# What have been the most important changes to LaTeX in the last five years? (2011–2016)

I spent the last two years out of the loop and came looking for information about the recent advances within the (La)TeX ecosystem, basically to see whether the issues I found frustrating enough to switch to other solutions whenever I could have been addressed, and I noticed this rather popular question that pretty much summed up what I wanted to ask you today.

Therefore, five years after the original question was asked and answered, what have been the most important changes to LaTeX (or rather TeX et al.) in the last five years?

I'm particularly interested in XeTeX and LuaTeX which are known for their great potential but also very slow development.

I hope you've been well! :)

• 18 upvotes and no comment/answer yet? Apr 10, 2016 at 10:14
• As I almost completely neglected LaTeX for about 5 years, wanted to ask the same question, but for years 2012-2017. :) Nov 19, 2017 at 22:11

For me the biggest change is Lua(TeX): the ability to separate TeX's building blocks (processing the input / building the node lists / output). That way you can for example build a product that uses TeX's linebreaking and hyphenation algorithm and its superb output, but without its troublesome input language.

With the minimal TeX file

\catcode\{=1
\catcode\}=2

\directlua{require("whatever")}

\end


You can jump into Lua mode and access TeX from the Lua-side without switching back to TeX. The Lua end is powerful enough to load fonts and images, input files, process the input, and have comlete control over the output. There is a very nice and large API to do everything can do on the \macro{} level.

• Are there any repositories or blog posts that demonstrate such usage? Apr 10, 2016 at 17:37
• @Leonid I don't want to do shameless self-promotion, but here you are: github.com/speedata/publisher is such a software based on LuaTeX. See also wiki.luatex.org/index.php/TeX_without_TeX for some background information. Apr 10, 2016 at 18:37
• This is indeed great if you have the content ready and just want to render the document, but for regular use I've alway been put off by its painfully slow execution, which is a shame because packages like impnattypo with the nosingleletter option make work much easier, so at least for me there's the annoyance of using double options (ifluatex/ifxetex), and then XeTeX for ‘prototyping’ and LuaTeX only for the final run. It's a shame there's nothing integrating all the best features of these two plus pdfTeX (I presume there are technical issues but perhaps it's time to refresh TeX itself). Apr 10, 2016 at 21:28
• Arguably that was already there in 2010. :-) Apr 10, 2016 at 22:01
• You are right, @MartinSchröder. Time is running so fast :) Apr 11, 2016 at 7:12

Be warned, this isn't an experts answer. It is an answer from an users perspective.

The whole ecosystem of LaTeX has improved a lot:

1. texlive comes with a package manager that really works (but I don't know exactly since which year). It is able to get specific packages from different repositories.
2. Inverse search and forward search work under Linux and Windows. Under Windows, SumatraPDF was improved a lot and around 2010 started to support SyncTeX as well. Under Linux and Emacs as an Editor you even can jump from a single letter in the PDF-Tools buffer to the letter in your source!
3. UTF-8 support in LaTeX as well as in the editors just worked.
4. Maybe someone can deliver more details, but I noticed a broad improvement with PDF. Errors with the colours in two column mode were corrected, no more errors with included, large PDFs and so on.
5. You can even get ebooks in epub format now, quite new packages.

LaTeX itself improved, have a look at the news at http://latex-project.org/ltnews/ . If we can conclude from the number of updates to the development, the LaTeX3 project is gaining momentum, see here as well: https://latex-project.org/l3news/ .

tikz and pstricks have seen many new versions. Some years back the package auto-pst-pdf made compiling pstricks pictures easier.

OK, and there were a gazillion of valuable improvements by new or updated packages. Let's take the margin column. S. Hicks came up with the marginfix package, which was superseded by the scrlayer-notecolumn package, written by M. Kohm. Now you can have marginnotes over pagebreaks.

There are many new fonts with pdftex support. Last week I discovered the gillius fonts, last autumn the imfellEnglish font. Never forget Linux Libertine...

I'm a user, unfortunately I'm still lacking programming skills. But from my point of view the improvement sum up to »works well«. A real new thing was the Emacs mode "org-mode", which got a new exporter to e.g. LaTeX.

A huge Thank you! to all the people who work to keep us happy with LaTeX \& Friends!

Tools like Pandoc.

Pandoc is able to convert Markdown to LaTeX.

I like LaTeX's output, but I'm not really fond of writing LaTeX files.

I guess more than 95% of the time Pandoc's Markdown is enough for me (esp. because it supports LaTeX math). In the end, the plain text input is much more readable than my former plain text LaTeX files.

• This is arguably not quite relevant but indeed a great tool, which brings me to knitr—a huge improvement over Sweave that allows integration with R and like they say, dynamic report generation. Apr 15, 2016 at 9:29

For me, the most important are the growth of biblatex, which allow to have flexible bibligoraphy, especially for the "humanities field". And make LateX now very useful for scholar in humanities.

For me it is the extension of LaTeX3 features and the l3kernel becoming more and more stable.

I am mentioning this 'features' here especially since those are the changes that I benefit most as of now.

Examples:

• Random number features in expl3
• \fp_eval:n and its version in the xfp package
• The widely improved \prop list features, especially the expandable \prop_item:Nn macro.

• that fixltx2e isn't necessary any longer.
• The wonderful package glossaries is mature now
• The equally wonderful package tcolorbox is a real swiss-knife by now