I'm trying to compile my own version of pdftex which works fine. However, I must compile my own format file (fmt) for that. This should be done with mktexfmt. My problem is that I don't know where to find the souce code for mktexfmt (for Linux).

Can anybody give me a hint where to find it?

OK, looks like I need a small crash course in the LaTeX architecture.

This is what I understand now:

  1. I don't need mktexfmt to create a format, I can use pdftex -ini -etex
  2. A format is necessary to teach pdftex to understand latex
  3. When I have "teached" pdftex how to understand latex I can parse latex files with pdftex and create pdf files from this

Is this correct?

If so, where do I get a .tex file to create a format? This ctan package looks good, but I cannot download it.

Sorry for beeing so dumb, but until now I only created nice pdfs with latex but I never got that deep into its architecture.

EDIT: I don't see the relevance of why I want to do this. But OK it's because I want to port PDFTeX to Javascript using emscripten. Does this help?

  • 3
    If you are compiling your own pdfTeX, then I'd imagine you are better off with the traditional approach of pdftex --ini <file>, maybe with * before the file name if you want the e-TeX extensions enabled. (You don't say which format you are after.) – Joseph Wright Jan 7 '13 at 13:18
  • Welcome to TeX.SX. – Claudio Fiandrino Jan 7 '13 at 13:28
  • I'm still not clear why you need to create your own format files, or to compile pdfTeX, both of which are pretty unusual tasks. – Joseph Wright Jan 7 '13 at 17:40
  • About the addition: you need quite a big part of a TeX distribution, if you want to use (La)TeX for serious work. So compiling it without the kpathsea library and without an accompanying TeX distribution does not make much sense. – egreg Jan 7 '13 at 22:23
  • Now I use this: Making TeX work, Chapter 4. Macro Packages. – user24103 Jan 7 '13 at 23:37

If the TeX code for the format is myformat.tex, then

pdftex -ini -etex -output-format=pdf myformat

will produce the file myformat.fmt that you can place anywhere the TeX programs would search for formats; for instance in


The options:

  • -ini means "be INITEX" (mandatory for building a format)
  • -etex means "enable the e-TeX extensions (recommended)
  • -output-format=pdf means "output will be PDF"
  • I would also recommend you to use the -enc (encTeX extension) argument, which allows you to enter your whole text as UTF-8 (with some configuration beforehand) – RD6137 Jan 7 '13 at 15:01

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