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What is ConTeXt?

ConTeXt is a macro package developed by Hans Hagen of Pragma-Ade; it started as a production tool for Pragma (which is a publishing company). ConTeXt is a document-production system based, like LaTeX, on the TeX typesetting system. Whereas 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.

ConTeXt also integrates MetaFun, a superset of MetaPost and a powerful system for vector graphics. MetaFun can be used as a stand-alone system to produce figures, but its strength lies in enhancing ConTeXt documents with accurate graphic elements.

ConTeXt allows the users to specify formatting commands in English, Dutch, German, French, or Italian, and to use different typesetting engines (PDFTeX, XeTeX, Aleph and LuaTeX) without changing the user interface. ConTeXt continues to develop, often in response to requests from the user community.

ConTeXt has been bound to the development of LuaTeX, almost from the start of that project. Nowadays, it is distributed in two versions — mark two (files with extension .mkii (which runs on PDFTeX but is not under active development) and mark four files with extension .mkiv (which runs on LuaTeX and is where development happens).

ConTeXt has a large developer community (though possibly not as large as that of latex), but those developers who are active seem to have prodigious energy. Support is available via a WIKI site and via the mailing list; a “standalone” distribution (a TeX distribution with no macros other than ConTeXt-based ones) is available from http://wiki.contextgarden.net/ConTeXt_Standalone~— it provides a ConTeXt system on any of a number of platforms, executing either mark ii or mark iv ConTeXt.

ConTeXt distribution
macros/context (or browse the directory); catalogue entry

This answer last edited: 2011-11-02

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This is FAQ version 3.27, released on 2013-06-07.