Monday, June 11, 2007

Milestone 1 of Platypus shipped today

The open-source project I've been working on for months shipped its first milestone today. The project is called Platypus (for page layout and typesetting system) and it enables you to generate PDF docs (eventually HTML and RTF as well) from text files in which you embed formatting commands. It's reminiscent of TeX but updates many features from that system, adds ease of use (especially!), and eventually will add numerous report-friendly and developer-oriented features (such as language-sensitive code listings).

The current milestone is a small subset intended for early adopters who are interested enough to send feedback. It can do the following:

  • basic Type 1 fonts
  • bold, italics, underline, strikethrough
  • foreign characters (enough for French, German, Spanish)
  • left, center, right alignment and justified text
  • customizable page size
  • customizable margins
  • indented/unindented paragraphs
  • page-number footer
  • debugging features

Milestone 2 should ship in late Q4 2007.

Documentation, examples, source code, intended schedule, and other resources are available at the project website.


Anonymous said...

I've been trying out the first milestone of Platypus, just had a question whether it will eventually support the advanced kerning and ligatures of LaTeX (see for example

It's definitely a great start, much easier to use than TeX, looking forward to further developments!

Andrew Binstock said...

Thanks for the kind words. I couldn't bring up the website you mention. However, the refinements you inquire about are indeed planned. For the time being, additional features are the primary focus, but as those are implemented, refining the esthetics will increasingly take center stage.

To be kept abreast of new releases, feel free to send me your e-mail address, and I'll put you on our low-volume announcement list. (4-5 emails/yr.)

Anonymous said...

It is indeed important that Platypus have all features of TeX. The need for extensions of the classical TeX and for modern implementation of such an extension is evident. Do you know about the New Typesetting System (NTS)? I spotted on Platypus when I was browsing for applications of iText. I am at a LaTeX-based typesetting company. I wish success to Platypus developers!

Andrew Binstock said...

The NTS project appears stalled. The exTex folks appear to have taken it over in 2003 or so, although they too seem stalled now. There have been other large projects to extend or modernize TeX that have similarly stalled after years of work.

Part of the problem these stalled projects face, IMO, is TeX itself: maintaining the syntax is difficult and constraining, and exactly matching the output documents is a tremendous effort. However, once you can implement the same concepts without having to be backwards-compatible, it becomes much easier to add the new, needed features.

Curiously, this problem was not the motivation for our choice of syntax in Platypus. Rather, we wanted to really deliver ease of use, so that most anyone can easily generate the documents they want without having to become students of the system.