Professional desktop publishing for minority complex scripts in Unicode: XeTeX and UltraXML

From: Sue and Maurice Bauhahn (
Date: Sat Aug 07 2004 - 10:00:06 CDT

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    Unfortunately minority complex scripts have fallen on hard times between
    professional typesetting applications by large corporations as they increase
    efficiency. Because these companies tend to produce cross-platform
    applications, they have chosen to largely ignore the intelligent font
    handling of the respective platforms
    (ATSUI/OpenType-Uniscribe/OpenType-Pango) and substitute their own
    proprietary solutions. So even if minority complex scripts are handled by
    the OS...these high-end applications do not support that OS-level handling.
    Furthermore, there is insufficient economic incentive to implement
    proprietary solutions for complex minority scripts in their applications.

    Hence it was with great delight during past couple weeks that I have
    discovered two fascinating desktop publishing applications:

    XeTeX v0.84 on Macintosh and UltraXML on Microsoft Windows.

    I've been able (using AAT and OpenType fonts of Khmer, respectively) to work
    in both.

    UltraXML v3.3 takes advantage of OpenType/Uniscribe in Windows (and can even
    extend intelligent font handling beyond that). It has a real-time graphic
    outcome update. However, it did not appear to know how to handle ZERO WIDTH
    SPACE for word wrap purposes and does not produce PDF directly. The price of
    one license is steep, to say the least: GB Pounds 2,400 (about US$4,400).

    Hence, my strong preference is XeTeX (pronounced: zeetek) because it is free
    (and generates PDF output directly). It does not have real-time graphic
    output update, however (it may take 30 seconds to run a tagged text file
    through the system and open the resulting PDF file). I'm quite hopeful that
    it will be relatively simple to pass other varieties of tagged text through
    style sheets set up for XeTeX.
    recommended text editor for use with XeTex is TeXShop
    ( TeXShop (unlike XeTeX)
    is affected by an ugly Apple TextEdit insertion bug. Comparatively speaking,
    XeTeX could leave you with spare cash to buy a few Macintoshes!

    Both of the above can be extended to facilitate custom intelligent font

    Microsoft Publisher 2003 also handles Khmer publishing fairly well...but
    lacks baseline balancing, footnotes, and other sophisticated type handling
    features (and is totally dependent on the state of the art of Uniscribe).

    Hopefuly this news will help other individuals on these mailing lists who
    cherish minority complex scripts (and not offend the Unicode mailing list
    guardian angel, Sarasvati).



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