I'm starting a new writing project and want to use LaTeX, and need to decide on whether to go with luatex or pdftex for the engine. A few of my considerations:

  • Personal project -- no limitations and no constraints
  • Mostly English, with sporadic, small amount of other languages like CJK
  • Using fonts from the OS is not important to me
  • It seems antiquated to have to deal with font and input encodings and other "old"-isms with pdftex, but ...
  • While I like new and shiny when possible, I like stability more
  • What is important is being able to compile the project as is years later

LuaTeX hit 1.0 a while back but pdftex is still the default in distributions I've encountered. Should I go with luatex at this point or stick with the venerable pdftex? What are other important considerations?

  • 1
    I'd recommend LuaTex unless long compilation times bother you. LuaLaTeX takes a bit longer to compile (although for long project, so will pdfTex). Even if you only use LaTeX fonts and not system fonts, the fontspec package gives you better font control than regular font commands.
    – johnymm
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 14:28

1 Answer 1


I have been using LuaTeX for a few years now and only once did I encounter a problem that had to do with the LuaTeX-compiler. And this problem was related to some system-calls trying to execute another program during LaTeX-compilation - so not sure if this really counts.

With LuaTeX you'll get longer compilation times but a lot more freedom in what you can tweak to your likings. I encountered quite a few situations in which something I wanted simply was impossible with pdftex but it could be easily done in LuaTeX since it exposes the compiler-internals at runtime.

Plus the fact that LuaTeX uses Unicode and therefore normally doesn't have problems with special characters.

Thus from my point of view LuaTeX is definitely the way to go. Besides: If you don't use the extra capabilities LuaTeX provides, there's nothing stopping you from switching to another compiler at some point. They all produce the (almost) same output for the basic TeX functionality (afaik anyways).

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