1 Introduction

plasTeXis a collection of Python frameworks that allow you to process LaTeX documents. This processing includes, but is not limited to, conversion of LaTeX documents to various document formats. Of course, it is capable of converting to HTML or XML formats such as DocBook and tBook, but it is an open framework that allows you to drive any type of rendering. This means that it could be used to drive a COM object that creates a MS Word Document.

The plasTeX framework allows you to control all of the processes including tokenizing, object creation, and rendering through API calls. You also have access to all of the internals such as counters, the states of “if” commands, locally and globally defined macros, labels and references, etc. In essence, it is a LaTeX document processor that gives you the advantages of an XML document in the context of a language as superb as Python.

Here are some of the main features and benefits of plasTeX.

Simple High-Level API

The API for processing a LaTeX document is simple enough that you can write a LaTeX to HTML converter in one line of code (not including the Python import lines). Just to prove it, here it is!

import sys
from plasTeX.TeX import TeX
from plasTeX.Renderers.XHTML import Renderer
Full Configuration File and Command-Line Option Control

The configuration object included with plasTeX can be extended to include your own options.

Low-Level Tokenizing Control

The tokenizer in plasTeX works very much like the tokenizer in TeX itself. In your macro classes, you can actually control the draining of tokens and even change category codes.

Document Object

While most other LaTeX converters translate from LaTeX source another type of markup, plasTeX actually converts the document into a document object very similar to the DOM used in XML. Of course, there are many Python constructs built on top of this object to make it more Pythonic, so you don’t have to deal with the objects using only DOM methods. What’s really nice about this is that you can actually manipulate the document object prior to rendering. While this may be an esoteric feature, not many other converters let you get between the parser and the renderer.

Full Rendering Control

In plasTeX  you get full control over the renderer. There is a Zope Page Template (ZPT) based renderer included for HTML and XML applications, but that is merely an example of what you can do. A renderer is simply a collection of functions1. During the rendering process, each node in the document object is passed to the function in the renderer that has the same name as the node. What that function does is up to the renderer. In the case of the ZPT-based renderer, the node is simply applied to the template using the expand() method. If you don’t like ZPT, there is nothing preventing you from populating a renderer with functions that invoke other types of templates, or functions that simply generate markup with print statements. You could even drive a COM interface to create a MS Word document.


  1. “functions” is being used loosely here. Actually, any callable Python object (i.e. function, method, or any object with the __call__ method implemented) can be used.