I wonder why most publication venues don't systematically make the LaTeX source for published papers available? (which implies systematically asking authors for the LaTex source)

LaTex source are more machine readable than PDFs, and make it easier for humans to reuse part of it (e.g. math equation or figures), amongst other advantages. I fail to see any downside.

(I am aware that some authors write their publications using other tools such as Microsoft Word: let's ignore it.)

  • 17
    I've worked with people who sent me LaTeX code for drafts that did not even properly compile, although the pdf looked ok… BibTeX files were sometimes even worse…
    – Dirk
    Jan 3, 2016 at 18:39
  • 18
    Commercial publishers such as Elsevier and Springer are not part of academia, and they don't share their culture of openness. Very far from it. They consider the final TeX code and their mix of classes and packages as a trade secret. Jan 3, 2016 at 20:29
  • 3
    @FedericoPoloni it's not a "trade secret", if anything they legally own the text and figures. Besides, professional publishers typically use commercial software for typesetting, and often re-type articles entirely. There is no Latex source to share. It's much more efficient than dealing with everyone's pet Latex package mix.
    – Cape Code
    Jan 4, 2016 at 15:55
  • 3
    pdf is a binary format. This is like asking for a tool that gives the code base of Microsoft word. Once you cooked up the stew, it is extremely difficult to know all the detailed ingridients.
    – Johannes_B
    Jan 4, 2016 at 17:18
  • 6
    God bless whoever opens my LaTeX file... I just patch things here and there to achieve a certain effect and it's like a space shuttle launching platform supported by recycled cardboard, duct tapes, and popsicle sticks. Jan 5, 2016 at 14:15

5 Answers 5


I suspect that this is a solution in search of a problem. Most likely journals aren't making LaTeX versions of papers available because they don't see a demand for such a service from the side of the readers; this would take effort to implement and maintain; and some authors would object to the idea of making it easier for others to reuse (read: plagiarize) their papers. In other words, publishers simply have (or at least think they have) better things to do with their time and money.

It should be noted that arXiv does make LaTeX source code available, and in fact will only accept submissions in the original source code rather than as PDFs (for papers that were written in LaTeX), so in those areas of math and physics where uploading preprint versions of one's paper to arXiv is the norm, this "problem" (such that it is) is already solved.

  • 3
    +1 I think this is the major point. PDFs are quite sufficiently machine-readable for purposes of search engines, and unless people are clamoring for LaTeX source, they'll focus their resources on the things that people are clamoring for, like better per-paper metrics.
    – jakebeal
    Jan 4, 2016 at 1:36
  • I guess it's a bit like binaries and source code: binaries are enough for most situations, but if one day one needs the source code while only binaries are available, problems arise (-> PDFBox). Jan 4, 2016 at 3:39

I think your question is actually about why publishers don't make the LaTeX source of papers available to readers rather than why publishers don't accept submissions in LaTeX form. You might want to clarify your question.

Some publishers prefer to accept PDF versions of paper for review, but then ask for LaTeX source code after the paper has been accepted. Doing the peer review process with a PDF version of the paper saves the publisher the trouble of running the paper through LaTeX and fixing any problems that the authors might inadvertently have introduced into the manuscript (such as using non-standard packages of macros.)

At the final publication stage, authors typically submit LaTeX source to journals. The journal then applies its own style to the paper, adds copyright notices and page numbers, and produces a final version of the paper using LaTeX. However, journals typically only publish PDF versions of the papers rather than the LaTeX source.

Many journals make their style files available to authors and ask them to prepare the manuscript using the journal's style. This helps to avoid problems when the final version of the paper is prepared by the publisher.

Having the LaTeX source of a paper makes it slightly easier for plagiarists to cut and paste mathematical formulas and text from the paper or to maliciously produce alternate versions of the paper. Commercial publishers are also generally opposed to any use of a paper that goes beyond simply reading the paper- making LaTeX source available tends to make such reuse easier.

  • 3
    +1 Excellent point about how providing "LaTeX source of a paper makes it slightly easier for plagiarists".
    – Alexandros
    Jan 3, 2016 at 20:57
  • 22
    Actually, I'm not sure that journal publishers do "produce a final version of the paper using LaTeX." My understanding is that the large publishers use their own in-house systems for final publication and that, while LaTeX is clearly an input to that, the final work is not done using LaTeX but with some other proprietary software. Jan 4, 2016 at 8:43
  • 5
    I can more or less confirm what @DavidRicherby said in at least one case: when submitting to the American Physical Society journals, I am told as part of the publication process that the submitted paper will be converted into their proprietary XML format.
    – David Z
    Jan 4, 2016 at 15:19
  • 3
    @DanRomik As I said, "LaTeX is clearly an input". However, my understanding is that producing an issue of a journal or volume of conference proceedings does not necessarily involve producing a big .tex file, running pdflatex on it and sending the resulting .pdf file to the printing company. I don't know what other steps there are, whether they involve massaging the .tex, the .pdf or something else, but I'm pretty sure they exist (I'm pretty sure I remember reading author instructions that say that even using the supplied LaTeX style file only produces an approximation of the final output. Jan 4, 2016 at 16:38
  • 3
    @DanRomik This post on TeX.se talks about software used by some typesetting companies, though some of the comments to the answer dispute its claims. Jan 4, 2016 at 16:40

Those publication venues that have use for the code typically ask for it (e.g., EPTCS). But if a publication venue does not need the source, why should they ask for that?

While in principle, LaTeX source code may look more readable than PDFs, there are many limitations to LaTeX source code. Those who ever tried to use a LaTeX2HTML converter know what I mean. As an example, there are documents that will compile with XeLaTeX, but not with LuaLaTex ... and vice versa! Furthermore, there are documents that will only work with the latest TikZ version. Then, there are documents that do not compile anymore with modern LaTeX distributions. So reusing LaTeX code later may need manual work to make the code work with modern TeX distributions.

But also applications that make use of TeX code snippets are hard to do based on author-supplied TeX code. Copying a figure is difficult as the needed macros may be scattered through the complete document. Also, the figure code may depend on packages that can clash with other packages, which makes pasting them elsewhere difficult as well. Furthermore, searching in TeX code is difficult (which would be another application for which the source code could be used), as heavy use of macros may lead to the search term not being shown in the actual code. Both of these issues do not exist with the later PDF.

  • 1
    "If a publication venue does not need the source, why should they ask for that?" -> to allow machine readable access, and make it easier for humans to reuse part of articles (e.g. math equation or figures). In these two use cases, most of the time there is no need to compile the LaTeX document. Jan 3, 2016 at 18:44
  • @FranckDernoncourt I added a paragraph discussing that.
    – DCTLib
    Jan 3, 2016 at 18:46

A substantial number of all-OA publishers do offer machine-readable versions of papers - they just do so as XML rather than as LaTeX. See, for example, the XML links on these papers in various journals:

As the XML is probably more machine-readable than the LaTeX source, why go to the extra effort of providing an intermediate format - especially one with all the reuse/interpretation problems that DCT & others refer to?

  • Many journals convert LaTeX to XML, thus the XML is the intermediate format.
    – Chris H
    Jan 4, 2016 at 16:58
  • @ChrisH surely the XML is (one of two) final formats, rather than an intermediate one, in these cases? Jan 4, 2016 at 17:04

LaTeX files are less searchable than PDF and are almost always useless on their own.

Next to the packages problem already mentioned here LaTeX files often use a lot of other files as input, which makes redistribution a hassle. This also makes the file less machine readable. A search engine such as Google will not understand where a given image, or other other input file will appear in the text and thus will not link the two, hurting the context and search results the file is placed in. This is not the case with PDF files where everything is grouped together (or at least understood where it should be placed, see the HTML view Google makes of PDF files).

Now one could argue that you should publish all files required to build the LaTeX file. But even in my extremely limited academic experience I have found cases where this is impossible. Some tables in my thesis were generated by LaTeX using 500MB of raw data. It would be crazy to have to distribute these (or for a machine to need to parse these).

  • 1
    You get into open-data question rather quickly if the LaTeX is interpreting your files to build the tables (though that is probably rather rare in papers if they're compiled at the journal).
    – Chris H
    Jan 4, 2016 at 16:57
  • The opposite case is argued quite eloquently in arXiv's Why Submit the TeX/LaTeX Source? piece.
    – E.P.
    Jan 5, 2016 at 3:21
  • @E.P. that piece does not address any of the context issues with linked content I speak of or any issues with large input files :).
    – Roy T.
    Jan 5, 2016 at 7:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .