Installing and using ConTeXt

Installing the Software

I got a lot of email from people who couldn't get past the first step described on the typesetting page. I used Context under Linux to make this example book. Most linux distributions come with all this publishing software preinstalled. I was sad that I didn't have any good advice to offer the vast unwashed who labor under the scourge of Windows.

Now I'm pleased to report there is a foolproof and easy way to use Context with Windows. First you must obtain and install the free software framework Cygwin. This program allows Windows to emulate a real operating system. During the Cygwin installation process, a window appears where you pick the extra software packages you want to install. These are organized into sections. Open the "Publishing" section and choose all the "tetex" related components.

Using the software

After completing the installation, you can process the example book using this command in the cygwin shell window:

	texexec --pdf Enchiridion.tex 

For this to work, you have to copy the Enchiridion.tex file into your Cygwin home directory. This is normally located here:


When you run the texexec commmand, a big stream of text will display what's going on. You won't be able to follow a single line of this information, but when it's done, you should find the output file "Enchiridion.pdf" in the same directory. You will also find a huge mess of temporary files and log files. I prefer to delete these automatically, so I process my tex files with this short bash script:

	texexec --pdf $1.tex
	if [ -e $1.pdf ] ; then
		rm -f $1.{log,tmp,tui) *.mp

Save the above script in a text file, for example "" and change the mode so it can execute:

	chmod a+x 

Now you can process your file using this command:

	./doit Enchiridion 

If nothing goes wrong, the script will clean up the mess and you will have only your orignal tex file an the corresponding pdf. If something does go wrong, it leaves all the intermediate files for you to study and despair.


I did see that there were lots of "EZ 2 Use" TeX-based publishing toolkits for Windows. Most of them are free. All of them have an elaborate and colorful user interface. But for some reason, my readers reported that these packages left them dazed and confused.

If you are able to locate, install, and succeed with one of the nice, soft, rounded, graphical versions of ConTeXt, please send me a note and I will immortalize your contribution here.

MacOS X users appear to have a nice solution using the TeXShop package. I haven't tried this myself, but if you are able to typeset the example book with this system, I'd like to hear from you. UPDATE: I'm told it works great. There's a menu in TeXShop to select ConTeXt mode. After that, the example posted here works.

Back: Typesetting