I have a 100-page document (my Ph.D. dissertation) that I created in the 1984-1985 time frame that I need to create a PDF from. I have not used TeX since about 1990 so my TeX knowledge is extremely rusty.

I installed MikTeX 2.9 on Win10 Pro 1909. I installed it for myself only as installing it for everyone fails at the very end, and the recommendation was to install it for a single user to get around that problem.

I need the AMSTeX fonts, as my 35 year old document uses those fonts (lots and lots of equations). From the MikTeX console, I was able to install the amstex package. But I am still unable to compile my document.

According to the instructions in this thread (How to configure the environment for AMS-tex?), I need to build an amstex format (not done by default). The instructions say to right-click on amstex in the Settings --> Formats tab, and select include. But even the screenshot provided shows no "Include". If I select Format properties, I get a pop-up for Format Definition, where there is a check box for "Exclude this format when updating all format files." The box is currently checked. If I uncheck the box and click Ok, I get an error that says "Built-in format definitions may not be changed."

So what I am supposed to do to include it? Running the console in Admin mode does not help since this is a single user installation (and the console shows nothing in admin mode).

I am able to "Build format" for amstex. But it only takes a second or two so I am not convinced anything got done, probably because amstex is excluded.

And I still cannot compile my document as it's looking for fonts that are not there.

Any help would be much appreciated. Please be specific since, as I mentioned above, my TeX knowledge is 30 years old.

Thanks in advance.

  • Have you tried the second answer in the linked Q&A? That does not require a format to be build and might be preferable in your case. Jan 20, 2020 at 15:00
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    you don't need to build an amstex format, if you are using amstex just use plain tex and put \input amstex at the top. Building a format would have saved you several minutes per run in 1995, now it is unlikely to save you a second. Jan 20, 2020 at 20:29
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    @David Carlisle I wrote my thesis using Plain TeX (and the AMS fonts), after reading the TeX book back then in 1984 to learn how to use TeX. No I did not use LaTeX. As I said above, adding \input amstex did not help (even with the file in my document directory) as the fonts are still missing.
    – Pierre
    Jan 21, 2020 at 20:19
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    Oh you made my day. My guess was right (missing am fonts) and @egreg's was wrong:-) Jan 21, 2020 at 20:21
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    oh it's not in amstex.tex it's in your file (it would be better to put the log in your question not on google drive unless you promise to keep that link working forverer, as this question and answer will be kept) Jan 21, 2020 at 20:35

1 Answer 1


Your log shows

! Font \bi=ambi10 not loadable: Metric (TFM) file not found.
<to be read again> 

so your local file FORMAT.TEX has a line


you need to replace that by


and similarly replace any other reference to am fonts by cm equivalent which usually (always?) just means changing a to c.

The almost modern fonts were Knuth's prototype release of the computer modern fonts that have been the default fonts for TeX since the mid 1980s, the am fonts were essentially a test release and were not distributed after the computer modern design was finalised.

I presume you could in theory find them in a historic archive but you are for example using a later amstex.tex that has been updated to use cm, so updating FORMAT.TEX to match would be more consistent.

  • Ahhhhhh, that makes sense. Will the cm fonts look like the am fonts? Thanks David.
    – Pierre
    Jan 21, 2020 at 20:49
  • yes (well if you are a real typophile and stress about the exact shapes of some serifs or the thickness of some hairlines then no, but....) what may matter more is that inter-letter kerns were adjusted/fixed more for cm so the widths of words can vary slightly which over a long paragraph can lead to different line breaking but anyway if the intention is to make a modern pdf suitable for this century you want to use the cm fonts as the am fonts were never available as scalable font formats (as they hadn't been invented:-) Jan 21, 2020 at 20:52
  • ok great. So I changed all the references to am* to cm*. It found all fonts except one.kpathsea: Running mktextfm cmbi10 The command name is E:\w32TeX\texinstwin\bin\mktextfm kpathsea: Running mktexmf cmbi10.mf The command name is E:\w32TeX\texinstwin\bin\mktexmf name = cmbi10, rootname = cmbi, pointsize = 10 mktexmf: empty or non-existent rootfile! Cannot find cmbi10.mf. kpathsea: Appending font creation commands to missfont.log. ! Font \bi=cmbi10 not loadable: Metric (TFM) file not found. <to be read again> \font l.14 \font \bsy=cmbsy10
    – Pierre
    Jan 21, 2020 at 20:56
  • bold (text) italic would be cmbxti10 @Pierre Jan 21, 2020 at 21:01
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    thanks again. It is so exhilarating to see my dissertation as a PDF. Feels like going back to the future (in 1985). I had not compiled this document in over 30 years. What a thrill. And of course the computing power of today's PCs makes the whole thing a snap to compile.
    – Pierre
    Jan 21, 2020 at 22:48

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