I manage style files for an academic journal. A typical article will contain authors' email addresses, which we attempt to obfuscate in order to give some measure of protection against e-mail harvesters.

Our current strategy: We replace the @ and . in e-mail addresses with bitmapped images of these symbols. (Specifically, we define new commands \imageat and \imagedot which print .pdf images of their respective characters; then an email address like [email protected] is typeset as me{\imageat}place{\imagedot}com.) This has some problems:

  1. The images don't reflect the font or size of the surrounding text.
  2. With this solution, our LaTeX distribution must include the .pdf of these images, which can lead to errors and confusion.

What I would like: I would like (you to tell me how) to define two commands \crazyat and \crazydot which have the effect of typesetting @ and . in the current typeface, but appear as non-standard characters in the generated .pdf file. Specifically, I would like to temporarily populate a little used part of the current font with the @ and . so that they appear correctly, but make no sense to anyone else. (Other suggestions very welcome.)

A few notes about other postings on this (and closely related topics):

  1. I am aware of the AccSup package. It seems very appealing, but only Adobe Acrobat seems to play along. Specifically, the LaTeX line My email address is \BeginAccSupp{ActualText={email address}}[email protected]\EndAccSupp{} produces output that copies and pastes (in)correctly with Adobe Acrobat (giving the intended behavior) but misbehaves (so that copy/paste gives the e-mail address) on other .pdf readers. Anyway, I guess this will not fool an e-mail harvester. (See What can cause generated PDF document whose text are not correctly copyable?.)
  2. I do not want to, e.g., simply replace the @ symbol with the text [AT]. I am dead set on this symbol actually appearing correctly in the .pdf document. (See How to redefine @ and . to obfuscate email addresses?.)
  3. There seems to be a way to blow away the "cmap," which I do not understand. However, I would only like to be "locally" destructive--I would like the rest of the document to be well-formed. (See Is it possible to produce a PDF with un-copyable text?.)
  • 2
    What do you think about drawing @ with few commands using Tikz, for example. Then you can use it any time. Also you can put it on a box such that it would be possible to resize it together the text.
    – Sigur
    Jan 24, 2013 at 1:19
  • 6
    My favorite obfuscation: [email protected] – to e-mail me, remove my pants. From a related question on Super User, but with a focus on HTML/web sites: Does e-mail address obfuscation actually work?
    – doncherry
    Jan 24, 2013 at 2:12
  • @Sigur Hm, well, there’s the PGF/TikZ library shapes.letters at launchpad:tex-sx that transforms letters into shapes. I have never tested the library but my guess would be that the actual text representation is lost in the final output. Jan 24, 2013 at 2:20
  • I don't exactly see the problem with having the @ and the . as vector (not bitmap, please) PDFs alongside your LaTeX source. You have to do the same with your images anyway, don't you? In any case, you can adapt the size of the symbols automatically by using something along the lines of \includegraphics[width=1em]{atsign} as your \crazyat macro.
    – Christian
    Jan 24, 2013 at 2:49
  • 1
    Consider randtext.
    – Werner
    Jan 24, 2013 at 2:59

2 Answers 2


To provide PDF files containing the dot and the at in the right font, put this in at.tex


and likewise this in dot.tex


Edit: This solution was actually wrong as I first wrote it. I assumed you can just use the generated PDFs as a neutral vector graphic. You can't; the mail addresses are still easily copy-and-pasted. You can, however, use some software like inkscape to convert the text to a "real" vector graphic and save it as a PDF again. You can then proceed as before. [End of Edit]

\noindent [email protected]\\
\Large [email protected]\\

Which looks good to my eye:

comparison between obfuscated and normal mail address

  • It looks like the link to inkscape is missing the i.
    – acr
    Jan 24, 2013 at 12:33
  • Thanks for working this up. Is there a principled way to ensure that I place, for example, the @ character at exactly the right height?
    – acr
    Jan 24, 2013 at 12:43
  • @acr I cannot think of an automatic way to determine the width in em. As you can see, using the font size-dependent unit em ensures that the whole thing scales well once you figured out the right number (works less well with fonts like Computer Modern that look different at different sizes). You could use gimp to produce arbitrary-sized renderings and then overlay the two lines with 50% transparency.
    – Christian
    Jan 24, 2013 at 13:17
  • 3
    \includegraphics[height=\fontcharwidth\font`A]{at} should make the height equal to that of an A. Similarly for the period: height=\fontcharheight\font`.
    – egreg
    Jan 24, 2013 at 13:17
  • 1
    The right names are \fontcharwd and \fontcharht, sorry for the typos.
    – egreg
    Aug 23, 2022 at 16:18

The letters can be exported in the font editor FontForge as SVG graphics. Then, the paths descriptions in the SVG files (attribute d in element path) can be used to fill the path in TikZ.


  \tikz[baseline=0pt, x=1pt, y=1pt, scale=1em/1000]\fill
    svg {
      M588 457v-241c0 -15 0 -66 35 -66c66 0 73 90 73 182c0 241 -171 351 -308
      351c-164 0 -307 -145 -307 -336c0 -179 130 -336 312 -336c94 0 187 24
      272 64c5 3 7 3 23 3h9c16 0 23 0 23 -10c0 -16 -120 -51 -146 -57c-64 -15
      -128 -22 -180 -22 c-200 0 -338 170 -338 358c0 199 150 358 333 358c161
      0 332 -133 332 -367c0 -107 -14 -210 -102 -210c-38 0 -90 19 -100 71c-30
      -42 -78 -71 -132 -71c-103 0 -198 93 -198 219s95 219 198 219c39 0 91
      -14 137 -77c6 -7 7 -8 23 -8h17c23 0 24 -1 24 -24zM519 262v170 c0 18 0
      21 -13 40c-36 56 -84 72 -116 72c-73 0 -132 -86 -132 -197s60 -197 132
      -197c20 0 71 6 115 69c14 21 14 25 14 43z
    (current bounding box.west) ++(-56, 0) % left side bearing
    (current bounding box.east) ++(56, 0) % right side bearing

  \tikz[baseline=0pt, x=1pt, y=1pt, scale=1em/1000]\fill
    svg {
      M192 53c0 -29 -24 -53 -53 -53s-53 24 -53 53s24 53 53 53s53 -24 53 -53z
    (current bounding box.west) ++(-86, 0) % left side bearing
    (current bounding box.east) ++(85, 0) % right side bearing

  [email protected]

  john\svgperiod doe\svgat example\svgperiod org

  {\Large john\svgperiod doe\svgat example\svgperiod org}

  {\scriptsize john\svgperiod doe\svgat example\svgperiod org}


Copy does not see the letters drawn by TikZ. The selected email addresses in evince:



  • The SVG paths are taken from font file "cmr10.pfb".

  • If TeX switches fonts in different font sizes, here "cmr12.pfb" for \Large and cmr5.pfb for \scriptsize, then different macros could be defined to get the perfect glyphs for the size. But for this purpose, a scaled normal size version should do. The scaling is done automatically, because option scale depends on the current size of unit em.

  • Library svg.paths uses 1pt as unit, therefore the TikZ glyphs are scaled to the correct size by scale. The font uses 1000 glyph units for 1em. The TFM file for cmr10 keeps the width of 1em: QUAD R 1.000003 (small rounding glitch). Therefore, the scale factor is 1em/1000.

  • The values for the side bearings are taken from the glyph views in FontForge.

  • Of course, the letter obfuscating can be circumvented by using OCR.


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