What's the difference between different LaTeX versions like TeX Live, KaTex Mac TeX etc? There are so many of them but I don't really see a difference.


2 Answers 2


TeX Live is an official distribution of essentially the entire TeX/LaTeX ecosystem, including all the processing engines and appropriately available LaTeX packages. TeX Live is available for multiple platforms.

MacTeX is the same as TeX Live but is specifically designed to be installed on Mac computers. It also contains several Mac GUI apps (e.g. TeXShop) for editing documents. These GUI apps are entirely optional and are available separately.

KaTeX is not LaTeX at all. It is a mathematical typesetting library designed for use on websites. It, like MathJax, uses a LaTeX-like syntax for its commands and produces output that looks very much like that of LaTeX, but neither KaTeX nor MathJax are actual LaTeX. Neither can make use of external packages. Questions about KaTeX and MathJax are usually off topic here since they do not rely on TeX or LaTeX.

I can elaborate further if desired.

  • Thanks! 😁 That helped. Im not gonna lie its still kinda confusing mainly because Im trying to relate how the -Tex ecosystem works to other stuff I know like Linux, Programming languages etc. Is there like an over Tex-like language or guide or something and then all of those distributions implement it? How does that work?
    – John
    Jun 18, 2022 at 21:05
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    @John texlive and mikx arpackag.distribuion mechansms so play a role similar to linux disrubutions. the landscape of linux distribuions is vastly more complex with debian and fedora and ubuntu and... but just as with texlive/miktex, for most people most of the time, it makes no difference which you have, Jun 18, 2022 at 21:56
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    @John To simplify: LaTeX is a programming language and the interpreter (or compiler) for that language (built on lower-level TeX language); texlive distributes the interpreter and the equivalent of a standard library for the LaTeX programming language. Similar to Python (both language and interpreter) and its distribution (e.g., via python.org, includes both the interpreter and a standard library). But since LaTeX is so extensible, TeXLive includes much more than most people ever use, sort of like downloading all of hackage.haskell.org (for Haskell). Jun 18, 2022 at 21:58

TeX live isn't "LaTeX verison", it is a TeX distribution. It includes TeX interpreter (in various modifications: pdfTeX, XeTeX, LuaTeX) and additional software: macros, fonts, drivers, additional tools. One of such additional software is LaTeX: a set of macros used by TeX interpreters. TeX is able to read macros. When a TeX interpreter reads a set of LaTeX macros then somebody calls it as LaTeX interpreter. But there are various different sets of macros for TeX: plain TeX, OpTeX, ConTeXt. There is no only LaTeX. All this software is part of the TeX live distribution.

MacTeX is another TeX distribution.

KaTeX and MathJax have no common with TeX, they only use TeX-like syntax for math formulas in html language.

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