Does the OpenType font format provide support for extensible arrows (as in \xrightarrow)? If so, is it true that it would be unicode-math's job to make this functionality available in TeX?

This functionality, besides being useful in itself, could possibly have the following interesting by-product. If fonts made the tips and tails of various arrows available as separate glyphs, then drawing programs (including TikZ, despite its claim to not be one such) would be able to use them to create graphics with arrows matching those in the document's main font. (My particular interest is to create commutative diagrams, which are really just like any mathematical formula, and should look like so, but often require a general purpose drawing package to be drawn.)

For things to work fully automatically, drawing programs would also need to have access to some parameters, such as the line width of arrow stems. Does OpenType accommodate this?

1 Answer 1


To answer your first question, yes, OpenType fonts can have horizontally extensible glyphs including arrows, but right now XeTeX does not have proper primitives to use such arrows so they can only be used with LuaTeX right now. This functionality (and other OpenType math features) is planned for XeTeX in TeXLive 2013.

As for the other question, I don’t think this is possible. There is no easy way for a macro package to know which glyph represents the head of the arrow, also the head is not always separate (most of time the base arrow is extended by adding an extensible part to it, and thus there is no separate head).

  • That sounds a little unfortunate... I am raising this issue here because I think it deserves to be solved eventually, and this seems to me to be the right place to do it. Currently one has to do this kind of thing which is pretty much like hand drawing symbols in a typewritten manuscript.
    – Augusto
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 15:34

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