In TeX Live 2014 man etex reads:

This version of e-TeX implements a number of optional extensions. In fact, many of these extensions conflict to a greater or lesser extent with the definition of e-TeX. When such extensions are enabled, the banner printed when e-TeX starts is changed to print e- TeXk instead of e-TeX.

I have some questions:

  1. etex never shows e-TeX or e-TeXk banners (only pdfTeX) - is the manual incorrect?
  2. Is there any pure e-TeX executable (not a symbolic link to pdftex) - at least the authors of e-TeX themselves use it, don't they?
  3. What should be configured so that the same extensions which are disabled for tex will be also disabled for etex (considering that we cannot use -progname)?
  • 2
    Why do you need a 'pure' e-TeX? pdfTeX with just the e-TeX format loaded is identical in functionality to a stand-alone version (at least if we assume you don't try to use any pdfTeX primitives). – Joseph Wright Jun 23 '15 at 9:33
  • In terms of the NTS themselves, I think that's just Peter Breitenlohner and presumably only he can say what he does! – Joseph Wright Jun 23 '15 at 9:35
  • @JosephWright I didn't mean it literally - I just wonder why it's not out there. Peter Breitenlohner does not take responsibility for pdfTeX, does he? – Igor Liferenko Jun 23 '15 at 9:39
  • BTW, texdoc etex doesn't seem to have any of that in: where are you getting the text from? – Joseph Wright Jun 23 '15 at 12:23
  • @JosephWright: man etex, i.e. texmf-dist/doc/man/man1/etex.1 – Martin Schröder Jun 24 '15 at 5:21

pdfTeX has been the standard engine for TeX Live (and MiKTeX) for some years. pdfTeX can be run without the extensions enabled as a (more-or-less) drop-in replacement for TeX90 or with the extensions enabled as a drop-in replacement for e-TeX. With a document that uses TeX90 and e-TeX primitives, pdfTeX will produce identical output to a 'real' etex binary (it passes the eTRIP tests). As such, there is no need for the extra effort of maintaining separate binaries (likely to be error prone). Note that tex does run Knuth's TeX and does not use the pdfTeX binary.

There are of course sources available for e-TeX alone (as a .ch file against tex.web) and with a suitable build set up this can be made into a binary. Peter Breitenlohner is active in working on TeX Live (see for example the change log for http://tug.org/svn/texlive/trunk/Build/source/texk/) and thus certainly is in a position to build etex as a stand-alone binary within the TeX Live architecture: only he can say whether he does that.

  • If it passes eTRIP, where does the BUGS section in the manual come from? (including "This version of e-TeX fails to trap arithmetic overflow..." part) Also, what about points 1) and 3)? I'll try to build etex myself. Someone can share a recipe? – Igor Liferenko Jun 23 '15 at 11:35
  • On point (1), in a current TL etex is just running pdftex in the correct set up so the banner is unsurprising. – Joseph Wright Jun 23 '15 at 12:20
  • On (3) I don't know what you mean: the extensions are disabled for tex (or rather with pdftex -ini or similar) but are enabled with pdftex -ini -etex or similar. I'm not sure what else you mean. – Joseph Wright Jun 23 '15 at 12:22

This is the recipe that works for TL packaged with Debian 8:

sudo apt-get install libkpathsea-dev
mkdir mydir && cd mydir
rsync -a --delete --exclude=.svn --exclude=Work tug.org::tldevsrc/Build/source/ .
mkdir Work && cd Work
../configure --disable-all-pkgs --enable-shared --with-system-kpathsea --disable-native-texlive-build
cd texk/web2c/
make etex
strip etex
cp etex /usr/local/bin/
<build new format>

As for point (3) in the question, add this to local texmf.cnf:

shell_escape.etex = f
parse_first_line.etex = f

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