.
    – Werner
    Jul 25, 2013 at 7:16
  • It is not a matter of style, but content. The extension is just a convention; what matters is which commands are inside. Just compare samples, or grab basic documents such as Not so short introduction to LaTeX and any XeLaTeX one, and the differences should be obvious. But to put it in a few words, TeX is the typesetting language; it being Turing complete, LaTeX is a set of macros enabling one to do semantic markup and profit from stylesheets; and XeLaTeX is an elaboration of LaTeX allowing easy use of Unicode, modern fonts &c.
    – Leandro
    Jul 25, 2013 at 11:41

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