I noticed in this LaTeX configuration document a reference to something called "fsfTeX." Quote:

Since we have been prompted, despite our misgivings, to document how to do this by members of the League for Programming Freedom, it seems appropriate to describe here a possible modification of LaTeX to produce a system called fsfTeX.

The document goes on to talk about modifying the "LaTeX kernel." I haven't found much information about what fsfTeX was except an old Debian mailing list post talking about licensing.

What was fsfTeX and what sorts of modifications did it involve, and why?

  • 1
    Oh my god, the amount of discussion about LaTeX and Debian! (Link: July 2002, note it says "page 1 of 2". And it continues into August.) Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 17:55
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    @ShreevatsaR 1600 messages in one thread Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 18:11
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    @DavidCarlisle Whew. All I can say is that I'm grateful that people like you exist and deal with this. :-) Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 20:12
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    @ShreevatsaR I wrote an article about the history of LPPL that also covers the debian episode. It can be found at latex-project.org/publications/… Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 15:10
  • @FrankMittelbach That was interesting reading. (Maybe it can even be posted as another answer.) Thank you for everything! Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 17:19

1 Answer 1


This is from the latex configuration guide (texdoc cfgguide) which details how you may make modified or customised versions of latex (while not breaking the licence conditions).

That particular example is using a made up name for a customised format fsftex the name is arbitrary and does not correspond to any actual system. That section was though answering a request for how to do certain types of customisation from people connected to the FSF, hence the name. Note that the initial enquiry was not asking for any actual customisation or change, just checking (as part of a classification of freedom in free software) that certain types of customisation were possible. The example is just answering that question in the affirmative.

  • Ah, that makes perfect sense.
    – dunnl
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 17:36

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