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NRSI: Computers & Writing Systems


You are here: Rendering > Resources
Short URL: http://scripts.sil.org/xetex_linux

XeTeX for Linux

Jonathan Kew, 2006-08-22

Where to go for help

Note: SIL International no longer manages XeTeX development. Please refer to the following paragraphs to find excellent sources of help.

XeTeX Home  http://xetex.sourceforge.net/

For questions or discussion about installing or using XeTeX and related packages, please go to the  XeTeX mailing list hosted by the TeX Users Group, where experienced users and developers are likely to be able to help.

For bug reports about the XeTeX software itself, or specific feature requests (rather than general discussion), there is an  issue tracker hosted at SourceForge.

The comment form on this page is available for general comments about the software or the web pages themselves (yes, I know they need updating!), but please do not expect technical support through this channel. You are much more likely to get useful responses on the  mailing list.

Update — September 2013

The latest release of XeTeX is version 0.9999.3, which is included in  TeX Live 2013. XeTeX is a standard component of the complete  TeX Live distribution. This includes all major TeX-related programs and a huge range of additional fonts, macro packages, and utilities, with ready-to-use binaries for around 15 computer platforms including Mac OS X (PPC and x86), Windows, and various Linux and Unix-like systems on a range of CPU architectures.

The TeX Users Group hosts a  XeTeX mailing list where interested users are welcome to discuss bugs, workarounds, wishes, etc.; while no commitments can be made as to future development, all feedback is greatly appreciated.

Read Me First!

The XeTeX typesetting system is now available for Linux and other Unix-like systems. This provides the same Unicode and OpenType font support as the Mac OS X version (but not AAT font support).

XeTeX on Linux depends on an extended version of the DVIPDFMx driver by Shunsaku Hirata and Jin-Hwan Cho to generate PDF output. Special thanks to Jin-Hwan Cho for invaluable assistance in modifying this program to handle XeTeX's .xdv output.

April 8, 2008

The notes below refer to separate xetex and xdvipdfmx repositories; however, the xdvipdfmx code has now been incorporated into the trunk of the xetex repository, and a single build script compiles both programs.

February 28, 2007

XeTeX version 0.996 is included in  TeX Live 2007 and other distributions that are based on the same sources. With these distributions, no additional XeTeX installation is required.

While the recommended way to get XeTeX is to use a TL2007-based distribution (either TeX Live itself or a repackaged version for a specific distro), it is still possible to install the tool into older TeX systems.

Documentation and sample files

As yet, there is very little documentation for XeTeX. There is a package available from the XeTeX downloads page containing some notes on the XeTeX extensions to standard TeX, as well as a collection of sample/test files (mostly written in "plain" TeX syntax).

Currently, many of the sample files use fonts installed with Mac OS X, and so will not work unchanged on Linux systems where those fonts are not available, but changing the font declarations to use TrueType or OpenType fonts that are available to fontconfig (or to typical GUI applications) should allow them to run.

The main resource for answering questions, besides the XeTeX-Notes file and these web pages, is the  XeTeX mailing list at TUG, where users are invited to share experiences, problems, and solutions.

Installing XeTeX for Linux

To run XeTeX, you should first have the standard TeX system installed
(normally a texlive or older tetex package, or a similar name, depending on your Linux distro). Then it is necessary to install two additional packages: xetex,
the typesetting engine itself, and the xdvipdfmx output driver,
an extended version of DVIPDFMx that can handle XeTeX's .xdv output. These are currently distributed separately.

Packaged software for specific distros

A number of Linux distributions now offer packaged binary releases of xetex and xdvipdfmx, typically as one of the packages associated with TeX Live 2007. Because of the multitude of different configurations and versions that exist, we do not attempt to provide pre-built packages here.

Building from scratch

If no packaged version is available for your system, you can try building directly from the source tarballs:

To build, you will need the development packages for the fontconfig, freetype2, and libkpathsea libraries installed on your system; and the flex and bison tools should be available (in addition to standard build tools such as gcc, make, etc). For xdvipdfmx, the libpng library is also useful (otherwise PNG graphics will not be supported).


To build XeTeX, do not try the usual configure; make sequence, as this will not work properly with the current source tree.

There is a build-xetex shell script in the top-level directory that runs the appropriate configuration and build commands. This script works on Mac OS X and on at least some Linux distributions, and may provide a guide to building on other systems as well.
And rather than make install, there is an install-xetex script that tries to find your existing TeX installation and merge the xetex additions:

computer:~ jonathan$ tar zxf xetex-0.996.tar.gz
computer:~ jonathan$ cd xetex-0.996
computer:~/xetex-0.996 jonathan$ sh build-xetex
computer:~/xetex-0.996 jonathan$ sudo sh install-xetex

xdvipdfmx can be built and installed using configure; make; make install, though this may not default to installing in the same place as the packaged version (and therefore, you may need to take special care with updates in the future):

computer:~ jonathan$ tar zxf xdvipdfmx-0.4.tar.gz
computer:~ jonathan$ cd xdvipdfmx-0.4
computer:~/xdvipdfmx-0.4 jonathan$ sh configure
computer:~/xdvipdfmx-0.4 jonathan$ make
computer:~/xdvipdfmx-0.4 jonathan$ sudo make install

Additional configure options or environment settings may be needed if some of the required libraries are not found automatically.

Some old RPM and Debian packaging control files are included with the source for both XeTeX and xdvipdfmx, in case these are useful as a starting point for others wishing to package the software for other systems. The usual rpmbuild or dpkg-buildpackage commands (as appropriate for your distro) at the top-level source directory may work to create new packages. Note that the RPM and Debian packaging files may not be up to date with the current sources; they are merely a starting point.

Latest pre-release

For the very latest code, you can check out a "working copy" with a Subversion client from http://scripts.sil.org/svn-public/xetex/TRUNK. Note that xdvipdfmx is now included in the xetex repository; the build-xetex and install-xetex scripts there should provide both xetex itself and the output driver.

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