Full Justification: pdfLaTeX vs. LaTeX

Once in a while there are discussions if pdfLaTeX would be preferable to LaTeX. There are some reasons, here I will just point out the effect of the micro-typographic extensions of pdfTeX, in particular font expansion and character protrusion. Using it you could get better margin adjustment and more even interword spacing. The package microtype is providing an interface to those extensions, you could see an effect already if you would just load the package without any options. The effect will be most notable if you need to typeset text with small columns like in tables.

Let’s test this very small example:

\documentclass[a4paper,10pt]{article}
\usepackage[english]{babel}
\usepackage{blindtext}
\usepackage{microtype}
\begin{document}
\begin{minipage}{3.7cm}
\blindtext
\end{minipage}
\end{document}

After compilation with LaTeX I’ve got 12 bad/underfull boxes. Using pdfLaTeX I’ve got 0 bad boxes. You could test it yourself. Btw. without microtype I’ve got 10 underfull boxes with both LaTeX and pdfLaTeX. Let’s bring the results of fLaTeX and pdfLaTeX face to face, just compare the first four lines or even more:

               [LaTeX] 12 badboxes               [PDFLaTeX] 0 badboxes

justification comparison

Without microtype the text will also look like the left one, the line breaks will be the same.

Microtype provides even more features that are not enabled by default, like additional kerning, spacing, tracking/letterspacing and allows you to fine-tune its capabilities. For more information have a look into its documentation.

To conclude I recommend to use pdfLaTeX if the situation allowed it, especially if you are using tables with cells or columns containing text. If you think you couldn’t use pdfLaTeX because it cannot embed eps images, consider to convert those images to pdf format.

This topic was discussed on apfeltalk.de, LaTeX Community, MatheBoard and Matheplanet.

13. April 2009 by stefan
Categories: Uncategorized | 4 comments

Comments (4)

  1. But IEEE format require LaTeX format

  2. Note that things look quite different when you replace 3.7cm with 3.8cm: Then with microtype you’ll get 2 bad boxes, and 3 without microtype. (And it happens that the hyphenation looks better without microtype.)

  3. Thanks for helping to clear the air. But, I have tried the code for both LaTex and pdfLatex and the output is exactly the same. So what happened? I use MiKTex 2.9 distribution. Any amendment in this version?

  4. Check if you really used pdfLaTeX or LaTeX in DVI mode. Look at the beginning of the .log file. Or explicitly produce a DVI file. You could send me the .log file and the code via email.

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