What combination of TeX engine, format and packages can provide for arbitrary single page layout of precise regions of different attributes? Is this reasonably achievable?

Secondarily, if more than one combination exists, then what would be key objective merits of such combination to consider such as code complexity, rendering performance, etc.

Consider the example below, which can be generated with any number of non-TeX page layout programs.

enter image description here

Key example page layout features are:

  • page size specification. (e.g. 4"x6" card)
  • text flows within a region.
  • each text region placement has a fixed, non-floating specification (e.g. x, y, width, height).
  • text regions support unicode (UTF-8), different fonts, and color
  • image regions can also have a fixed placement specification.
  • each region can be independently rotated.
  • regions can overlap with or without front to back transparency (not shown).
  • layout has no predefined notion of "document content" structure.

Some of my observations so far, as a novice in this area, are:

  • The TeX ecosystem has a large (even overwhelming?) set of possible engine/layout/packages combinations to explore.
  • For engines, the XeLaTex/XeTeX engine supports UTF-8. Yet do any other TeX engines support UTF-8?
  • LaTeX has some promising relevant packages like geometry, rotating and xcolor. However, much of LaTeX is about a multipage documents with particulars like title, author, section, etc. So, maybe "Plain TeX" would be a more direct approach?

So, can "Plain TeX", LaTeX, or some other TeX format be used for single page layout of various precisely placed regions of different attributes?

While a working *.tex for the above example would be most excellent, all this question seeks is guidance for some TeX engine/layout/packages combination(s) that can provide the above single page layout features.

  • 1
    you can use any flavour of latex really, xelatex, lualatex, pdflatex, all will read utf-8 input, the choice of engine is probably mostly related to fonts, if you want opentype fonts and a wide character set then choose xtlatex or lualatex over pdflatex, otherwise pdflatex is fine, so basically teh same choide as in a normal article document. For the layout see for example tex.stackexchange.com/questions/213286/christmas-list-catalog/… although – David Carlisle Feb 15 at 9:41
  • @DavidCarlisle Interesting link. Regarding, the link's "LaTeX is so not designed for this kind of document" comment, might "Plain TeX" somehow be better aligned to a page layout task than LaTeX? – l --marc l Feb 15 at 9:54
  • 1
    no not really (plain tex isn't really designed for documents at all, it's just an example format for the texbook) tex in general as you commented is a lot about automatic line and page breaking which you don't want here, and while you can position anything absolutely by coordinate, there is an argument that that when designing that kind of poster it's a purely visual thing and if two images look misaligned due to their shape and colouring, you might want to just visually drag them until they look right rather than move them by numeric coordinates, which isn't a natural way for a designer – David Carlisle Feb 15 at 10:07
  • 1
    You can try ConTeXt or speedata publisher. Both provide nice mechanisms for laying out pages. – DG' Feb 15 at 10:09
  • Tikz nodes are essentially minipages, with build in features for background color and rotation. In overlay mode you can even ignore the margins and make everything relative to (current page). You might still want geometry to set the \paperwidth and \paperheight. – John Kormylo Feb 15 at 17:57

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