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Re: ITP: dvipdfm - A DVI to PDF translator

On Mon, 6 Mar 2000, Brian Mays wrote:

> > Just a note, this works well, but GS 6.0's ps2pdf is actually better..
> > (particularly esp figures)
> Jason - Don't have version 6.0, but the old version of ps2pdf only did a a 
> fair job, and then only as long as one didn't require special fonts.  This 
> is not very good for typesetting mathematics.

Read this email I composed a bit ago:


I was just reading with interest the threads on PDFs (pointed to by the
LyX news page :>) and thought I'd share some of the observations and
problems I have found, there are many :>

Right now there are 4 ways to produce PDF's (AFAIK)
  * pdflatex
  * dvipdfm
  * ghostscript ps2pdf in conjunction with dvips -Ppdf
  * Adboe Distiller with dvips -Ppdf

Now, the tricky stuff,

pdflatex appears good but it does not support EPS figures, which means it
is not a drop in replacement for most people. I think it also has other
limitations but I don't recall them right now. I also don't quite
understand the need to integrate it into latex and not use a dvi post
processor.. but whatever :>

dvipdfm works fairly well, but has some bugs in processing certain types
of eps figures and needs some special setup.

ghostscript, prior to gs 6.0 had a ps2pdf that could not handle vector
fonts, it always converted them to bitmaps, thus output looks very poor.
This is corrected in gs 6.0 which works really (really) well.

distiller works as well as gs 6.0, the gs people claim a near feature
parity 'for the things that matter' at least :>

That said, my current favorite method is to use gs 6.0's ps2pdf, my
documents all have eps figures!

There are other problems however - at least present in the last three
methods. As someone else earlier observed the T1 font encoding does not
work correctly, this is due to missing type1 fonts for the 'ecrm' (the e
stands for euorpean btw) fonts :< I don't know anything about how to
fix this, aside from removing the font encoding - which drops certain
characters '<,> accents, so on. The ones I care about I just fake using
math mode..'. Someone else mentioned using the pslatex package to fix this
(the pslatex package looks obsolete though), I haven't tried that yet.. 

Another problem is that the times font (or any native postscript font for
that matter!) does seem to support ligatures! This problem is not limited
to just PDF however, postscript files output from dvips and viewed in
ghostscript show pound signs for 'fi' and other ligatures are similarly
wrong. Converting that postscript to PDF naturally propogates this error

This is unfortunate because the times font is standard in PDF viewers and
using it will reduce the size resulting of the PDF file and may speed up
viewing (xpdf for instance uses the X times font instead of rendering

Finally, there is well known 'the fonts look bad' and/or don't display.
This is because dvips will use bitmap versions of metafont output by
default and needs the -Ppdf option to revert to postscript vector fonts.

Bitmap fonts are generally bad, they use lots of space in the PDF file,
render slowly/poorly on acroreader/ghostscript and not at all in xpdf (btw
xpdf is a good test of simpler pdf's). Ghostscript does not antialias
embedded scalable fonts for some wakky reason either (maybe fixed in 6.0,
I have not checked) - but this is just a display problem, latest xpdf does
antialias, go figure! 

Overall, as long as you can live without T1 font encoding and want to use
the cmr fonts the ghostscript option produces really good output, the most
reliable I've seen. The other problems I mention are things I have not
been able to resolve - but I think they are important, particularly the
ligature issue :<

In future I hope to explore using things like PDF table of contents, which
I haven't seen done yet from latex/lyx


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