NTS : a New Typesetting System


n.b. This is a legacy document; a more up-to-date version will be posted in due course.

Welcome to the NTS project. This project, inaugurated under the ægis of the German TeX-Speaking User Group DANTE e.V. at its Hamburg meeting in 1992, was finally set in motion by a grant of DM 30 000 from DANTE during early 1998. Since then, Karel Skoupý has been working on the project, at first under the supervision of Jiří Zlatuška and more recently under that of Hans Hagen; the first results of the project were demonstrated at the Dortmund meeting of DANTE during late February 1999. Reviews of progress have taken place during October 1998, February 1999, May 1999 and March 2000, and further reviews will take place as necessary. A brief bibliography (in preparation, no hyperlinks as yet) is now available by courtesy of Marion Neubauer.

The stated aims of the project are very simple : to continue the tradition of Donald Knuth's TeX by providing first-class typesetting software which is both portable and available free of charge. But whereas TeX is now frozen (Knuth no longer has either the time or the inclination to extend it), NTS is intended to remain flexible and extensible. Indeed, its very raison d'être is to provide a portable platform on which experiments and extensions can be easily layered.

NTS is written in Java; the group debated for some time which language was the ideal language for a complete re-implementation, and although the original desiderata stressed that it should be a modern, rapid-prototyping language, further introspection suggested that a modern, object-oriented, truly portable language was even more important. On that basis, Sun's Java was chosen, and experience during the first year has suggested that that decision was justified. Even though Java lacks something in terms of type declarations and static polymorphism, its genuinely portable nature ("compile once, run anywhere" is Sun's justifiable claim for this language), combined with its network-awareness and widespread availability, make it an ideal language for the task.

After about eighteen months of work, work is nearly complete. NTS can already perform typesetting, and the DVI and LOG files are identical to those of TeX. Only language-related features, hyphenation, alignment and mathematics remain to be implemented. Delegates at EuroTeX'99 saw the first public demonstration of NTS's typesetting capabilities, a further preview was presented at GUTenberg 2000, and the formal release of NTS will take place at TUG 2000.

Since NTS V0 is intended to be an exact re-implementation of TeX, some have suggested (only partially in jest) that it be renamed "OTS" ("Old Typesetting System"); certainly this alternative name is a more accurate description for the first release, but it does little to emphasise the extensible nature of NTS; for that reason, the project will continue to be called NTS, and it is hoped that Karel will also be in a position to demonstrate this extensibility by leading an "Extending NTS" workshop at TUG 2000.

A discussion list for NTS was set up at the University of Heidelberg during the early phases of the NTS project, but lack of funding prevented the project from starting as promptly as had been hoped, as a result of which the list has been completely silent of late. We hope that the launch of the alpha-test programme will stimulate discussion on the list once again. If you would like to subscribe to the list, please send a message to ListServ@Urz.Uni-Heidelberg.De containing (in the body, not the subject field), the text Subscribe NTS-L <given name> <surname>

Members of NTS-L who wish to become alpha-testers of NTS are requested to send an e-mail directly to the NTS team; members who are willing to comply with the terms of alpha-release will be allocated an individual username and password which grants access to all of the current NTS sources.

Funding of the project has until recently been borne entirely by Dante e.V., but an anonymous donor offered to sponsor the project for a period of three months, and furthermore, GUTenberg have offered to sponsor the project for 3 years at EUR 3000 per year. Any further offers of financial support will be gratefully received!

Finally, your attention is drawn to a parallel project, originally undertaken by members of the NTS team but now operating under the direct supervision of Peter Breitenlohner. This project, called "e-TeX", extends TeX in many areas without requiring a complete re-implementation. E-TeX is implemented as a changefile to "tex.web". Further information on e-TeX is available from Peter's FTP site : ftp://ftpth.mppmu.mpg.de/e-TeX/V2.1/, whilst questions on the project may be sent to the e-TeX mailbox.

Philip Taylor, for and on behalf of :
The NTS team


Please report any errors in this document to the relevant authority;
last updated and validated Thu 22-Jan-2009 23:00 GMT/PT