TeX and LaTeX

General aspects

What is TeX/LaTeX and why do I need it?

TeX is a high quality typesetting system developed by Donald E. Knuth which is available for a wide variety of operating systems. LaTeX is a macro package originally developed by Leslie Lamport which makes life with TeX easier, in particular for complex typesetting tasks. The current version of LaTeX is referred to as LaTeX2e and offers e.g. improved font selection as compared to the long outdated LaTeX 2.09 which should no longer be used.

All typesetting tasks in PyX are ultimately handed over to TeX (which is the default) or LaTeX, so that PyX cannot do without it. On the other hand, the capabilities of TeX and LaTeX can be used for complex tasks where both graphics and typesetting are needed.

I don’t know anything about TeX and LaTeX. Where can I read something about it?

Take a look at CTAN (cf. What is CTAN?) where in CTAN:info you may be able to find some useful information. There exists for example “A Gentle Introduction to TeX” by M. Doob (CTAN:gentle/gentle.pdf) and “The Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX2e” (CTAN:info/lshort/english/lshort.pdf) by T. Oetiker et al. The latter has been translated into a variety of languages among them korean (which you will not be able to read unless you have appropriate fonts installed) and mongolian.

Of course, it is likely that these documents will go way beyond what you will need for generating graphics with PyX so you don’t have to read all of it (unless you want to use TeX or LaTeX for typesetting which can be highly recommended).

There exists also a number of FAQs on TeX at CTAN:help.

What is CTAN?

CTAN is the Comprehensive TeX Archive Network where you will find almost everything related to TeX and friends. The main CTAN server is www.ctan.org but there exists a large number of mirrors around the world. You can help to reduce the load on the main server by using mirror.ctan.org which will redirect you to a mirror nearby. A list of known mirrors is available at http://mirror.ctan.org/README.mirrors.

In this FAQ, CTAN: refers to the root of the CTAN tree, e.g. http://www.ctan.org/tex-archive/. The links to CTAN in this document point to the main server but you might consider using a server closer to you in order to reduce traffic load.

Is there support for ConTeXt?

No, and as far as I know there no plans to provide it in the near future. Given the close ties between ConTeXt and MetaPost, ConTeXt users probably prefer to stick with the latter anyway.

TeX and LaTeX commands useful for PyX

How do I get a specific symbol with TeX or LaTeX?

A list of mathematical symbols together with the appropriate command name can be found at CTAN:info/symbols/math/symbols.pdf. A comprehensive list containing almost 6000 symbols for use with LaTeX can be obtained from CTAN:info/symbols/comprehensive/symbols-a4.pdf. In some cases it might be necessary to install fonts or packages available from CTAN (cf. What is CTAN?).

TeX and LaTeX errors

Undefined control sequence \usepackage

The command \usepackage is specific to LaTeX. Since by default PyX uses TeX, you have to specify the correct mode:


Undefined control sequence \frac

The command \frac is only available in LaTeX. The equivalent to \frac{a}{b} in TeX is {a \over b}. As an alternative you may ask for the LaTeX mode as explained in Undefined control sequence \usepackage.

Missing $ inserted

You have specified TeX- or LaTeX-code which is only valid in math mode. Typical examples are greek symbols, sub- and superscripts or fractions.

On the PyX level, you can specify math mode for the whole string by using text.mathmode as in

c.text(0, 0, r"{\alpha}", text.mathmode)

Keep also in mind that the standard Python interpretation of the backslash as introducing escape sequences needs to be prevented.

On the TeX/LaTeX level you should enclose the commands requiring math mode in $‘s. As an example, $\alpha_i^j$ will produce a greek letter alpha with a subscript i and a superscript j. The dollar sign thus allows you to specify math mode also for substrings. There exist other ways to specify math mode in TeX and LaTeX which are particularly useful for more complex typesetting tasks. To learn more about it, you should consult the documentation I don’t know anything about TeX and LaTeX. Where can I read something about it?.

Why do environments like itemize or eqnarray seem not to work?

An itemize environment might result in a LaTeX error complaining about a missing \item or an eqnarray might lead to a LaTeX message missing \endgroup inserted even though the syntax appears to be correct. The TeXnical reason is that in PyX text is typeset in left-right mode (LR mode) which does not allow linebreaks to occur. There are two ways out.

If the text material should go in a box of given width, a parbox can be used like in the following example:

c = canvas.canvas()
w = 2
c.text(0, 0, r"\begin{itemize}\item a\item b\end{itemize}", [text.parbox(w)])

Occasionally, one would like to have the box in which the text appears to be as small as possible. Then the fancybox package developed by Timothy Van Zandt is useful which provides several environments like Bitemize and Beqnarray which can be processed in LR mode. The relevant part of the code could look like:

c = canvas.canvas()
c.text(0, 0, r"\begin{Bitemize}\item a\item b\end{Bitemize}")

Other environments provided by the fancybox package include Bcenter, Bflushleft, Bflushright, Benumerate, and Bdescription. For more details, the documentation of the package should be consulted.

Font shape OT1/xyz/m/n undefined

You have asked to use font xyz which is not available. Make sure that you have this font available in Type1 format, i.e. there should be a file xyz.pfb somewhere. If your TeX system is TDS compliant (TDS=TeX directory structure, cf. CTAN:tds/draft-standard/tds/tds.pdf) you should take a look at the subdirectories of $TEXMF/fonts/type1.

File is not available or not readable

Such an error message might already occur when running the example file hello.py included in the PyX distribution. Usually, the error occurs due to an overly restrictive umask setting applied when unpacking the tar.gz sources. This may render the file mentioned in the error message unreadable because the python distutil installation package doesn’t change the file permissions back to readable for everyone.

If the file exists, the problem can be solved by changing the permissions to allow read access.

No information for font cmr10 found in font mapping file

Such an error message can already be encountered by simply running the example file hello.py included in the PyX distribution. The likely reason is that the TeX system does not find the cmr fonts in Type1 format. PyX depends on these fonts as it does not work with the traditional pk fonts which are stored as bitmaps.

Therefore, the first thing to make sure is that the cmr Type1 fonts are installed. In some TeX installations, the command kpsewhich cmr10.pfb will return the appropriate path if the cmr fonts exist in the binary Type1 format (extension pfb) required by PyX. If the command does not work but the TeX system is TDS compliant (Font shape OT1/xyz/m/n undefined), a look should be taken at $TEXMF/fonts/type1/bluesky/cm where $TEXMF is the root of the texmf tree.

If the Type1 fonts do not exist on the system, they may be obtained from the CTAN (cf. What is CTAN?) at CTAN:fonts/cm/ps-type1/bluesky). See the README for information about who produced these fonts and why they are freely available.

If the Type1 fonts exist, the next step is to take a look at psfonts.map. There may be several files with this name on the system, so it is important to find out which one TeX is actually using. kpsewhich psfonts.map might give this information.

The most likely problem is that this file does not contain a line telling TeX what to do if it encounters a request for font cmr10, i.e. the following line may be missing

cmr10           CMR10           <cmr10.pfb

It is probable that the required lines (in practice, you do not just need cmr10) are found in a file named psfonts.cmz which resides in $TEXMF/dvips/bluesky.

One solution is to instruct PyX to read additional map files like psfonts.cmz or psfonts.amz. This can be achieved by modifying the appropriate pyxrc file which is either the systemwide /etc/pyxrc or .pyxrc in the user’s home directory. Here, the names of the map files to be read by PyX should be appended separated by whitespaces like in the following example:

fontmaps = psfonts.map psfonts.cmz psfonts.amz

The same effect can be achieved by inserting the following line into the PyX code:

text.set(fontmaps="psfonts.map psfonts.cmz psfonts.amz")

Note that the default map (psfonts.map) has to be specified explicitly.

An alternative approach consists in modifying the TeX installation by inserting the contents of the desired map files like psfonts.cmz into psfonts.map. Probably, psfonts.map recommends not to do this by hand. In this case the instructions given in the file should be followed. Otherwise, psfonts.cmz should be copied into psfonts.map while keeping a backup of the old psfonts.map just in case. After these changes, PyX most likely will be happy. When inserting psfonts.cmz into psfonts.map it may be a good idea to include psfonts.amz as well. psfonts.amz contains information about some more fonts which might be needed at some point. Making these changes to psfonts.map will imply that the TeX system will use the cmr fonts in Type1 format instead of pk format which is actually not a bad thing, in particular if latex / dvips / ps2pdf is used to generate PDF output. With fonts in pk format this will look ugly and using Type1 fonts solves this problem as well. When pdflatex is used to create PDF files, Type1 fonts will be used anyway.


I have Type1 fonts in pfa format. How do I obtain the corresponding pfb files needed by PyX?

I want to use a font other than computer modern roman

As long as you have a font in Type1 format available, this should be no problem (even though it may cost you some time to set up things properly).

In the simplest case, your LaTeX system contains everything needed. Including the following line into your code will probably work:


and give you Times as roman font.

If you own one of the more common commercial fonts, take a look at CTAN:fonts and its subdirectories as well as at the web page http://home.vr-web.de/was/fonts.html of Walter Schmidt. It is not unlikely that somebody has already done most of the work for you and created the files needed for the font to work properly with LaTeX. But remember: we are talking about commercial fonts here, so do not expect to find the fonts themselves for free.

If none of these cases applies, you should spend some time reading manuals about font installation, e.g. CTAN:macros/latex/doc/fntguide.pdf (of course, I do not expect font wizards to read the last few lines).

Can I use a TrueType font with PyX?

Not directly as PyX only knows how to handle Type1 fonts (although it is possible to get LaTeX to work with TrueType fonts). However, you may use ttf2pt1 (from ttf2pt1.sourceforge.net) to convert a TrueType font into a Type1 font which you then install in your TeX system (cf. I want to use a font other than computer modern roman). You will loose hinting information in the conversion process but this should not really matter on output devices with not too low resolution.