I have a bunch of one-line LaTeX strings which I would like to compile into unicode strings (preferably using Python, but any solution will do). Specifically achieve

in: '\"o{A}c'
out: 'öAc'

(I realize there is latexcodec, but it I found it unreliable so I'm looking for an alternative approach.)

I figure the only reliable way to do so is to fall back to a system LaTeX compiler, specifically

  • to compile the string into a PDF, and
  • to read the output from the PDF file.

Is there a more streamlined approach to this? For example: Is is possible to compile LaTeX into a unicode string in memory rather than a PDF?

  • 1
    Can you add an example of what you mean by “compiling into unicode strings”? What's the input and the expected output?
    – egreg
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 11:29
  • 1
    biber can do this for you.
    – Johannes_B
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 11:42
  • Questions about Python are off topic here. However, stripping off braces shouldn't be difficult, while decoding from LICR to Unicode can be done by looking at the <enc>enc.dfu files, for instance t1enc.dfu.
    – egreg
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 11:50
  • I don't really care so much about Python, if there is any solution I'll see how I can adapt it to my use case. Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 11:59
  • 1
    i can give you a small latex example, if you want.
    – Johannes_B
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 17:36

1 Answer 1


Pandoc does a decent job for not too complicated documents. Try

echo "\\\"o{A}c" | pandoc -f latex -t plain

or, in Python,

def latex_to_unicode(latex_string):
    '''Convert a LaTeX string to unicode.
    # Use pandoc for the job
        # This works in Python 3.4+
        return subprocess.check_output(
            ['pandoc', '-f', 'latex', '-t', 'plain'],
    except TypeError:  # unexpected keyword 'input'
        p = subprocess.Popen(
            ['pandoc', '-f', 'latex', '-t', 'plain'],
        stdout, stderr = p.communicate(latex_string)
        return stdout.replace('\n', ' ').strip().decode('utf-8')

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