I want to create PDF from a LaTeX .tex file. I know about these drivers:

  • latex; dvips; convert the .ps to .pdf (e.g. with ps2pdf14 using Ghostscript)
  • latex; dvipdfmx
  • latex; dvisvgm; convert the .svg to .pdf
  • pdflatex
  • lualatex
  • xelatex (uses xdvipdfmx under the hood)

Are there any other relevant drivers missing from the list above? I'm interested mostly in mainstream and general-purpose drivers in 2017.

Please note that in this question I'm not interested in comparing these drivers, there are many comparisons (e.g. Which flavor of latex to use? LuaTeX, XeLaTeX or LaTeX?) I know of. I'm interested the list of options only.

  • 3
    xelatex is really using xdvipdfmx to make pdf, it doesn't write pdf itself, Also there are other tex variants eg the Japanese variants ptex uptex that are often used with dvipdfmx, Historically there were lots of dvi drivers (see the options to the graphics package) but most are not used now. Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 13:18
  • As @DavidCarlisle says, we need to know if you mean 'now-ish' or something else!
    – Joseph Wright
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 13:27
  • 2
    you could also use latex4ht or texml to make an html file and print to pdf from your browser, is that in scope of possible answers? Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 13:29
  • 1
    ...or use dvipng and then assemble them in a bitmap-style PDF(not so silly if you want to avoid brute force copy'n'paste)... I fear there will be a lot of possible workflows.
    – Rmano
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 13:36
  • @Rmano I suspect that your use case (and David's) work with dvips-based specials.
    – Joseph Wright
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 14:58

1 Answer 1


For almost all LaTeX users, the driver detail should be unimportant as the detailed code is handled using higher-level interfaces which do not expose the differences. Perhaps the obvious exception is that PStricks is tied to PostScript-based workflows.

There have historically been a wide range of drivers. The LaTeX team currently provide the appropriate macro-based support for several of these, with files:

  • dvips.def
  • pdftex.def
  • luatex.def
  • xetex.def
  • dvipdfmx.def
  • dvisvgm.def

which map more-or-less to the obvious back-ends.

For expl3, the set up of the macro support covers the same back-ends but is set up slightly differently:

  • pdfmode: pdfTeX/LuaTeX in direct PDF output mode
  • dvipdfmx: Normally (u)p-TeX: DVI output converted directly to PDF
  • xdvipdfmx: Almost the same as dvipdfmx but tied to XeTeX
  • dvips: DVI output converted via PostScript
  • dvisvgm: DVI output converted to SVG

Whilst this is a small set but historical measures, it covers the bulk of the cases in use today.

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