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Are there any technical reasons that have killed or will kill the DVI format as an output for TeX engines?

I know that the microtype package works better with pdflatex, but is there any technical reason for microtype not supporting DVI better?

Perhaps the main practical reason for not using DVI is that pictures and fonts reside outside the DVI file and so you need to distribute a package instead of a single document. Moreover, DVI viewers must then support the display of external pictures.

PDF of course bundles everything together, which is practical in that sense, but not practical if you want to extract the pictures etc. One could define a DVI bundle format (using zip for instance), but there is no interest and PDF is ubiquitous.

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    Where do you get the idea that TeX engines cannot output DVI? Both pdfTeX and LuaTeX can, while XeTeX uses an 'extended DVI' format (xdv) on the way to PDF (no viewer is available for xdv).
    – Joseph Wright
    Aug 28, 2013 at 15:23
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    People definitely still use DVI. The arXiv creates DVI, PS, and PDF files by default (a default that I consciously override, but still). Many, many people who learned to use TeX more than five years ago still use it out of habit, just like they still use {\bf bold text}. I think this question is like asking "Why is dial-up internet dead?": it's very much not, but it is obsolete.
    – Ryan Reich
    Aug 28, 2013 at 15:52
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    your point about separating the pictures is one of the best supporting dvi; if you want to check beforehand that a figure will actually reproduce on a press, having them separate is much simpler and more reliable. as one of my colleagues has observed, once a figure is embedded in a pdf file, all you have is hamburger. Aug 28, 2013 at 17:36
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    I've changed the title of the question and its main question. I mean this question to be a technical one about the technical features of DVI. I don't think this question is "primarily opinion-based".
    – lhf
    Aug 28, 2013 at 19:22

4 Answers 4

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DVI is still the primary output format for anyone using pstricks, an extended DVI format is the only output format from xetex as well as being the default (if not most common) output from pdftex, so I think the question in the title is based on a false premise.

What is true is that PDF has pretty much replaced DVI as a distribution format on the web (or before the web, on ftp and email). I think the main issue there is just the ubiquity of a viewer. If you use PDF output, or convert your DVI to PDF just about anyone with any sort of computer will already have a PDF viewer available. If you send someone a DVI file then if they are not already a TeX user they probably can neither read the file nor easily install a DVI viewer without installing an entire TeX distribution.

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  • I find it interesting that the point in your second paragraph is also applicable to PostScript: people did distribute documents in PS instead of DVI because of pictures and the (relative) ubiquity of PS viewers (Windows excepted).
    – lhf
    Aug 28, 2013 at 19:18
  • I've changed the title of the question to avoid the false premise. Thanks.
    – lhf
    Aug 28, 2013 at 19:20
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DVI is only mostly dead. I can think of one tool that still depends on it. The tex4ht program compiles TeX documents to DVI and converts to HTML from that.

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DVI is definitely dead. No one other than TeX users uses DVI. If you want to publish a document to be read by general public, you need some other format. At the moment, you might think of PDF, but in my opinion, PDF will die within several years. Software platform is moving towards the web, but embedding PDF viewers into HTML is horrible. On the other hand, you don't need extra plugin to render SVG on a browser, and it is easy to embed a SVG document in HTML. The only problem with SVG is that it does not handle multiple pages. As of now, you have to keep a document as a folder of SVG pages. But that is not a big problem. SVG will replace PDF.

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    dvi format is for a long time useful for conversion to other formats - tex4ht use it for conversion to html, dvisvgm can be used for conversion to svg etc. there exists possibility to pass information from LaTeX to converter with special commands, something which is not possible with conversion from pdf to other formats. also, regarding the future format, svg is really great for illustrations, but it has same limitations as pdf for documents - inability to reflow content is most important of them. future format is html and company (epub3), but at the moment, it is inferior to pdf(typography,
    – michal.h21
    Apr 30, 2014 at 16:01
  • charcters which aren't supported by unicode, math rendering, various diagrams included in text, which can be easily included in pdf, but you have to include them as images in html, with problems like baseline alignment, support for various dpi values etc.)
    – michal.h21
    Apr 30, 2014 at 16:03
  • PDF and SVG serve two completely different purposes. One of those can never replace the other.
    – jlh
    Mar 30, 2017 at 8:51
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I find the command latex file.tex instead of pdflatex very useful as latex is not fragile and creates dvi file even with many errors especially for beamer. Therefore, I find it very useful as a debugging step.

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