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File:ConTeXt Unofficial Logo.svg
Original author(s) Mainly Hans Hagen and Pragma ADE
Developer(s) Mainly Hans Hagen, Taco Hoekwater[1], Aditya Mahahan
Stable release Mark IV / November 26, 2009; 335490072 ago[2][3][4]
Operating system Multiplatform (TeX)
Type Document markup language
License Program code under Creative Commons GNU General Public License and Documentation under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0[5]
Website ConTeXt Garden

ConTeXt is a document markup language and document preparation system based on the TeX typesetting system. It is designed with the same general-purpose aims as LaTeX of providing an easy to use interface to the high quality typesetting engine provided by TeX. However, while LaTeX insulates the writer from typographical details, ConTeXt takes a complementary approach by providing structured interfaces for handling typography, including extensive support for colors, backgrounds, hyperlinks, presentations, figure-text integration, and conditional compilation. It gives the user extensive control over formatting while making it easy to create new layouts and styles without learning the TeX macro language. ConTeXt’s unified design avoids the package clashes that can happen with LaTeX[6][7].

ConTeXt provides a multi-lingual user interface with support for markup in English, Dutch, German, French, and Italian and support for output in many languages including western European languages, eastern European languages, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. It also allows the user to use different TeX engines like pdfTeX, XeTeX, and LuaTeX without changing the user interface[7].

Unlike LaTeX, which uses the native picture graphics engine[8], ConTeXt has no native drawing engine, but integrates a superset of MetaPost called MetaFun[7] which allows the users to use the drawing abilities of MetaPost for page backgrounds and ornaments. Metafun can also be used with stand alone MetaPost. ConTeXt also supports the use of other external drawing engines, like PGF/TikZ[9] and PSTricks[10].

ConTeXt also provides a macro package for typesetting chemical structure diagrams with TeX called PPCHTeX[11], as many other modules[10][12][13]. This package can also be used with plain TeX and LaTeX.

ConTeXt was developed from 1990[citation needed] by Hans Hagen from PRAGMA Advanced Document Engineering (Pragma ADE), a Netherlands-based company.



ConTeXt is free software: the program code (i.e. anything not under the /doc subtree) is distributed under the GNU GPL; the documentation is provided under Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike license.

The ConTeXt official manual (2001) and ConTeXt official mini tutorial (1999) are documents copyrighted by Pragma, but there is a repository of the future new manual[14] released under the GNU Free Documentation License[15][16]. As of April 2009 there is an uptodate version of the Fonts and Typography chapters[17].


Mark IV (abbreviated MKIV) is the current version of ConTeXt. It's a development version and new features are being added constantly, but it's fully usable. There is also a frozen version called Mark II (abbreviated MKII) which is still maintained. The main difference between MKII and MKIV is that MKIV is based on the LuaTeX engine[18] and MKII is based on pdfTeX and XeTeX[19] (although it could be select the TeX engine used in ConTeXt[20]). There are some documents describing the necessity of this change[21] how the process is being carried out, and its benefits[22].

There are other minor differences between MKII and MKIV[23].

Apart from the new features of MKIV, the changes between the code of MKII and MKIV are not visible in the user interface (in syntax document level).

The oldest version of ConTeXt is Mark I in which all the low-level code is written in Dutch. It's unmaintained.

A bit of history

ConTeXt was created by Hans Hagen[24] and Ton Otten of Pragma ADE in the Netherlands[25] around 1991[26][27] due to the need for educational typesetting material.

Around 1996, Hans Hagen coined the name ConTeXt meaning "text with tex" (con-tex-t; "con" is a Latin preposition meaning "together with")[24]. Before 1996 ConTeXt was used only within Pragma ADE, but in 1996 it began to be adopted by a wider audience. The first users outside Pragma were Taco Hoekwater, Berend de Boer and Gilbert van den Dobbelsteen, and the first user outside the Netherlands was Tobias Burnus[24].

In July 2004, wiki page was created[26][28].

ConTeXt low-level code was originally written in Dutch. Around 2005, the ConTeXt developers began translating this to English resulting in the version known as MKII, which is now stable and frozen[citation needed].

In August 2007, Hans Hagen presented the MKIV version[27][29], and the first public beta was released later that year.[30].

During the ConTeXt User Meeting 2008, Mojca Miklavec presented[31] ConTeXt Minimals, a distribution of ConTeXt containing the latest binaries and intended to have a small memory footprint, thus demanding less bandwidth for updates.[32]. In August 2008, this distribution was registered like a project in launchpad web site.[33]

In June 2008, Patrick Gundlach wrote the first post[34] in ConTeXt blog.

In July 2009, ConTeXt started git repository[35].

Example of code

Making ConTeXt documents is simple: make a plain text file (typically with .tex extension) and compile with texexec (texexec [name of the file])[36]. The result of this process is a PDF file (ConTeXt also can generate DVI file). An example is shown below.

% This line is a commentari because % preceeds it.
% It specifies the format of head named 'title'
% Specifically the style of the font: sans serif
% + bold + big font.
    after={John Doe, the author\smallskip\currentdate\bigskip\endgroup}]
\ConTeXt{} is a document preparation system for the \TeX{} typesetting
program. It offers programmable desktop publishing features and extensive
facilities for automating most aspects of typesetting and desktop 
publishing, including numbering and cross-referencing (for example
to equation \in[eqn:famous-emc]), tables and figures, page layout,
bibliographies, and much more.
It was originally written around 1990 by Hans Hagen. It could be an
alternative or complement to \LaTeX.
With \ConTeXt{} we could write maths. Equations can be automatically numbered.
    E = mc^2
    m = \frac{m_0}{\sqrt{1-\frac{v^2}{c^2}}}

See also


  1. Dave Walden interview with Taco Hoekwater. TeX User Group 2006.
  2. Release notes of ConTeXt at ContextGarden
  3. List of releases of ConTeXt
  4. ConTeXt files in Supelec
  5. Readme First (license of ConTeXt code and documentation)
  6. FAQ of the UK TeX Archive
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "What is ConTeXt" page at ContextGarden
  8. Tobias Oetiker et al. "The not so short introduction to LaTeX 2e". p. 91
  9. PGF/TikZ official manual. Version 2.0. Section 9.1.3 "Using the ConTeXt Format". p. 88
  10. 10.0 10.1 List of ConTeXt modules at Contextgarden
  11. PPCHTeX Module for ConTeXt reference page at ConTeXtGarden
  12. List of ConTeXt modules (static page)
  13. List of ConTeXt modules in web server for downloading
  14. Repository of new reference manual
  15. License notice of new official manual
  16. Part of thread about context manual where Taco Hoekwater recognises that new manual is licensed under the GFDL and he should put license note on the current directory of manual
  17. Up-to-date chapters of manual: Fonts and Typography. April 2009.
  18. MKIV reference manual. (page 7)
  19. LuaTeX support page. In this page there is a comment that MKII is based on pdfTeX and XeTeX while MKIV is based on LuaTeX.
  20. TeX processors in ConTeXt
  21. Hans Hagen "ConTEXt MkIV: Going UTF". TUGboat, Volume 28 (2007), No. 3 — Proceedings of the 2007 Annual Meeting. p314-316 (pdf)
  22. Hans Hagen "MKII-MKIV". MAPS journal 34. p. 9-21 (pdf)
  23. MKIV differences at context wiki
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Dave Walden interview Hans Hagen. TeX User Group 2006.
  25. "Ask Nelly ..." PracTeX Journal. TeX User Group. 2005. Includes an example of ConTeXt document with source code.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Taco Hoekwater "A short History of $2^4$ parts". ConTeXt User Meeting 2007 (march 24)
  27. 27.0 27.1 Programme of the ConTeXt User Meeting 2007
  28. ConTeXtGarden 5th birthday on 24 July 2009
  29. Hans Hagen The Road to MKIV. ConTeXt User Meeting 2007.
  30. MKIV at ContextGarden
  31. ConTeXt User Meeting 2008 web page
  32. ConTeXt Minimals web page
  33. ConTeXt at
  34. First ConTeXt blog post
  35. Post of announce of git repository
  36. "TeXEXEC explained" manual. Pragma ADE.

External links

Official pages

Manuals and tutorials

Comparison between ConTeXt and LaTeX

es:ConTeXt fr:ConTeXt ja:ConTeXt pl:ConTeXt sl:ConTEXt vi:ConTeXt

Personal tools

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