I'm trying to decide which set of macros/typesetting system to learn. I tried Latex2e for a while, but I was very disappointed that it didn't work nicely with Unicode and that in my tryout I had many classes of packages.

Now I'm trying ConTeXt, and so far I'm really liking its unified philosophy and how it uses parameters. The problem is, how I'm supposed to work with it (or even learn it) if the most recent documentation is more than 10 years old?? Is there another source of reference?

  • LaTeX can work nicely with Unicode, if you use the XeTeX or LuaTeX engine when compiling your document (and Biber+biblatex for bibliographies). Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 5:03
  • 4
    Which sources have you read? Most of the documentation is I think in the ConTeXt wiki.
    – Joseph Wright
    Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 7:05
  • @JosephWright, this is one of the sources. The wiki itself says the manual is "the complete, but never up-to-date manual" Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 18:11

3 Answers 3


The ConTeXt documentation is a bit scattered and part of it is outdated, that's absolutely true. A good point to start is the revised ConTeXt user manual and for the graphical part the MetaFun manual as well as the ConTeXt wiki. For a more in-depth view you can have a look at the various manuals on the Pragma ADE site. However, many of them are outdated, or at least contain outdated information.

When you start with ConTeXt I suggest to stick to the MkIV version (compile with “context” instead of “texexec”). It uses luatex internally and has thus no problems with unicode.

Another (the most important one?) very valuable source is the ConTeXt mailing list.

Also have a look at Where can I find good ConTeXt documentation.

  • I already had all of that gathered, I'm just not sure about where to start. The (in revision) manual has lots of warnings and placeholders about the revision process, but in general seems to be ok as documentation, but it is also very long for a first contact. As a starting point I thought about reading "Context an excursion", which is shorter, but is outdated by 13 years... and as such probably doesn't deal with MkIV. Should I skip that and delve right into the revised manual? Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 18:17
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    @LuizBorges Don't be scared of the warnings in the revised manual, it simply means that it's work in progress, the manual will never be finished. Except the font handling there is not so much difference between MkII and MkIV when it comes to the user interface. I would say 95% is the same. When you know that you have to use context instead of texexec to compile your documents it is also fine to start with the “ConTeXt excursion”, if you prefer a shorter version. If you then run into problems have a glance into the revised manual, the wiki, TeXexchange or the mailing list.
    – Marco
    Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 19:32

Your answer: ConTeXt's syntax has remained amazingly stable in these last 10 years. I learned ConTeXt using the same documentation you mention, and only discovered the age of the documentation after it had already taught me ConTeXt.

Jump in, don't be afraid; the manual might not mention all the newest features, but what is in there is practically all still valid.


First, don't bother with mkII unless you really, really have to. But I'm sure you don't. I would suggest such curriculum using what we got now:

  1. Learn how to install ConTeXt Standalone.
  2. Find out about fonts in luatex
  3. Structurals
  4. Using Graphics
  5. and experiment

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