I know I am not alone in my frustration when converting my LaTeX documents for submission to publishers whose typesetters don't use LaTeX. For instance: maybe they only accept eps figures, which doesn't allow transparency; or maybe they end up retyping all the equations by hand anyhow.

My question: what software are the typesetters using, when it's not LaTeX? Are there any tips for avoiding the frustration of getting your stuff put through this software?

More generally: Does the non-LaTeX typesetting software have advantages, or are they just stuck in some proprietary stone age? I have seen it suggested that a better workflow would be to write in semantic XML (docbook) and use style sheets to convert to latex in producing e.g. pdf output.

I have two motives: understand the process, so as to make modern publishing less frustrating; and to see what the right way forward in the future is.

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    One thing to be aware of is that a lot of instructions to authors are very out-of-date, for example asking for TIFF images even though then then don't get used.
    – Joseph Wright
    Feb 20, 2013 at 19:00
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    I am afraid that this not really well suited for this site. The question, as is, cannot be answered in a constructive way, since every publisher is different, and no answer can comprise them all... :-/
    – yo'
    Feb 20, 2013 at 19:08
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    As @tohecz says, this looks like a poor fit for a Q&A site like us. If you look at the answer from Kaveh and then the comment there from tohecz, you'll see two equally-valid but very different views which depend on which publishers you consider. Things are varied, and there is probably no one good answer.
    – Joseph Wright
    Feb 20, 2013 at 19:22
  • tohecz, joseph-wright -- yep; the answer does depends on context (like with most "What is best way to..."). kaveh-barzagan has a piece of the picture; @tohecz thinks he's missing some. I've edited to clarify I'm asking about publishers (typesetters?) who don't use latex themselves.
    – petrelharp
    Feb 20, 2013 at 19:55
  • @tohecz, joseph, petrel: We could ask that answers don't make claims that can't be backed up with industry-wide data. Feb 20, 2013 at 21:16

1 Answer 1


I am in the typesetting, or composition business. So publishers are our clients. In the main, publishers themselves do not do anything with the files you send them. They pass them on to their suppliers. These days, most are in India (as is our production office) or other places with lower labour costs.

What you need to remember is that to a good approximation, all authors use Word. We all know the advantages of TeX, but the majority of authors have not heard of it. So... the typesetting industry has developed around Word. There are lots of plug-ins and tools to clean up text, structure it, etc, all in Word.

Then that Word file is fed into a typesetting program. Most of these are expensive, proprietary, and "professional". I would say the most common is PTC Arbortext Advanced Print Publisher, formerly and still better known as 3B2.

The typesetting industry is increasingly using InDesign too.

A few, like us, use TeX as their primary pagination engine. We go the opposite way. As soon as we get a Word file we convert to LaTeX and then start work. :-)

So, as most typesetters have a Word-centric workflow, with a lot of (very good) development work invested, when they get the odd TeX file they jam it into that workflow, by converting the TeX file into Word. Yes, I know. ;-)

That is some brief info. Happy to expand...

As to the ideal future route, our opinion is a truly automated XML first workflow, with TeX being the typesetting engine.

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    Sorry, this is not true in general. Many publishers outsource typesetting, many of them do not. Some use LaTeX with all what it brings and are very clear about it (almost all large scientific publishers: Elsevier, Springer, IEEE if they can be called "publishers" etc.) Some scientific publishers (Czech company Fragment for instance) don't use LaTeX at all. There are publishers that even ask you to provide a final PDF file if your book is not exactly what they want to do, and they only make it printer-ready and register it for ISBN etc.
    – yo'
    Feb 20, 2013 at 19:11
  • (We have River Valley here on tex.sx? Excellent!) The XML workflow on top of Tex is something Hans Hagen invested a lot of effort through Context, and which people like Taco and topskip have built on, which I guess is what you are referring to. Feb 20, 2013 at 21:12
  • We are not presently using Context which has great facilities. As almost all TeX users are using Latex, we have to have a Latex-centric workflow. We use TeX4ht to create xml, then xslt to create a second TeX file, to produce the final PDF. Feb 21, 2013 at 3:40
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    @tohecz, There are two items here: LaTeX or Word Outsource or not I am pretty sure the publishers you mentioned use suppliers who use the LaTeX files and not convert to Word. (We are one of the Latex suppliers for Elsevier.) But I am also pretty sure that all those outsource 100% of their typesetting, and not do that in house. They are big enough to be able to sustain suppliers with Latex based workflows, but a smaller publisher with say 20% Latex submissions probably will have to live with Latex files butchered into Word. ;-) Feb 21, 2013 at 11:09
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    In my experience, publishers don't take your LaTeX file and convert it. They just demand something in Word. (Although I have seen one take the PDF, which surprised me. No idea what they did with that, but they converted it somehow.)
    – cfr
    Aug 8, 2017 at 4:06

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