TeX Hour

A weekly video meeting

The Future of TeX (Knuth) and Tagged PDF (Mittelbach and Rowley)

In 1990 Don Knuth announced (PDF) that his work on developing TeX, METAFONT and Computer Modern had come to an end. He also wrote:

Of course I do not claim to have found the best solution to every problem. I simply claim that it is a great advantage to have a fixed point as a building block. Improved macro packages can be added on the input side; improved device drivers can be added on the output side.

Thirty years later, in 2020, Mittelbach and Rowley announced and described:

the start of a multi-year project to enhance LATEX to fully and naturally support the creation of structured document formats, in particular the “tagged PDF” format as required by accessibility standards such as PDF/UA.

The LaTeX team seems to be in the second of the six phases in the project. The first was preparing the ground, the second provides tagging of simple documents (no math or tables or hyperlinks). Phase six is conformance to standards “so far as this is possible … without any post-processing of the PDF file”.

This TeX Hour outlines a Knuthian approach to the problem of producing tagged PDF. More exactly, my approach is to leave LaTeX (the macros) and pdfTeX (the typesetting engine) largely unchanged. Somewhat optimistically, I believe that given equal resources this approach can both overtake the LaTeX team and give a better result.

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