Kpathsea library

This manual documents the Kpathsea library for path searching. It corresponds to version 6.4.0, released in January 2024.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

This manual corresponds to version 6.4.0 of the Kpathsea library, released in January 2024.

The library’s fundamental purpose is to return a filename from a list of directories specified by the user, similar to what shells do when looking up program names to execute.

The following software, all of which is maintained in parallel, uses this library:

Other software that we do not maintain also uses it.

Kpathsea is now maintained as part of the TeX Live distribution (, which includes several more Kpathsea-using programs. For information on configuration, building, installing, and more, see Building TeX Live.

The library is still actively maintained. If you have comments or suggestions, please send along (see Reporting bugs).

The Kpathsea library is distributed under the GNU Library General Public License (LGPL), version 2.1 or (at your option) any later version. In short, this means if you write a program using the library, you must (offer to) distribute the source to the library, along with any changes you have made, and allow anyone to modify the library source and distribute their modifications. It does not mean you have to distribute the source to your program using the library, although we hope you will. See accompanying files for the text of the GNU licenses, or

If you know enough about TeX to be reading this manual, then you (or your institution) should consider joining the TeX Users Group (if you’re already a member, thanks!). TUG produces the periodical TUGboat, sponsors an annual meeting and publishes the proceedings, and arranges courses on TeX for all levels of users throughout the world. See for information.

1.1 History

This section is for those people who are curious about how the library came about. If you like to read historical accounts of software, we urge you to seek out the GNU Autoconf manual and the “Errors of TeX” paper by Don Knuth, published in his book Digital Typography, among other places.

[Karl writes.] My first ChangeLog entry for Web2c seems to be February 1990, but I may have done some work before then. In any case, Tim Morgan and I were jointly maintaining it for a time. (I should mention here that Tim had made Web2c into a real distribution long before I had ever used it or even heard of it, and Tom Rokicki did the original implementation. When I started, I was using pxp and pc on VAX 11/750’s and the hot new Sun 2 machines.)

It must have been later in 1990 and 1991 that I started working on TeX for the Impatient. Dvips, Xdvi, Web2c, and the GNU fontutils (which I was also writing at the time) all used different environment variables, and, more importantly, had different bugs in their path searching. This became extremely painful, as I was stressing everything to the limit working on the book. I also desperately wanted to implement subdirectory searching, since I couldn’t stand putting everything in one big directory, and also couldn’t stand having to explicitly specify cm, pandora, … in a path.

In the first incarnation, I just hacked separately on each program—that was the original subdirectory searching code in both Xdvi and Dvips. That is, I tried to go with the flow in each program, rather than changing the program’s calling sequences to conform to new routines.

Then, as bugs inevitably appeared, I found I was fixing the same thing three times (Web2c and fontutils were already sharing code, since I maintained both of those—there was no Dvipsk or Xdvik or Dviljk at this point). After a while, I finally started sharing source files. They weren’t yet a library, though. I just kept things up to date with shell scripts. (I was developing on a 386 running ISC 2.2 at the time, and so didn’t have symbolic links. An awful experience.)

The ChangeLogs for Xdvik and Dvipsk record initial releases of those distributions in May and June 1992. I think it was because I was tired of the different configuration strategies of each program, not so much because of the path searching. Autoconf was being developed by David MacKenzie and others, and I was adapting it to TeX and friends.

I started to make a separate library that other programs could link with on my birthday in April 1993, according to the ChangeLog. I don’t remember exactly why I finally took the time to make it a separate library; a conversation with david zuhn initiated it. Just seemed like it was time.

Dviljk got started in March 1994 after I bought a Laserjet 4. (Kpathsea work got suspended while Norm Walsh and I, with Gustaf Neumann’s help, implemented a way for TeX to get at all those neat builtin LJ4 fonts … such a treat to have something to typeset in besides Palatino!)

By spring of 1995, I had implemented just about all the path-searching features in Kpathsea that I plan to, driven beyond my initial goals by Thomas Esser and others. I then started to integrate Web2c with Kpathsea. After the release of a stable Web2c, I hope to be able to stop development, and turn most of my attention back to making fonts for GNU. (Always assuming Micros**t hasn’t completely obliterated Unix by then, or that software patents haven’t stopped software development by anybody smaller than a company with a million-dollar-a-year legal budget. Which is actually what I think is likely to happen, but that’s another story…)

[Olaf writes.] At the end of 1997, Unix is still alive and kicking, individuals still develop software, and Web2c development still continues. Karl had been looking for some time for someone to take up part of the burden, and I volunteered.

[Karl writes again.] Indeed, time goes on. As of 2006 or so, Olaf’s available time for Kpathsea was reduced, and I started taking overall care of it again, although I did not do any significant new development. In 2009, Taco Hoekwater implemented a major rearrangement to make the library suitable for use within the MetaPost library (see Programming overview). Also, for some years now, Peter Breitenlohner has made many improvements to the infrastructure and kept it up-to-date with respect to the overall TeX Live build, where Kpathsea is now maintained.

2 unixtex.ftp: Obtaining TeX

This is, a.k.a., last updated 29 February 2020. Email with comments or questions.

The principal free TeX distribution for Unix-like systems is TeX Live, on the web at The pages there describe many ways to acquire and/or build TeX, over the Internet or on physical media, both the sources and precompiled binaries for many systems, either standalone or as part of various operating system distributions.

Web2c, Kpathsea, Dvips, and Dviljk, among others, are no longer released as a separate packages. Their sources are now maintained as part of TeX Live.

The host is the original source for the files for which Donald Knuth is directly responsible: tex.web, plain.tex, etc. However, unless you want to undertake the project of building your TeX system from scratch, it is more reliable and less work to retrieve these files as part of a larger package.

In any case, the Stanford ftp site is not the canonical source for anything except what was created as part of Knuth’s original TeX, so do not rely on any other files available there being up-to-date. The best place to check for up-to-date files is CTAN (the Comprehensive TeX Archive Network),

3 Security

None of the programs in the TeX system require any special system privileges, so there’s no first-level security concern of people gaining illegitimate root access.

Thus, the general goal of our security measures is to make an untrusted TeX document safe to execute, in the sense of no document being able to change the system or user configuration, or somehow transmit information to an attacker. Here are some of the steps that have been taken to make the TeX system safe in this regard:

3.1 Global font cache and security

It’s useful to make arbitrary fonts on user demand with mktexpk and friends. Where do these files get installed? By default, the mktexpk distributed with Kpathsea assumes a world-writable /var/tmp directory; this is a simple and convenient approach, but it does not suit all situations, because it means that a local cache of fonts is created on every user’s system.

To avoid this duplication, many people consider a shared, globally writable font tree desirable, in spite of the potential security problems. To do this you should change the value of VARTEXFONTS in texmf.cnf to refer to some globally known directory. See mktex configuration.

The first restriction you can apply is to make newly-created directories under texmf be append-only with an option in mktex.cnf. See mktex configuration.

Another approach is to establish a group (or user) for TeX files, make the texmf tree writable only to that group (or user), and make mktexpk et al. setgid to that group (or setuid to that user). Then users must invoke the scripts to install things. (If you’re worried about the inevitable security holes in scripts, then you could write a C wrapper to exec the script.)

The mktex… scripts install files with the same read and write permissions as the directory they are installed in. The executable, sgid, suid, and sticky bits are always cleared.

Any directories created by the mktex… scripts have the same permissions as their parent directory, unless the appendonlydir feature is used, in which case the sticky bit is always set.

Nowadays, with bitmap files rarely used, and with individual systems being so much more powerful, this is less of an issue than it was in the past. But the question still comes up occasionally.

4 TeX directory structure

This section describes the default installation hierarchy of the distribution. It conforms to both the GNU coding standards and the TeX directory structure (TDS) standard. For rationale and further explanation, please see those documents. The GNU document is available from The TDS document is available from (see unixtex.ftp: Obtaining TeX).

In short, here is a skeleton of the default directory structure, extracted from the TDS document:

prefix/      installation root (/usr/local by default)
 bin/         executables
 man/         man pages
 include/     C header files
 info/        GNU info files
 lib/         libraries (libkpathsea.*)
 share/       architecture-independent files
  texmf/      TDS root
   bibtex/     BibTeX input files
    bib/        BibTeX databases
     base/       base distribution (e.g., ‘xampl.bib’)
     misc/       single-file databases
     pkg/       name of a package
    bst/        BibTeX style files
     base/       base distribution (e.g., ‘plain.bst’, ‘acm.bst’)
     misc/       single-file styles
     pkg/       name of a package
   doc/         additional documentation
   dvips/       .pro’, ‘.ps’, ‘
   fonts/       font-related files
    type/         file type (e.g., ‘tfm’, ‘pk’)
     mode/          type of output device (types ‘pk’ and ‘gf’ only)
      supplier/       name of a font supplier (e.g., ‘public’)
       typeface/        name of a typeface (e.g., ‘cm’)
        dpinnn/           font resolution (types ‘pk’ and ‘gf’ only)
   metafont/    Metafont (non-font) input files
    base/        base distribution (e.g., ‘’)
    misc/        single-file packages (e.g., ‘’)
    pkg/           name of a package (e.g., ‘mfpic’)
   metapost/    MetaPost input files
    base/        base distribution (e.g., ‘’)
    misc/        single-file packages
    pkg/           name of a package
    support/     support files for MetaPost-related utilities (e.g., ‘’)
   mft/         MFT’ inputs (e.g., ‘plain.mft’)
   tex/         TeX input files
    format/         name of a format (e.g., ‘plain’)
     base/        base distribution for format (e.g., ‘plain.tex’)
     misc/        single-file packages (e.g., ‘webmac.tex’)
     local/       local additions to or local configuration files for format
     pkg/           name of a package (e.g., ‘graphics’, ‘mfnfss’)
    generic/     format-independent packages
     hyphen/      hyphenation patterns (e.g., ‘hyphen.tex’)
     images/      image input files (e.g., Encapsulated PostScript)
     misc/        single-file format-independent packages (e.g., ‘null.tex’).
     pkg/           name of a package (e.g., ‘babel’)
   web2c/        implementation-dependent files (.pool, .fmt, texmf.cnf, etc.)

Some concrete examples for most file types:


5 Path searching

This chapter describes the generic path searching mechanism Kpathsea provides. For information about searching for particular file types (e.g., TeX fonts), see the next chapter.

This section, with minor differences, has been translated into several other languages (Chinese, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, French, German, …) as part of the TeX Live guide; see for links.

5.1 Searching overview

A search path is a colon-separated list of path elements, which are directory names with a few extra frills. A search path can come from (a combination of) many sources; see below. To look up a file ‘foo’ along a path ‘.:/dir’, Kpathsea checks each element of the path in turn: first ./foo, then /dir/foo, returning the first match (or possibly all matches).

The “colon” and “slash” mentioned here aren’t necessarily ‘:’ and ‘/’ on non-Unix systems. Kpathsea tries to adapt to other operating systems’ conventions.

To check a particular path element e, Kpathsea first sees if a prebuilt database (see Filename database (ls-R)) applies to e, i.e., if the database is in a directory that is a prefix of e. If so, the path specification is matched against the contents of the database.

If the database does not exist, or does not apply to this path element, or contains no matches, the filesystem is searched (if this was not forbidden by the specification with ‘!!’ and if the file being searched for must exist). Kpathsea constructs the list of directories that correspond to this path element, and then checks in each for the file being searched for. (To help speed future lookups of files in the same directory, the directory in which a file is found is floated to the top of the directory list.)

The “file must exist” condition comes into play with VF files and input files read by the TeX ‘\openin’ command. These files might very well not exist (consider cmr10.vf), and so it would be wrong to search the disk for them. Therefore, if you fail to update ls-R when you install a new VF file, it will not be found.

Each path element is checked in turn: first the database, then the disk. If a match is found, the search stops and the result is returned (unless the search explicitly requested all matches). This avoids possibly-expensive processing of path specifications that are never needed on a particular run.

On Unix-like systems, if no match is found by any of the above, and the path element allows checking the filesystem (per the above), a final check is made for a case-insensitive match. Thus, looking for a name like ‘./FooBar.TeX’ will match a file ‘./foobar.tex’, and vice versa. This is not done on Windows. See Casefolding search.

Although the simplest and most common path element is a directory name, Kpathsea supports additional features in search paths: layered default values, environment variable names, config file values, users’ home directories, and recursive subdirectory searching. Thus, we say that Kpathsea expands a path element, meaning transforming all the magic specifications into the basic directory name or names. This process is described in the sections below. It happens in the same order as the sections.

Exception to all of the above: If the filename being searched for is absolute or explicitly relative, i.e., starts with ‘/’ or ‘./’ or ‘../’, Kpathsea simply checks if that file exists, with a fallback to a casefolding match if needed and enabled, as described above.

Ordinarily, if Kpathsea tries to access a file or directory that cannot be read, it gives a warning. This is so you will be alerted to directories or files that accidentally lack any read permission (for example, a lost+found directory). If you prefer not to see these warnings, include the value ‘readable’ in the TEX_HUSH environment variable or config file value.

This generic path searching algorithm is implemented in kpathsea/pathsearch.c. It is employed by a higher-level algorithm when searching for a file of a particular type (see File lookup, and Glyph lookup).

5.2 Path sources

A search path or other configuration value can come from many sources. In the order in which Kpathsea looks for them:

  1. A command-line option such as --cnf-line, available in kpsewhich and most TeX engines. See Path searching options.

    A user-set environment variable, e.g., TEXINPUTS. Environment variables with an underscore and the program name appended override; for example, TEXINPUTS_latex overrides TEXINPUTS if the program being run is named ‘latex’.

  2. A program-specific configuration file, e.g., an ‘S /a:/b’ line in Dvips’ (see Config files in Dvips).
  3. A line in a Kpathsea configuration file texmf.cnf, e.g., ‘TEXINPUTS=/c:/d’ (see below).
  4. The compile-time default (specified in kpathsea/paths.h).

You can see each of these values for a given search path by using the debugging options (see Debugging).

These sources may be combined via default expansion (see Default expansion).

5.2.1 Config files

As mentioned above, Kpathsea reads runtime configuration files named texmf.cnf for search path and other definitions. The search path used to look for these configuration files is named TEXMFCNF, and is constructed in the usual way, as described above, except that configuration files cannot be used to define the path, naturally; also, an ls-R database is not used to search for them.

Kpathsea reads all texmf.cnf files in the search path, not just the first one found; definitions in earlier files override those in later files. Thus, if the search path is ‘.:$TEXMF’, values from ./texmf.cnf override those from $TEXMF/texmf.cnf.

If Kpathsea cannot find any texmf.cnf file, it reports a warning including all the directories it checked. If you don’t want to see this warning, set the environment variable KPATHSEA_WARNING to the single character ‘0’ (zero, not oh).

While (or instead of) reading this description, you may find it helpful to look at the distributed texmf.cnf, which uses or at least mentions most features. The format of texmf.cnf files follows:

  • Comments start with ‘%’ or ‘#’, either at the beginning of a line or preceded by whitespace, and continue to the end of the line. That is, similar to most shells, a comment character in the “middle” of a value does not start a comment. Examples:
    % this is a comment
    var = a%b  % but the value of var will be "a%b"
  • Blank lines are ignored.
  • A ‘\’ at the end of a line acts as a continuation character, i.e., the next line is appended. Whitespace at the beginning of continuation lines is not ignored.
  • Each remaining line will look like:
    variable [. progname] [=] value

    where the ‘=’ and surrounding whitespace is optional.

  • The variable name may contain any character other than whitespace, ‘=’, or ‘.’, but sticking to ‘A-Za-z_’ is safest.
  • If ‘.progname’ is present (preceding spaces are ignored), the definition only applies if the program that is running is named (i.e., the last component of argv[0] is) progname or progname.{exe,bat,cmd,...}. Most notably, this allows different flavors of TeX to have different search paths. The progname value is used literally, without variable or other expansions.
  • Considered as strings, value may contain any character. However, in practice most texmf.cnf values are related to path expansion, and since various special characters are used in expansion, such as braces and commas, they cannot be used in directory names.

    The ‘$var.prog’ feature is not available on the right-hand side; instead, you must use an additional variable (see below for example).

    A ‘;’ in value is translated to ‘:’ if running under Unix, in order to have a single texmf.cnf that can support both Unix and Windows systems. This translation happens with any value, not just search paths, but fortunately in practice ‘;’ is not needed in other values.

  • All definitions are read before anything is expanded, so you can use variables before they are defined (like Make, unlike most other programs).

Here is a configuration file fragment illustrating most of these points:

% TeX input files -- i.e., anything to be found by \input or \openin ...
latex209_inputs = .:$TEXMF/tex/latex209//:$TEXMF/tex//
latex2e_inputs = .:$TEXMF/tex/latex//:$TEXMF/tex//
TEXINPUTS.latex209 = $latex209_inputs
TEXINPUTS.latex2e = $latex2e_inputs
TEXINPUTS.latex = $latex2e_inputs

The combination of spaces being ignored before the . of a program name qualifer and the optional ‘=’ for the assignment has an unexpected consequence: if the value begins with a literal ‘.’ and the ‘=’ is omitted, the intended value is interpreted as a program name. For example, a line var .;/some/path is taken as an empty value for var running under the program named ‘;/some/path’. To diagnose this, Kpathsea warns if the program name contains a path separator or other special character. The simplest way to avoid the problem is to use the =.

Exactly when a character will be considered special or act as itself depends on the context in which it is used. The rules are inherent in the multiple levels of interpretation of the configuration (parsing, expansion, search, …) and so cannot be concisely stated, unfortunately. There is no general escape mechanism; in particular, ‘\’ is not an “escape character” in texmf.cnf files. When it comes choosing directory names for installation, it is safest to avoid them all.

The implementation of all this is in kpathsea/cnf.c.

5.3 Path expansion

Kpathsea recognizes certain special characters and constructions in search paths, similar to that in shells. As a general example: ‘~$USER/{foo,bar}//baz’ expands to all subdirectories under directories foo and bar in $USER’s home directory that contain a directory or file baz.

These expansions are explained in the sections below.

5.3.1 Default expansion

If the highest-priority search path (see Path sources) contains an extra colon (i.e., leading, trailing, or doubled), Kpathsea inserts at that point the next-highest-priority search path that is defined. If that inserted path has an extra colon, the same happens with the next-highest. (An extra colon in the compile-time default value has unpredictable results, so installers beware.)

For example, given an environment variable setting

setenv TEXINPUTS /home/karl:

and a TEXINPUTS value from texmf.cnf of


then the final value used for searching will be:


Put another way, default expansion works on “formats” (search paths), and not directly on environment variables. Example, showing the trailing ‘:’ ignored in the first case and expanded in the second:

$ env TTFONTS=/tmp: kpsewhich --expand-path '$TTFONTS'
$ env TTFONTS=/tmp: kpsewhich --show-path=.ttf

Since Kpathsea looks for multiple configuration files, it would be natural to expect that (for example) an extra colon in ./texmf.cnf would expand to the path in $TEXMF/texmf.cnf. Or, with Dvips’ configuration files, that an extra colon in config.$PRINTER would expand to the path in This doesn’t happen. It’s not clear this would be desirable in all cases, and trying to devise a way to specify the path to which the extra colon should expand seemed truly baroque.

Technicality: Since it would be useless to insert the default value in more than one place, Kpathsea changes only one extra ‘:’ and leaves any others in place (they will eventually be ignored). Kpathsea checks first for a leading ‘:’, then a trailing ‘:’, then a doubled ‘:’.

You can trace this by debugging “paths” (see Debugging). Default expansion is implemented in the source file kpathsea/kdefault.c.

5.3.2 Variable expansion

$foo’ or ‘${foo}’ in a path element is replaced by (1) the value of an environment variable ‘foo’ (if defined); (2) the value of ‘foo’ from texmf.cnf (if defined); (3) the empty string.

If the character after the ‘$’ is alphanumeric or ‘_’, the variable name consists of all consecutive such characters. If the character after the ‘$’ is a ‘{’, the variable name consists of everything up to the next ‘}’ (braces may not be nested around variable names). Otherwise, Kpathsea gives a warning and ignores the ‘$’ and its following character.

You must quote the $’s and braces as necessary for your shell. Shell variable values cannot be seen by Kpathsea, i.e., ones defined by set in C shells and without export in Bourne shells.

For example, given

setenv tex /home/texmf
setenv TEXINPUTS .:$tex:${tex}prev

the final TEXINPUTS path is the three directories:


The ‘.progname’ suffix on variables and ‘_progname’ on environment variable names are not implemented for general variable expansions. These are only recognized when search paths are initialized (see Path sources).

Variable expansion is implemented in the source file kpathsea/variable.c.

5.3.3 Tilde expansion

A leading ‘~’ in a path element is replaced by the value of the environment variable HOME, or . if HOME is not set. On Windows, the environment variable USERPROFILE is checked instead of HOME.

A leading ‘~user’ in a path element is replaced by user’s home directory from the system passwd database.

For example,

setenv TEXINPUTS ~/mymacros:

will prepend a directory mymacros in your home directory to the default path.

As a special case, if a home directory ends in ‘/’, the trailing slash is dropped, to avoid inadvertently creating a ‘//’ construct in the path. For example, if the home directory of the user ‘root’ is ‘/’, the path element ‘~root/mymacros’ expands to just ‘/mymacros’, not ‘//mymacros’.

Tilde expansion is implemented in the source file kpathsea/tilde.c.

5.3.4 Brace expansion

x{a,b}y’ expands to ‘xay:xby’. For example:


expands to ‘foo/1/baz:foo/2/baz’. ‘:’ is the path separator on the current system; e.g., on a Windows system, it’s ‘;’.

Braces can be nested; for example, ‘x{A,B{1,2}}y’ expands to ‘xAy:xB1y:xB2y’.

Multiple non-nested braces are expanded from right to left; for example, ‘x{A,B}{1,2}y’ expands to ‘x{A,B}1y:x{A,B}2y’, which expands to ‘xA1y:xB1y:xA2y:xB2y’.

This feature can be used to implement multiple TeX hierarchies, by assigning a brace list to $TEXMF, as mentioned in

You can also use the path separator instead of the comma. The last example could have been written ‘x{A:B}{1:2}y’ (on Unix).

Brace expansion is implemented in the source file kpathsea/expand.c.

5.3.5 KPSE_DOT expansion

When KPSE_DOT is defined in the environment, it names a directory that should be considered the current directory for the purpose of looking up files in the search paths. This feature is needed by the ‘mktex…’ scripts mktex scripts, because these change the working directory. You should not ever define it yourself.

5.3.6 Subdirectory expansion

Two or more consecutive slashes in a path element following a directory d is replaced by all subdirectories of d: first those subdirectories directly under d, then the subsubdirectories under those, and so on. At each level, the order in which the directories are searched is unspecified. (It’s “directory order”, and definitely not alphabetical.)

If you specify any filename components after the ‘//’, only subdirectories which match those components are included. For example, ‘/a//b’ would expand into directories /a/1/b, /a/2/b, /a/1/1/b, and so on, but not /a/b/c or /a/1.

You can include multiple ‘//’ constructs in the path.

//’ at the beginning of a path is ignored; you didn’t really want to search every directory on the system, did you?

I should mention one related implementation trick, which I took from GNU find. Matthew Farwell suggested it, and David MacKenzie implemented it.

The trick is that in every real Unix implementation (as opposed to the POSIX specification), a directory which contains no subdirectories will have exactly two links (namely, one for . and one for ..). That is to say, the st_nlink field in the ‘stat’ structure will be two. Thus, we don’t have to stat everything in the bottom-level (leaf) directories—we can just check st_nlink, notice it’s two, and do no more work.

But if you have a directory that contains a single subdirectory and 500 regular files, st_nlink will be 3, and Kpathsea has to stat every one of those 501 entries. Therein lies slowness.

You can disable the trick by undefining ST_NLINK_TRICK in kpathsea/config.h. (It is undefined by default except under Unix.)

Unfortunately, in some cases files in leaf directories are stat’d: if the path specification is, say, ‘$TEXMF/fonts//pk//’, then files in a subdirectory ‘…/pk’, even if it is a leaf, are checked. The reason cannot be explained without reference to the implementation, so read kpathsea/elt-dirs.c (search for ‘may descend’) if you are curious. And if you find a way to solve the problem, please let me know.

Subdirectory expansion is implemented in the source file kpathsea/elt-dirs.c.

5.5 Filename database (ls-R)

Kpathsea goes to some lengths to minimize disk accesses for searches (see Subdirectory expansion). Nevertheless, in practice searching every possible directory in typical TeX installations takes an excessively long time.

Therefore, Kpathsea can use an externally-built filename database file named ls-R that maps files to directories, thus avoiding the need to exhaustively search the disk.

A second database file aliases allows you to give additional names to the files listed in ls-R.

The ls-R and aliases features are implemented in the source file kpathsea/db.c.

5.5.1 ls-R

As mentioned above, you must name the main filename database ls-R. You can put one at the root of each TeX installation hierarchy you wish to search ($TEXMF by default, which expands to a braced list of several hierarchies in TeX Live).

Kpathsea looks for ls-R files along the TEXMFDBS path. It is best for this to contain all and only those hierarchies from $TEXMF which are specified with !!—and also to specify them with !! in TEXMFDBS. (See the end of this section for more on !!.)

The recommended way to create and maintain ‘ls-R’ is to run the mktexlsr script, which is installed in ‘$(bindir)’ (/usr/local/bin by default). That script goes to some trouble to follow symbolic links as necessary, etc. It’s also invoked by the distributed ‘mktex…’ scripts.

At its simplest, though, you can build ls-R with the command

cd /your/texmf/root && ls -LAR ./ >ls-R

presuming your ls produces the right output format (see the section below). GNU ls, for example, outputs in this format. Also presuming your ls hasn’t been aliased in a system file (e.g., /etc/profile) to something problematic, e.g., ‘ls --color=tty’. In that case, you will have to disable the alias before generating ls-R. For the precise definition of the file format, see Database format.

Regardless of whether you use the supplied script or your own, you will almost certainly want to invoke it via cron, so when you make changes in the installed files (say if you install a new LaTeX package), ls-R will be automatically updated. However, for those using TeX Live or system distributions, the package managers should run mktexlsr as needed.

The ‘-A’ option to ls includes files beginning with ‘.’ (except for . and ..), such as the file .tex included with the LaTeX tools package. (On the other hand, directories whose names begin with ‘.’ are always ignored.)

If your system does not support symbolic links, omit the ‘-L’.

ls -LAR /your/texmf/root will also work. But using ‘./’ avoids embedding absolute pathnames, so the hierarchy can be easily transported. It also avoids possible trouble with automounters or other network filesystem conventions.

Kpathsea warns you if it finds an ls-R file, but the file does not contain any usable entries. The usual culprit is running plain ‘ls -R’ instead of ‘ls -LR ./’ or ‘ls -R /your/texmf/root’. Another possibility is some system directory name starting with a ‘.’ (perhaps if you are using AFS); Kpathsea ignores everything under such directories.

If a particular path element begins with ‘!!’, only the database will be searched for that element, never the disk; and if the database does not exist, nothing at all will be searched. In TeX Live, most of the trees are specified with ‘!!’.

For path elements that do not begin with ‘!!’, if the database exists, it will be used, and the disk will not be searched. However, in this case, if the database does not exist, the disk will be searched. In TeX Live, the most notable case of this is the TEXMFHOME tree, to allow users to add and remove files from their own tree without having to worry about ls-R.

(Aside: there are uncommon cases where a ‘!!’ tree will be searched on disk even if the ls-R file exists; they are too obscure to try to explain here. See pathsearch.c in the source if you need to know.)

To sum up: do not create an ls-R file unless you also take care to keep it up to date. Otherwise newly-installed files will not be found.

5.5.2 Filename aliases

In some circumstances, you may wish to find a file under several names. For example, suppose a TeX document was created using a DOS system and tries to read longtabl.sty. But now it’s being run on a Unix system, and the file has its original name, longtable.sty. The file won’t be found. You need to give the actual file longtable.sty an alias ‘longtabl.sty’.

You can handle this by creating a file aliases as a companion to the ls-R for the hierarchy containing the file in question. (You must have an ls-R for the alias feature to work.)

The format of aliases is simple: two whitespace-separated words per line; the first is the real name longtable.sty, and second is the alias (longtabl.sty). These must be base filenames, with no directory components. longtable.sty must be in the sibling ls-R.

Also, blank lines and lines starting with ‘%’ or ‘#’ are ignored in aliases, to allow for comments.

If a real file longtabl.sty exists, it is used regardless of any aliases.

5.5.3 Database format

The “database” read by Kpathsea is a line-oriented file of plain text. The format is that generated by GNU (and most other) ls programs given the ‘-R’ option, as follows.

  • Blank lines are ignored.
  • If a line begins with ‘/’ or ‘./’ or ‘../’ and ends with a colon, it’s the name of a directory. (‘../’ lines aren’t useful, however, and should not be generated.)
  • All other lines define entries in the most recently seen directory. /’s in such lines will produce possibly-strange results.
  • Files with no preceding directory line are ignored.

For example, here’s the first few lines of ls-R (which totals about 30K bytes) on my system:




5.6 kpsewhich: Standalone path searching

The Kpsewhich program exercises the path searching functionality independent of any particular application. This can also be useful as a sort of find program to locate files in your TeX hierarchies, perhaps in administrative scripts. It is used heavily in the distributed ‘mktex…’ scripts.


kpsewhich option... filename...

The options and filename(s) to look up can be intermixed. Options can start with either ‘-’ or ‘--’, and any unambiguous abbreviation is accepted.

5.6.1 Path searching options

Kpsewhich looks up each non-option argument on the command line as a filename, and returns the first file found.

Various options alter the path searching behavior:


Report all matches found, one per line. By default, if there is more than one match, just one will be reported (chosen effectively at random). Exception: with the glyph formats (pk, gf), this option has no effect and only the first match is returned.


Explicitly enable or disable the fallback to a case-insensitive search on Unix platforms (see Casefolding search); no effect on Windows. The default is enabled, set in texmf.cnf. Disabling (--no-casefold-search) does not mean that searches magically become case-sensitive when the underlying (file)system is case-insensitive, it merely means that Kpathsea does not do any casefolding itself.


Parse str as if it were a line in the texmf.cnf configuration file (see Config files), overriding settings in the actual configuration files, and also in the environment (see Path sources). This is implemented by making any settings from str in the environment, overwriting any value already there. Thus, an extra colon in a ‘--cnf-line’ value will refer to the value from a configuration file, not a user-set environment variable.

Furthermore, any variable set from str will also be set with the program name suffix. For example, pdftex --cnf-line=TEXINPUTS=/foo: will set both TEXINPUTS and TEXINPUTS_pdftex in the environment (and the value will be /foo followed by the setting from texmf.cnf, ignoring any user-set TEXINPUTS).

This behavior is desirable because, in practice, many variables in the distributed texmf.cnf are program-specific, and the intuitive behavior is for values set on the command line with --cnf-line to override them.


Set the resolution to num; this only affects ‘gf’ and ‘pk’ lookups. ‘-D’ is a synonym, for compatibility with Dvips. Default is 600.


Set the engine name to name. By default it is not set in kpsewhich (TeX engines set it to the appropriate string). The engine name is used in some search paths to allow files with the same name but used by different engines to coexist.

In particular, since the memory dump files (.fmt/.base/.mem) are now stored in subdirectories named for the engine (tex, pdftex, xetex, etc.), you must specify an engine name in order to find them. For example, cont-en.fmt typically exists for both pdftex and xetex. With the default path settings, you can use ‘--engine=/’ to look for any dump file, regardless of engine; if a dump file exists for more than one engine, it’s indeterminate which one is returned. (The ‘/’ ends up specifying a normal recursive search along the path where the dumps are stored, namely ‘$TEXMF/web2c{/$engine,}’.)


Set the format for lookup to name. By default, the format is guessed from the filename, with ‘tex’ being used if nothing else fits. The recognized filename extensions (including any leading ‘.’) are also allowable names.

All formats also have a name, which is the only way to specify formats with no associated suffix. For example, for Dvips configuration files you can use ‘--format="dvips config"’. (The quotes are for the sake of the shell.)

Here’s the current list of recognized names and the associated suffixes. See Supported file formats, for more information on each of these.

The strings in parentheses are abbreviations recognized only by kpsewhich (not the underlying library calls). They are provided when it would otherwise require an argument containing a space to specify the format, to simplify quoting of calls from shells.

gf: gf
pk: pk
bitmap font (bitmapfont):
tfm: .tfm
afm: .afm
base: .base
bib: .bib
bst: .bst
cnf: .cnf
ls-R: ls-R ls-r
fmt: .fmt
map: .map
mem: .mem
mf: .mf
mfpool: .pool
mft: .mft
mp: .mp
mppool: .pool
MetaPost support (mpsupport):
ocp: .ocp
ofm: .ofm .tfm
opl: .opl  .pl
otp: .otp
ovf: .ovf .vf
ovp: .ovp  .vpl
graphic/figure:  .eps .epsi
tex: .tex  .sty .cls .fd .aux .bbl .def .clo .ldf
TeX system documentation (doc):
texpool: .pool
TeX system sources (source):  .dtx .ins
PostScript header:  .pro
Troff fonts (trofffont):
type1 fonts: .pfa .pfb
vf: .vf
dvips config (dvipsconfig):
ist: .ist
truetype fonts: .ttf .ttc .TTF .TTC .dfont
type42 fonts: .t42 .T42
web2c files (web2c):
other text files (othertext):
other binary files (otherbin):
misc fonts (miscfont):
web: .web  .ch
cweb: .w .web  .ch
enc files: .enc
cmap files (cmap):
subfont definition files: .sfd
opentype fonts: .otf .OTF
pdftex config (pdftexconfig):
lig files: .lig
lua: .lua .luatex .luc .luctex .texlua .texluc .tlu
font feature files: .fea
cid maps: .cid .cidmap
mlbib: .mlbib .bib
mlbst: .mlbst .bst
clua: .dll .so
ris: .ris
bltxml: .bltxml

This option and ‘--path’ are mutually exclusive.


After processing the command line, read additional filenames to look up from standard input.


Turn on or off the ‘mktex’ script associated with filetype. Usual values for filetype are ‘pk’, ‘mf’, ‘tex’, and ‘tfm’. By default, all are off in Kpsewhich, even if they are enabled for TeX. This option implies setting --must-exist. See mktex scripts.


Set the mode name to string; this also only affects ‘gf’ and ‘pk’ lookups. No default: any mode will be found. See mktex script arguments.


Do everything possible to find the files, notably including searching the disk and running the ‘mktex’ scripts. By default, only the ls-R database is checked, in the interest of efficiency.


Search along the path string (colon-separated as usual), instead of guessing the search path from the filename. ‘//’ and all the usual expansions are supported (see Path expansion). This option and ‘--format’ are mutually exclusive. To output the complete directory expansion of a path, instead of doing a one-shot lookup, see ‘--expand-path’ and ‘--show-path’ in the following section.


Set the program name to name; default is ‘kpsewhich’. This can affect the search paths via the ‘.prognam’ feature in configuration files (see Config files).


Report only those matches whose directory part ends with string (compared literally, except case is ignored on a case-insensitive operating system). For example, suppose there are two matches for a given name:

kpsewhich foo.sty
⇒ /some/where/foo.sty

Then we can narrow the result to what we are interested in with --subdir:

kpsewhich --subdir=where foo.sty
⇒ /some/where/foo.sty

kpsewhich --subdir=place foo.sty
⇒ /another/place/foo.sty

The string to match must be at the end of the directory part of the match, and it is taken literally, with no pattern matching:

kpsewhich --subdir=another foo.sty

The string to match may cross directory components:

kpsewhich --subdir=some/where foo.sty
⇒ /some/where/foo.sty

--subdir implies --all; if there is more than one match, they will all be reported (in our example, both ‘where’ and ‘place’ end in ‘e’):

kpsewhich --subdir=e
⇒ /some/where/foo.sty

Because of the above rules, the presence of a leading ‘/’ is important, since it “anchors” the match to a full component name:

kpsewhich --subdir=/lace foo.sty

However, a trailing ‘/’ is immaterial (and ignored), since the match always takes place at the end of the directory part:

kpsewhich --subdir=lace/ foo.sty
⇒ /another/place/foo.sty

The purpose of these rules is to make it convenient to find results only within a particular area of the tree. For instance, a given script named foo.lua might exist within both texmf-dist/scripts/pkg1/ and texmf-dist/scripts/pkg2/. By specifying, say, ‘--subdir=/pkg1’, you can be sure of getting the one you are interested in.

We only match at the end because a site might happen to install TeX in /some/coincidental/pkg1/path/, and we wouldn’t want to match texmf-dist/scripts/pkg2/ that when searching for ‘/pkg1’.

5.6.2 Specially-recognized files for kpsewhich

kpsewhich recognizes a few special filenames on the command line and defaults to using the ‘known’ file formats for them, merely to save the time and trouble of specifying the format. This is only a feature of kpsewhich; when using the Kpathsea library itself, none of these special filenames are recognized, and it’s still up to the caller to specify the desired format.

Here is the list of special filenames to kpsewhich, along with their corresponding format:

dvips config


other text files


web2c files




web2c files




pdftex config’ (although pdftex.cfg is not used any more; look for the file pdftexconfig.tex instead.)




other text files

A user-specified format will override the above defaults.

Another reference for information about TeX’s many special files is, found in texmf/texconfig/, which records various information about the above configuration files (among others).

5.6.3 Auxiliary tasks

Kpsewhich provides some features in addition to path lookup as such:


Set debugging options to num. See Debugging.


Output variable, tilde, and brace expansion of string, which is assumed to be a single path element. See Path expansion.


Output the complete expansion of string, with each element separated by the usual path separator on the current system (‘;’ on Windows, ‘:’ otherwise). This may be useful to construct a custom search path for a format not otherwise supported. To retrieve the search path for a format that is already supported, see ‘--show-path’.

Nonexistent directories are culled from the output:

$ kpsewhich --expand-path '/tmp'
⇒ /tmp
$ kpsewhich --expand-path '/nonesuch'

For one-shot uses of an arbitrary (not built in to Kpathsea) path, see ‘--path’ (see Path searching options).


Output the variable and tilde expansion of string. For example, with the usual texmf.cnf, ‘kpsewhich --expand-var='$TEXMF'’ returns the TeX system hierarchy root(s). See Path expansion. The specified string can contain anything, though, not just variable references. This calls kpse_var_expand (see Programming with config files).


Output information about each supported format (see Supported file formats), including the names and abbreviations, variables looked for, and the original path.


As with ‘--safe-in-name’ and ‘--safe-out-name’ (next item), but also allow files under the variables TEXMFVAR and TEXMFSYSVAR (see Calling sequence).


Exit successfully if name is safe to open for reading or writing, respectively, else unsuccessfully. No errors are output. These tests take account of the related Kpathsea configuration settings (see Calling sequence).


Show the path that would be used for file lookups of file type name. Either a filename extension (‘pk’, ‘.vf’, etc.) or an integer can be used, just as with ‘--format’, described in the previous section.


Like ‘--var-value’ (next), but also expands ‘{...}’ constructs. (see Brace expansion). Thus, the value is assumed to possibly be several path elements, and ‘~’ is expanded at the beginning of each. The path separator is changed to that of the current system in the expansion.

Example: ‘FOO='.;~' kpsewhich --var-brace-value=FOO’ outputs (on a Unix-ish system) ‘.:/home/karl’, supposing the latter is the current user’s home directory. Note that the ‘;’ in the source value, as commonly used in texmf.cnf, has changed to a ‘:’, as the normal path separator on the current system. On a Windows-ish system, the ‘;’ would remain.


Outputs the value of variable (a simple identifier like ‘TEXMFDIST’, with no ‘$’ or other constructs), expanding ‘$’ (see Variable expansion) and ‘~’ (see Tilde expansion) constructs in the value. ‘~’ expansion happens at the beginning of the overall value and at the beginning of a variable expansion, but not arbitrarily within the string. Braces are not expanded.

Example: ‘--var-value=texmf_casefold_search’ outputs (if the default is not changed) ‘1’.

Example to contrast with ‘--var-brace-value’: ‘FOO='.;~' kpsewhich --var-value=FOO’ outputs ‘.;~’, i.e., the same as the input value, on all systems.

5.6.4 Standard options

Kpsewhich accepts the standard GNU options:

  • --help’ prints a help message on standard output and exits successfully.
  • --version’ prints the Kpathsea version number and exits successfully.

6 TeX support

Although the basic features in Kpathsea can be used for any type of path searching, it came about, as usual, with a specific application in mind: I wrote Kpathsea specifically for TeX system programs. I had been struggling with the programs I was using (Dvips, Xdvi, and TeX itself) having slightly different notions of how to specify paths; and debugging was painful, since no code was shared.

Therefore, Kpathsea provides some TeX-specific formats and features. Indeed, many of the purportedly generic path searching features were provided because they seemed useful in that conTeXt (font lookup, particularly).

Kpathsea provides a standard way to search for files of any of the supported file types; glyph fonts are a bit different than all the rest. Searches are based solely on names of files, not their contents—if a GF file is (mis)named cmr10.600pk, it will be found as a PK file.

6.1 Supported file formats

Kpathsea has support for a number of file types. Each file type has a list of environment and config file variables that are checked to define the search path, and most have a default suffix that plays a role in finding files (see the next section). Some also define additional suffixes, and/or a program to be run to create missing files on the fly.

Since environment variables containing periods, such as ‘TEXINPUTS.latex’, are not allowed on some systems, Kpathsea looks for environment variables with an underscore, e.g., ‘TEXINPUTS_latex’ (see Config files).

The following table lists the above information. You can also get the list by giving the ‘--help-formats’ option to kpsewhich (see Auxiliary tasks).


(Adobe font metrics, see Metric files in Dvips) AFMFONTS; suffix ‘.afm’.


(Metafont memory dump, see Memory dumps in Web2c) MFBASES, TEXMFINI; suffix ‘.base’.


(BibTeX bibliography source, see bibtex invocation in Web2c) BIBINPUTS, TEXBIB; suffix ‘.bib’.


(BibLaTeXML bibliography files for Biber, BLTXMLINPUTS suffix ‘.bltxml’.


(BibTeX style, see Basic BibTeX style files in Web2c) BSTINPUTS; suffix ‘.bst’.


(dynamic libraries for Lua, CLUAINPUTS suffixes ‘.dll’ and ‘.so’.


(character map files) CMAPFONTS; suffix ‘.cmap’.


(Runtime configuration files, see Config files) TEXMFCNF; suffix ‘.cnf’.


(CWEB input files) CWEBINPUTS; suffixes ‘.w’, ‘.web’; additional suffix ‘.ch’.

dvips config

(Dvips ‘config.*’ files, such as, see Config files in Dvips) TEXCONFIG.

enc files

(encoding vectors) ENCFONTS; suffix ‘.enc’.


(TeX memory dump, see Memory dumps in Web2c) TEXFORMATS, TEXMFINI; suffix ‘.fmt’.

font cid map

(CJK mapping) FONTCIDMAPS suffix ‘.cid’.

font feature files

(primarily for OpenType font features) FONTFEATURES suffix ‘.fea’.


(generic font bitmap, see Glyph files in Dvips) programFONTS, GFFONTS, GLYPHFONTS, TEXFONTS; suffix ‘gf’.


(Encapsulated PostScript figures, see PostScript figures in Dvips) TEXPICTS, TEXINPUTS; additional suffixes: ‘.eps’, ‘.epsi’.


(makeindex style files) TEXINDEXSTYLE, INDEXSTYLE; suffix ‘.ist’.

lig files

(ligature definition files) LIGFONTS; suffix ‘.lig’.


(Filename databases, see Filename database (ls-R)) TEXMFDBS.


(Lua scripts, LUAINPUTS suffixes ‘.lua’, ‘.luatex’, ‘.luc’, ‘.luctex’, ‘.texlua’, ‘.texluc’, ‘.tlu’.


(Fontmaps, see Fontmap) TEXFONTMAPS; suffix ‘.map’.


(MetaPost memory dump, see Memory dumps in Web2c) MPMEMS, TEXMFINI; suffix ‘.mem’.

MetaPost support

(MetaPost support files, used by DMP; see dmp invocation in Web2c) MPSUPPORT.


(Metafont source, see mf invocation in Web2c) MFINPUTS; suffix ‘.mf’; dynamic creation program: mktexmf.


(Metafont program strings, see pooltype invocation in Web2c) MFPOOL, TEXMFINI; suffix ‘.pool’.


(MFT style file, see mft invocation in Web2c) MFTINPUTS; suffix ‘.mft’.

misc fonts

(font-related files that don’t fit the other categories) MISCFONTS


(MlBibTeX bibliography source) MLBIBINPUTS, BIBINPUTS, TEXBIB; suffixes ‘.mlbib’, ‘.mlbib’.


(MlBibTeX style) MLBSTINPUTS, BSTINPUTS; suffixes ‘.mlbst’, ‘.bst’.


(MetaPost source, see mpost invocation in Web2c) MPINPUTS; suffix ‘.mp’.


(MetaPost program strings, see pooltype invocation in Web2c) MPPOOL, TEXMFINI; suffix ‘.pool’.


(Omega compiled process files) OCPINPUTS;
suffix ‘.ocp’; dynamic creation program: MakeOmegaOCP.


(Omega font metrics) OFMFONTS, TEXFONTS;
suffixes ‘.ofm’, ‘.tfm’; dynamic creation program: MakeOmegaOFM.

opentype fonts

(OpenType fonts) OPENTYPEFONTS.


(Omega property lists) OPLFONTS, TEXFONTS; suffix ‘.opl’.


(Omega translation process files) OTPINPUTS; suffix ‘.otp’.


(Omega virtual fonts) OVFFONTS, TEXFONTS; suffix ‘.ovf’.


(Omega virtual property lists) OVPFONTS, TEXFONTS; suffix ‘.ovp’.

pdftex config

(PDFTeX-specific configuration files) PDFTEXCONFIG.


(packed bitmap fonts, see Glyph files in Dvips) PROGRAMFONTS (program being ‘XDVI’, etc.), PKFONTS, TEXPKS, GLYPHFONTS, TEXFONTS; suffix ‘pk’; dynamic creation program: mktexpk.

PostScript header

(downloadable PostScript, see Header files in Dvips) TEXPSHEADERS, PSHEADERS; additional suffix ‘.pro’.


(RIS bibliography files, primarily for Biber, RISINPUTS suffix ‘.ris’.

subfont definition files

(subfont definition files) SFDFONTS suffix ‘.sfd’.


(TeX source, see tex invocation in Web2c) TEXINPUTS; suffix ‘.tex’; additional suffixes: none, because such a list cannot be complete; dynamic creation program: mktextex.

TeX system documentation

(Documentation files for the TeX system) TEXDOCS.

TeX system sources

(Source files for the TeX system) TEXSOURCES.


(Architecture-independent executables distributed in the texmf trees) TEXMFSCRIPTS.


(TeX program strings, see pooltype invocation in Web2c) TEXPOOL, TEXMFINI; suffix ‘.pool’.


(TeX font metrics, see Metric files in Dvips) TFMFONTS, TEXFONTS; suffix ‘.tfm’; dynamic creation program: mktextfm.

Troff fonts

(Troff fonts, used by DMP; see DMP invocation in Web2c) TRFONTS.

truetype fonts

(TrueType outline fonts) TTFONTS; suffixes ‘.ttf’ and ‘.TTF’, ‘.ttc’ and ‘.TTC’, ‘.dfont’.

type1 fonts

(Type 1 PostScript outline fonts, see Glyph files in Dvips) T1FONTS, T1INPUTS, TEXPSHEADERS, DVIPSHEADERS; suffixes ‘.pfa’, ‘.pfb’.

type42 fonts

(Type 42 PostScript outline fonts) T42FONTS.


(virtual fonts, see Virtual fonts in Dvips) VFFONTS, TEXFONTS; suffix ‘.vf’.


(WEB input files) WEBINPUTS; suffix ‘.web’; additional suffix ‘.ch’.

web2c files

(files specific to the web2c implementation) WEB2C.

There are two special cases, because the paths and environment variables always depend on the name of the program: the variable name is constructed by converting the program name to upper case, and then appending ‘INPUTS’. Assuming the program is called ‘foo’, this gives us the following table.

other text files

(text files used by ‘foo’) FOOINPUTS.

other binary files

(binary files used by ‘foo’) FOOINPUTS.

If an environment variable by these names are set, the corresponding texmf.cnf definition won’t be looked at (unless, as usual, the environment variable value has an extra ‘:’). See Default expansion.

For the font variables, the intent is that:

  • TEXFONTS is the default for everything.
  • GLYPHFONTS is the default for bitmap (or, more precisely, non-metric) files.
  • Each font format has a variable of its own.
  • Each program has its own font override path as well; e.g., DVIPSFONTS for Dvipsk. Again, this is for bitmaps, not metrics.

6.2 File lookup

This section describes how Kpathsea searches for most files (bitmap font searches are the exception, as described in the next section).

Here is the search strategy for a file name:

  1. If the file format defines default suffixes, and the suffix of name name is not already a known suffix for that format, try the name with each default appended, and use alternative names found in the fontmaps if necessary. Example: given ‘’, look for ‘’.
  2. Search for name, and if necessary for alternative names found in the fontmaps. Example: given ‘’, we also look for ‘’.
  3. If the file format defines a program to invoke to create missing files, run it (see mktex scripts).

The order in which we search for “suffixed” name (item 1) or the “as-is” name (item 2) is controlled by the try_std_extension_first configuration value. The default set in texmf.cnf is true, since common suffixes are already recognized: ‘babel.sty’ will only look for ‘babel.sty’, not ‘babel.sty.tex’, regardless of this setting.

When the suffix is unknown (e.g., ‘’), both names are always tried; the difference is the order in which they are tried.

try_std_extension_first only affects names being looked up which *already* have an extension. A name without an extension (e.g., ‘tex story’) will always have an extension added first.

This algorithm is implemented in the function kpathsea_find_file in the source file kpathsea/tex-file.c. You can watch it in action with the debugging options (see Debugging).

6.3 Glyph lookup

This section describes how Kpathsea searches for a bitmap font in GF or PK format (or either) given a font name (e.g., ‘cmr10’) and a resolution (e.g., 600).

Here is an outline of the search strategy (details in the sections below) for a file name at resolution dpi. The search stops at the first successful lookup.

  1. Look for an existing file name.dpiformat in the specified format(s).
  2. If name is an alias for a file f in the fontmap file, look for f.dpi.
  3. Run an external program (typically named ‘mktexpk’) to generate the font (see mktex scripts)
  4. Look for fallback.dpi, where fallback is some last-resort font (typically ‘cmr10’).

This is implemented in kpathsea_find_glyph in kpathsea/tex-glyph.c.

6.3.1 Basic glyph lookup

When Kpathsea looks for a bitmap font name at resolution dpi in a format format, it first checks each directory in the search path for a file ‘name.dpiformat’; for example, ‘cmr10.600pk’. Kpathsea looks for a PK file first, then a GF file.

If that fails, Kpathsea looks for ‘dpidpi/name.format’; for example, ‘dpi600/’. This is how fonts are typically stored on filesystems (such as DOS) that permit only three-character extensions.

If that fails, Kpathsea looks for a font with a close-enough dpi. “Close enough” is defined by the macro KPSE_BITMAP_TOLERANCE in kpathsea/tex-glyph.h to be dpi / 500 + 1. This is slightly more than the 0.2% minimum allowed by the DVI standard (CTAN:/dviware/driv-standard/level-0).

6.3.2 Fontmap

If a bitmap font or metric file is not found with the original name (see the previous section), Kpathsea looks through any fontmap files for an alias for the original font name. These files are named and searched for along the TEXFONTMAPS environment/config file variable. All files that are found are read; earlier definitions override later ones.

This feature is intended to help in two respects:

  1. An alias name is limited in length only by available memory, not by your filesystem. Therefore, if you want to ask for ‘Times-Roman’ instead of ptmr, you can (you get ‘ptmr8r’).
  2. A few fonts have historically had multiple names: specifically, LaTeX’s “circle font” has variously been known as circle10, lcircle10, and lcirc10. Aliases can make all the names equivalent, so that it no longer matters what the name of the installed file is; TeX documents will find their favorite name.

The format of fontmap files:

  • Comments start with the last ‘%’ on a line and continue to the end of the line. (This provides for names that include a %, ill-advised as that may be.)
  • Blank lines are ignored.
  • Each nonblank line is broken up into a series of words: a sequence of non-whitespace characters.
  • If the first word is ‘include’, the second word is used as a filename, and it is searched for and read.
  • Otherwise, the first word on each line is the true filename;
  • the second word is the alias;
  • subsequent words are ignored.

If an alias has an extension, it matches only those files with that extension; otherwise, it matches anything with the same root, regardless of extension. For example, an alias ‘foo.tfm’ matches only when foo.tfm is being searched for; but an alias ‘foo’ matches foo.vf, foo.600pk, etc.

As an example, here is an excerpt from the in the Web2c distribution. It makes the old and new names of the LaTeX circle fonts equivalent.

circle10        lcircle10
circle10        lcirc10
lcircle10       circle10
lcircle10       lcirc10
lcirc10         circle10
lcirc10         lcircle10

Fontmaps are implemented in the file kpathsea/fontmap.c. The Fontname distribution has much more information on font naming (see Filenames for TeX fonts).

6.3.3 Fallback font

If a bitmap font cannot be found or created at the requested size, Kpathsea looks for the font at a set of fallback resolutions. You specify these resolutions as a colon-separated list (like search paths). Kpathsea looks first for a program-specific environment variable (e.g., DVIPSSIZES for Dvipsk), then the environment variable TEXSIZES, then a default specified at compilation time (the Make variable default_texsizes). You can set this list to be empty if you prefer to find fonts at their stated size or not at all.

Finally, if the font cannot be found even at the fallback resolutions, Kpathsea looks for a fallback font, typically cmr10. Programs must enable this feature by calling kpathsea_init_prog (see Calling sequence); the default is no fallback font.

6.4 Suppressing warnings

Kpathsea provides a way to suppress selected usually-harmless warnings; this is useful at large sites where most users are not administrators, and thus the warnings are merely a source of confusion, not a help. To do this, you set the environment variable or configuration file value TEX_HUSH to a colon-separated list of values. Here are the possibilities:


Suppress everything possible.


Suppress mismatched font checksum warnings.


Suppress warnings when a character is missing from a font that a DVI or VF file tries to typeset.


Don’t suppress any warnings.


Suppress warnings about attempts to access a file whose permissions render it unreadable.


Suppresses warnings about an unimplemented or unparsable ‘\special’ command.

tex-hush.c defines the function that checks the variable value. Each driver implements its own checks where appropriate.

6.5 mktex scripts

If Kpathsea cannot otherwise find a file, for some file types it is configured by default to invoke an external program to create it dynamically (see mktex configuration). These are collectively known as mktex scripts, since most of them are named mktex....

For example, this is useful for fonts (bitmaps, TFM’s, and arbitrarily-sizable Metafont sources such as the Sauter and EC fonts), since any given document can use fonts never before referenced. Building all fonts in advance is therefore impractical, if not impossible.

It is also useful for the TeX ‘.fmt’ (and Metafont ‘.base’ and Metapost ‘.mem’ files, see Memory dumps in web2c), where pre-generating every format consumes a lot of both time and space.

The script is passed the name of the file to create and possibly other arguments, as explained below. It must echo the full pathname of the file it created (and nothing else) to standard output; it can write diagnostics to standard error.

6.5.1 mktex configuration

The list of file types and program names that can run an external program to create missing files is listed in the next section. In the absence of configure options specifying otherwise, everything but mktextex will be enabled by default. The configure options to change the defaults are:


The configure setting is overridden if the environment variable or configuration file value named for the script is set; e.g., MKTEXPK (see mktex script arguments).

mktexfmt reads a file fmtutil.cnf, typically located in texmf/web2c/ to glean its configuration information. The rest of the files and features in this section are primarily intended for the font generation scripts.

As distributed, all the scripts source a file texmf/web2c/mktex.cnf if it exists, so you can override various defaults. See mktex.opt, for instance, which defines the default mode, resolution, some special directory names, etc. If you prefer not to change the distributed scripts, you can simply create mktex.cnf with the appropriate definitions (you do not need to create it if you have nothing to put in it). mktex.cnf has no special syntax; it’s an arbitrary Bourne shell script. The distribution contains a sample mktex.cnf for you to copy and modify as you please (it is not installed anywhere).

In addition, you can configure a number of features with the MT_FEATURES variable, which you can define:

  • in mktex.opt, as just mentioned;
  • by editing the file mktex.opt, either before ‘make install’ (in the source hierarchy) or after (in the installed hierarchy);
  • or in the environment.

If none of the options below are enabled, mktexpk, mktextfm, and mktexmf follow the following procedure to decide where fonts should be installed. Find the tree where the font’s sources are, and test the permissions of the ‘fonts’ directory of that tree to determine whether it is writable. If it is, put the files in the tree in appropriate locations. If it isn’t writable, see whether the tree is a system tree (named in SYSTEXMF). If so, the VARTEXFONTS tree is used. In all other cases the working directory is used.

The ‘appendonlydir’ option is enabled by default.


Tell mktexdir to create directories append-only, i.e., set their sticky bit (see Mode Structure in GNU Core Utilities). This feature is silently ignored on non-Unix platforms (e.g. Windows/NT and MS-DOS) which don’t support similar functionality. This feature is enabled by default.


Use 8.3 names; e.g., dpi600/ instead of cmr10.600pk. Note that this feature only affects filenames that would otherwise clash with other TeX-related filenames; mktex scripts do nothing about filenames which exceed the 8+3 MS-DOS limits but remain unique when truncated (by the OS) to these limits, and nether do the scripts care about possible clashes with files which aren’t related with TeX. For example, cmr10.600pk would clash with cmr10.600gf and is therefore changed when ‘dosnames’ is in effect, but mf.pool and mp.base don’t clash with any TeX-related files and are therefore unchanged.

This feature is turned on by default on MS-DOS. If you do not wish ‘dosnames’ to be set on an MS-DOS platform, you need to set the MT_FEATURES environment variable to a value that doesn’t include ‘dosnames’. You can also change the default setting by editing mktex.opt, but only if you use the mktex shell scripts; the emulation programs don’t consult mktex.opt.


Instead of deriving the location of a font in the destination tree from the location of the sources, the aliases and directory names from the Fontname distribution are used. (see Introduction in Fontname).


Let mktexpk and mktextfm create metafont driver files in a temporary directory. These will be used for just one metafont run and not installed permanently.


Omit the directory level for the mode name; this is fine as long as you generate fonts for only one mode.


Omit the font supplier name directory level.


Omit the font typeface name directory level.


Omit the font supplier and typeface name directory levels. This feature is deprecated in favour of ‘stripsupplier’ and ‘striptypeface’.


When this option is enabled, fonts that would otherwise be written in system texmf tree go to the VARTEXFONTS tree instead. The default value in kpathsea/ is /var/tmp/texfonts. The Linux File System Standard recommends /var/tex/fonts.

The ‘varfonts’ setting in MT_FEATURES is overridden by the USE_VARTEXFONTS environment variable: if set to ‘1’, the feature is enabled, and if set to ‘0’, the feature is disabled.


Force generated files that would go into a system tree (as defined by SYSTEXMF) into TEXMFVAR. Starting with teTeX-3.0, the variable TEXMFVAR is always set. The ‘varfonts’ feature takes precedence if also set.

The ‘texmfvar’ setting in MT_FEATURES is overridden by the USE_TEXMFVAR environment variable: if set to ‘1’, the feature is enabled, and if set to ‘0’, the feature is disabled.

6.5.2 mktex script names

The following table shows the default name of the script for each of the file types which support runtime generation.


(‘.fmt’, ‘.base’, ‘.mem’) TeX/Metafont/MetaPost formats. This script is also named fmtutil, and reads fmtutil.cnf for configuration information.


(‘.mf’) Metafont input files.


(‘.ocp’) Omega compiled process files.


(‘.ofm’) Omega font metric files.


(‘pk’) Glyph fonts.


(‘.tex’) TeX input files (disabled by default).


(‘.tfm’) TFM files.

These names can be overridden by an environment variable specific to the program; for example, DVIPSMAKEPK for Dvipsk.

If a mktex… script fails, the invocation is appended to a file missfont.log (by default) in the current directory. After fixing the problem, you can then execute the log file to create the missing files.

If the environment variable TEXMF_OUTPUT_DIRECTORY is set, missfont.log is first tried to be written there; if it’s not set, the current directory is tried first. If that first write fails and the environment variable or configuration file value TEXMFOUTPUT is set, we try to write missfont.log there. Otherwise nothing is written.

The base filename ‘missfont.log’ is overridden by the MISSFONT_LOG environment variable or configuration file value.

6.5.3 mktex script arguments

The first argument to a mktex script is always the name of the file to be created.

In the default mktexpk implementation, additional arguments may also be passed:

--dpi num

Sets the resolution of the generated font to num.

--mfmode name

Sets the Metafont mode to name.

--bdpi num

Sets the “base dpi” for the font. This must match the mode being used.

--mag string

A “magstep” string suitable for the Metafont mag variable. This must match the combination of bdpi and dpi being used.

--destdir string

A directory name. If the directory is absolute, it is used as-is. Otherwise, it is appended to the root destination directory set in the script.

7 Programming

This chapter is for programmers who wish to use Kpathsea. See Introduction, for the conditions under which you may do so (in short, it is released under LGPLv2.1 or later).

7.1 Programming overview

Aside from this manual, your best source of information is the source to the programs that use Kpathsea (see Introduction). First, Kpsewhich is a small utility program whose sole purpose is to exercise the main path-searching functionality. Of the drivers, Dviljk is probably the simplest full application program. Xdvik adds VF support and the complication of X resources. Dvipsk adds the complication of its own config files. Web2c is source code I also maintain, so it uses Kpathsea rather straightforwardly, but is of course complicated by the Web to C translation.

When looking at these program sources, you should know that previous versions of the library had a different programming interface; the current interface supports re-entrancy. Historically, the library function names were prefixed with kpse_ instead of kpathsea_, and they did not need an instance variable as first argument. This change was made in 2009. The old functions will never disappear, and can reliably continue to be used when they suffice, as they do for the programs above. The main application using the re-entrant API is the MetaPost library used by MetaPost and LuaTeX.

Beyond these examples, the .h files in the Kpathsea source describe the interfaces and functionality (and of course the .c files define the actual routines, which are the ultimate documentation). pathsearch.h declares the basic searching routine. tex-file.h and tex-glyph.h define the interfaces for looking up particular kinds of files. In view of the way the headers depend on each other, it is recommended to use #include <kpathsea/kpathsea.h>, which includes every Kpathsea header.

If you want to include only specific headers, you should still consider including kpathsea/config.h before including any other Kpathsea header, as it provides symbols used in the other headers; kpathsea/config.h includes kpathsea/c-auto.h, which is generated by Autoconf.

The library provides no way for an external program to register new file types: tex-file.[ch] must be modified to do this. For example, Kpathsea has support for looking up Dvips config files, even though no program other than Dvips is likely to ever want to do so. I felt this was acceptable, since along with new file types should also come new defaults in texmf.cnf (and its descendant paths.h), since it’s simplest for users if they can modify one configuration file for all kinds of paths.

Kpathsea does not parse any formats itself; it barely opens any files. Its primary purpose is to return filenames. The GNU font utilities package contains libraries to read TFM, GF, and PK files, as do the programs above, of course.

7.2 Calling sequence

The typical way to use Kpathsea in your program goes something like this:

  1. Call kpathsea_new to create a new library instance. This variable must be passed as the first argument to all the following library functions. The rest of this manual will be using kpse as a placeholder for the name of this variable.
  2. Call kpathsea_set_program_name with argv[0] as the second argument; the third argument is a string or NULL. The third argument is used by Kpathsea as the program name for the .program feature of config files (see Config files). If the third argument is NULL, the value of the second argument is used. This function must be called before any other use of the Kpathsea library.

    kpathsea_set_program_name always sets the variables kpse->invocation_name and kpse->invocation_short_name. These variables are used in the error message macros defined in kpathsea/lib.h. It sets the variable kpse->program_name to the program name it uses.

    It also initializes debugging options based on the environment variable KPATHSEA_DEBUG (if that is set).

    Finally, it sets the environment variables SELFAUTOLOC, SELFAUTODIR and SELFAUTOPARENT to the location, parent and grandparent directory of the executable, removing . and .. path elements and resolving symbolic links. These are used in the default configuration file to allow people to invoke TeX from anywhere. You can use ‘kpsewhich --expand-var=\$SELFAUTOLOC’, etc., to see the values.

  3. Set debugging options. See Debugging. If your program doesn’t have a debugging option already, you can define one and set kpse->debug to the number that the user supplies (as in Dviljk and Web2c), or you can just omit this altogether (users can always set the KPATHSEA_DEBUG environment variable). If you do have runtime debugging already, you need to merge Kpathsea’s options with yours (as in Dvipsk and Xdvik).
  4. If your program has its own configuration files that can define search paths, you should assign those paths to the client_path member in the appropriate element of the kpse->format_info array. (This array is indexed by file type; see tex-file.h.) See resident.c in Dvipsk for an example.
  5. Call kpathsea_init_prog (see proginit.c). It’s useful for the DVI drivers, at least, but for other programs it may be simpler to extract the parts of it that actually apply. This does not initialize any paths, it just looks for (and sets) certain environment variables and other random information. Search paths are always initialized at the first call to find a file of a given type, not requiring an explicit initialization call; this eliminates much useless work, e.g., initializing the BibTeX search paths in a DVI driver.
  6. The routine to actually find a file of type format is kpathsea_find_file. You can call kpathsea_find_file after doing only the first and second of the initialization steps above—Kpathsea automatically reads the texmf.cnf generic config files, looks for environment variables, and does expansions at the first lookup.
  7. To find PK and/or GF bitmap fonts, the routine is kpathsea_find_glyph, defined in tex-glyph.h. This returns a structure in addition to the resultant filename, because fonts can be found in so many ways. See the documentation in the source.
  8. Before opening a file, especially for writing, you should check if the filename is acceptable. See the next section (see Safe filenames).
  9. To actually open a file, not just return a filename, call kpathsea_open_file. This function takes the name to look up and a Kpathsea file format as arguments, and returns the usual FILE *. It always assumes the file must exist, and thus will search the disk if necessary (unless the search path specified ‘!!’, etc.). In other words, if you are looking up a VF or some other file that need not exist, don’t use this.
  10. To close the Kpathsea library instance you are using, call kpathsea_finish. This function closes any open log files and frees the memory used by the instance.

Kpathsea also provides many utility routines. Some are generic: hash tables, memory allocation, string concatenation and copying, string lists, reading input lines of arbitrary length, etc. Others are filename-related: default path, tilde, and variable expansion, stat calls, etc.

The c-*.h header files can also help your program adapt to many different systems. You will almost certainly want to use Autoconf and probably Automake for configuring and building your software if you use Kpathsea; I strongly recommend using Autoconf and Automake regardless. They are available from

7.3 Safe filenames

See Security, for some general security considerations with the TeX system.

In the implementation, the main security feature to disallow writing to potentially dangerous files is a configuration variable openout_any. It specifies one of three levels:

  • When set to ‘a’ (for “any”), no restrictions are imposed.
  • When is set to ‘r’ (for “restricted”), filenames beginning with ‘.’ are disallowed (except .tex, because LaTeX needs it).
  • When set to ‘p’ (for “paranoid”), additional restrictions are imposed.
    1. First, an absolute filename must refer to a file in (or in a subdirectory of) either the TEXMF_OUTPUT_DIRECTORY environment variable or the TEXMFOUTPUT environment variable or configuration file setting.
    2. LuaTeX uses a so-called “extended” mode, in which the values of TEXMFVAR and TEXMFSYSVAR are also checked for absolute filenames. This is done because, in practice, fundamental parts of the LuaLaTeX system (notably luaotfload) need a cache directory, and historically the TEXMF[SYS]VAR variables are what has been used. We neither recommend nor expect any other programs to need this.
    3. Finally, any attempt to go up a directory level is forbidden; that is, paths may not contain a ‘..’ component.

The paranoid setting is the default. Any program intended to be safely called from TeX should implement the same measures, one way or another. See Shell escapes in Web2c.

Kpathsea does not resolve ‘..’ components, or symbolic links, to see if the final result is an acceptable directory; they are simply forbidden. That is, Kpathsea merely considers the value as a string, not looking on the filesystem at all. (However, if another program wants to do such resolutions and check the result, that’s ok.)

For backwards compatibility, ‘y’ and ‘1’ are synonyms of ‘a’, while ‘n’ and ‘0’ are synonyms for ‘r’.

The function kpathsea_out_name_ok, with a filename as second argument, returns true if that filename is acceptable to be opened for output or false otherwise. The Kpsewhich program has an option (‘--safe-out-name’) providing a command line interface for the check.

For LuaTeX’s extended mode, the function is kpathsea_out_name_ok_extended, and the Kpsewhich option is ‘--safe-extended-out-name’.

Similarly, the function kpathsea_in_name_ok (resp. _extended, with a filename as second argument, returns true if that filename is acceptable to be opend for input or false otherwise, depending on the value of the configuration variable openin_any. Unfortunately, for reading, ‘a’ is the default default; too many system directories and files get involved to make ‘r’ or ‘p’ feasible.

The functions above write a message to standard error if the usage is forbidden (so every caller does not have to do so). Each function has a _silent counterpart which does not write the message; this is what Kpsewhich calls, since messages would be counterproductive in that case. Thus:


Furthermore, there are kpse_... versions of all the above functions (as usual), with the default library instance implicitly passed as the first argument. LuaTeX provides both kpse.* and kpathsea.* bindings, so it’s good to always have both.

Sorry for the combinatorial explosion, but we hope no further options will ever be needed. If so, we’ll likely provide a more generic interface as well as the above.

7.4 Program-specific files

Many programs will need to find some configuration files. Kpathsea contains some support to make it easy to place them in their own directories. The Standard TeX directory structure (see Introduction in A Directory Structure for TeX files), specifies that such files should go into a subdirectory named after the program, like ‘texmf/ttf2pk’.

Two formats, ‘kpse_program_text_format’ and ‘kpse_program_binary_format’, use .:$TEXMF/program// as their compiled-in search path. To override this default, you can use the variable PROGRAMINPUTS in the environment and/or ‘texmf.cnf’. That is to say, the name of the variable is constructed by converting the name of the program to upper case, and appending INPUTS.

The only difference between these two formats is whether kpathsea_open_file will open the files it finds in text or binary mode.

7.5 Programming with config files

You can (and probably should) use the same texmf.cnf configuration file that Kpathsea uses for your program. This helps installers by keeping all configuration in one place.

To retrieve a value for a configuration variable var, the best way is to call kpathsea_var_value on the string var. This will look first for an environment variable var, then a config file value. The result will be the value found or ‘NULL’. This function is declared in kpathsea/variable.h. For an example, see the shell_escape code in web2c/lib/texmfmp.c.

The routine to do full variable and tilde expansion of an arbitrary string in the context of a search path (as opposed to simply retrieving a value) is kpathsea_var_expand, also declared in kpathsea/variable.h. However, it’s generally only necessary to set the search path structure components as explained in the previous section instead of using this directly. Because of its usage with any input string, undefined $FOO constructs in the argument to kpathsea_var_expand are returned literally ("$FOO"), while undefined ${FOO} constructs are expanded to the empty string.

If for some reason you want to retrieve a value only from a config file, not automatically looking for a corresponding environment variable, call kpathsea_cnf_get (declared in kpathsea/cnf.h) with the string var.

No initialization calls are needed.

8 Reporting bugs

If you have problems or suggestions, please report them to using the bug checklist below.

Please report bugs in the documentation; not only factual errors or inconsistent behavior, but unclear or incomplete explanations, typos, wrong fonts, …

8.1 Bug checklist

Before reporting a bug, please check below to be sure it isn’t already known (see Common problems).

Bug reports should be sent via electronic mail to .

The general principle is that a good bug report includes all the information necessary for reproduction. Therefore, to enable investigation, your report should include the following:

  • The version number(s) of the program(s) involved, and of Kpathsea itself. You can get the former by giving a sole option ‘--version’ to the program, and the latter by running ‘kpsewhich --version’. The NEWS and ChangeLog files also contain the version number.
  • The hardware, operating system (including version), compiler, and make program you are using (the output of uname -a is a start on the first two, though incomplete).
  • Any options you gave to configure. This is recorded in the config.status files.

    If you are reporting a bug in ‘configure’ itself, it’s probably system-dependent, and it will be unlikely the maintainers can do anything useful if you merely report that thus-and-such is broken. Therefore, you need to do some additional work: for some bugs, you can look in the file config.log where the test that failed should appear, along with the compiler invocation and source program in question. You can then compile it yourself by hand, and discover why the test failed. Other ‘configure’ bugs do not involve the compiler; in that case, the only recourse is to inspect the configure shell script itself, or the Autoconf macros that generated configure.

  • The log of all debugging output, if the bug is in path searching. You can get this by setting the environment variable KPATHSEA_DEBUG to ‘-1’ before running the program. Please look at the log yourself to make sure the behavior is really a bug before reporting it; perhaps “old” environment variable settings are causing files not to be found, for example.
  • The contents of any input files necessary to reproduce the bug. For bugs in DVI-reading programs, for example, this generally means a DVI file (and any EPS or other files it uses)—TeX source files are helpful, but the DVI file is required, because that’s the actual program input.
  • If you are sending a patch (do so if you can!), please do so in the form of a context diff (‘diff -c’) against the original distribution source. Any other form of diff is either not as complete or harder for me to understand. Please also include a ChangeLog entry.
  • If the bug involved is an actual crash (i.e., core dump), it is easy and useful to include a stack trace from a debugger (I recommend the GNU debugger GDB ( If the cause is apparent (a NULL value being dereferenced, for example), please send the details along. If the program involved is TeX or Metafont, and the crash is happening at apparently-sound code, however, the bug may well be in the compiler, rather than in the program or the library (see TeX or Metafont failing).
  • Any additional information that will be helpful in reproducing, diagnosing, or fixing the bug.

8.2 Mailing lists

Web2c and Kpathsea in general are discussed on the mailing list . You can subscribe and peruse the archives on the web

You do not need to join to submit a report, nor will it affect whether you get a response. Be aware that large data files are sometimes included in bug reports. If this is a problem for you, do not join the list.

If you are looking for general TeX help, such as how to install a full TeX system or how to use LaTeX, please see

8.3 Debugging

Kpathsea provides a number of runtime debugging options, detailed below by their names and corresponding numeric values. When the files you expect aren’t being found, the thing to do is enable these options and examine the output.

You can set these with some runtime argument (e.g., ‘-d’) to the program; in that case, you should use the numeric values described in the program’s documentation (which, for Dvipsk and Xdvik, are different than those below). It’s best to give the ‘-d’ (or whatever) option first, for maximal output. Dvipsk and Xdvik have additional program-specific debugging options as well.

You can also set the environment variable KPATHSEA_DEBUG; in this case, you should use the numbers below. If you run the program under a debugger and set the instance variable kpse->debug, also use the numbers below.

In any case, by far the simplest value to use is ‘-1’, which will turn on all debugging output. This is usually better than guessing which particular values will yield the output you need.

Debugging output always goes to standard error, so you can redirect it easily. For example, in Bourne-compatible shells:

dvips -d -1 ... 2>/tmp/debug

It is sometimes helpful to run the standalone Kpsewhich utility (see kpsewhich: Standalone path searching), instead of the original program.

In any case, you cannot use the names below; you must always use somebody’s numbers. (Sorry.) To set more than one option, just sum the corresponding numbers.


Report ‘stat’(2) calls. This is useful for verifying that your directory structure is not forcing Kpathsea to do many additional file tests (see Slow path searching, and see Subdirectory expansion). If you are using an up-to-date ls-R database (see Filename database (ls-R)), this should produce no output unless a nonexistent file that must exist is searched for.


Report lookups in all hash tables: ls-R and aliases (see Filename database (ls-R)); font aliases (see Fontmap); and config file values (see Config files). Useful when expected values are not being found, e.g.., file searches are looking at the disk instead of using ls-R.


Report file openings and closings. Especially useful when your system’s file table is full, for seeing which files have been opened but never closed. In case you want to set breakpoints in a debugger: this works by redefining ‘fopen’ (‘fclose’) to be ‘kpse_fopen_trace’ (‘kpse_fclose_trace’).


Report general path information for each file type Kpathsea is asked to search. This is useful when you are trying to track down how a particular path got defined—from texmf.cnf,, an environment variable, the compile-time default, etc. This is the contents of the kpse_format_info_type structure defined in tex-file.h.


Report the directory list corresponding to each path element Kpathsea searches. This is only relevant when Kpathsea searches the disk, since ls-R searches don’t look through directory lists in this way.


Report on each file search: the name of the file searched for, the path searched in, whether or not the file must exist (when drivers search for cmr10.vf, it need not exist), and whether or not we are collecting all occurrences of the file in the path (as with, e.g., texmf.cnf and, or just the first (as with most lookups). This can help you correlate what Kpathsea is doing with what is in your input file.


Report the value of each variable Kpathsea looks up. This is useful for verifying that variables do indeed obtain their correct values.


Activates debugging printout specific to gsftopk program.


If you use the optional mktex programs instead of the traditional shell scripts, this will report the name of the site file (mktex.cnf by default) which is read, directories created by mktexdir, the full path of the ls-R database built by mktexlsr, font map searches, MT_FEATURES in effect, parameters from mktexnam, filenames added by mktexupd, and some subsidiary commands run by the programs.


When the optional mktex programs are used, this will print additional debugging info from functions internal to these programs.

Debugging output from Kpathsea is always written to standard error, and begins with the string ‘kdebug:’. (Except for hash table buckets, which just start with the number, but you can only get that output running under a debugger. See comments at the hash_summary_only variable in kpathsea/db.c.)

8.4 Logging

Kpathsea can record the time and filename found for each successful search. This may be useful in finding good candidates for deletion when your filesystem is full, or in discovering usage patterns at your site.

To do this, define the environment or config file variable TEXMFLOG. The value is the name of the file to append the information to. The file is created if it doesn’t exist, and appended to if it does.

Each successful search turns into one line in the log file: two words separated by a space. The first word is the time of the search, as the integer number of seconds since “the epoch”, i.e., UTC midnight 1 January 1970 (more precisely, the result of the time system call). The second word is the filename.

For example, after setenv TEXMFLOG /tmp/log, running Dvips on story.dvi appends the following lines:

774455887 /usr/local/share/texmf/dvips/
774455887 /usr/local/share/texmf/dvips/
774455888 /usr/local/share/texmf/dvips/
774455888 /usr/local/share/texmf/fonts/pk/ljfour/public/cm/cmbx10.600pk
774455889 /usr/local/share/texmf/fonts/pk/ljfour/public/cm/cmsl10.600pk
774455889 /usr/local/share/texmf/fonts/pk/ljfour/public/cm/cmr10.600pk
774455889 /usr/local/share/texmf/dvips/

Only filenames that are absolute are recorded, to preserve some semblance of privacy.

In addition to this Kpathsea-specific logging, pdftex provides an option -recorder to write the names of all files accessed during a run to the file basefile.fls.

Finally, most systems provide a general tool to output each system call, thus including opening and closing files. It might be named strace, truss, struss, or something else.

8.5 Common problems

Here are some common problems with configuration, compilation, linking, execution, …

8.5.1 Unable to find files

If a program complains it cannot find fonts (or other input files), any of several things might be wrong. In any case, you may find the debugging options helpful. See Debugging.

  • Perhaps you simply haven’t installed all the necessary files; the basic fonts and input files are distributed separately from the programs. See unixtex.ftp: Obtaining TeX.
  • You have (perhaps unknowingly) told Kpathsea to use search paths that don’t reflect where the files actually are. One common cause is having environment variables set from a previous installation, thus overriding what you carefully set in texmf.cnf (see Supported file formats). System /etc/profile or other files such may be the culprit.
  • Your files reside in a directory that is only pointed to via a symbolic link, in a leaf directory and is not listed in ls-R.

    Unfortunately, Kpathsea’s subdirectory searching has an irremediable deficiency: If a directory d being searched for subdirectories contains plain files and symbolic links to other directories, but no true subdirectories, d will be considered a leaf directory, i.e., the symbolic links will not be followed. See Subdirectory expansion.

    You can work around this problem by creating an empty dummy subdirectory in d. Then d will no longer be a leaf, and the symlinks will be followed.

    The directory immediately followed by the ‘//’ in the path specification, however, is always searched for subdirectories, even if it is a leaf. Presumably you would not have asked for the directory to be searched for subdirectories if you didn’t want it to be.

  • If the fonts (or whatever) don’t already exist, mktexpk (or mktexmf or mktextfm) will try to create them. If these rather complicated shell scripts fail, you’ll eventually get an error message saying something like ‘Can't find font fontname’. The best solution is to fix (or at least report) the bug in mktexpk; the workaround is to generate the necessary fonts by hand with Metafont, or to grab them from a CTAN site (see unixtex.ftp: Obtaining TeX).
  • There is a bug in the library. See Reporting bugs.

8.5.2 Slow path searching

If your program takes an excessively long time to find fonts or other input files, but does eventually succeed, here are some possible culprits:

  • Most likely, you just have a lot of directories to search, and that takes a noticeable time. The solution is to create and maintain a separate ls-R file that lists all the files in your main TeX hierarchy. See Filename database (ls-R). Kpathsea always uses ls-R if it’s present; there’s no need to recompile or reconfigure any of the programs.
  • Your recursively-searched directories (e.g., /usr/local/share/texmf/fonts//), contain a mixture of files and directories. This prevents Kpathsea from using a useful optimization (see Subdirectory expansion).

    It is best to have only directories (and perhaps a README) in the upper levels of the directory structure, and it’s very important to have only files, and no subdirectories, in the leaf directories where the dozens of TFM, PK, or whatever files reside.

In any case, you may find the debugging options helpful in determining precisely when the disk or network is being pounded. See Debugging.

8.5.3 Unable to generate fonts

Metafont outputs fonts in bitmap format, tuned for a particular device at a particular resolution, in order to allow for the highest-possible quality of output. Some DVI-to-whatever programs, such as Dvips, try to generate these on the fly when they are needed, but this generation may fail in several cases.

If mktexpk runs, but fails with this error:

mktexpk: Can't guess mode for nnn dpi devices.
mktexpk: Use a config file to specify the mode, or update me.

you need to ensure the resolution and mode match; just specifying the resolution, as in -D 360, is not enough.

You can specify the mode name with the -mode option on the Dvips command line, or in a Dvips configuration file (see Config files in Dvips), such as in your document directory, ~/.dvipsrc in your home directory, or in a system directory (again named (Other drivers use other files, naturally.)

For example, if you need 360dpi fonts, you could include this in a configuration file:

D 360
M lqmed

If Metafont runs, but generates fonts at the wrong resolution or for the wrong device, most likely mktexpk’s built-in guess for the mode is wrong, and you should override it as above.

See for a list of resolutions and mode names for most devices (additional submissions are welcome).

If Metafont runs but generates fonts at a resolution of 2602dpi (and prints out the name of each character as well as just a character number, and maybe tries to display the characters), then your Metafont base file probably hasn’t been made properly. (It’s using the default proof mode, instead of an actual device mode.) To make a proper plain.base, assuming the local mode definitions are contained in a file, run the following command (assuming Unix):

inimf "plain; input modes; dump"

Then copy the plain.base file from the current directory to where the base files are stored on your system (/usr/local/share/texmf/web2c by default), and make a link (either hard or soft) from plain.base to mf.base in that directory. See inimf invocation in Web2c.

If mf is a command not found at all by mktexpk, then you need to install Metafont (see unixtex.ftp: Obtaining TeX).

8.5.4 TeX or Metafont failing

If TeX or Metafont get a segmentation fault or otherwise fail while running a normal input file, the problem is usually a compiler bug (unlikely as that may sound). Even if the trip and trap tests are passed, problems may lurk. Optimization occasionally causes trouble in programs other than TeX and Metafont themselves, too.

For a workaround, if you enabled any optimization flags, it’s best to omit optimization entirely. In any case, the way to find the facts is to run the program under the debugger and see where it’s failing.

Also, if you have trouble with a system C compiler, I advise trying the GNU C compiler. And vice versa, unfortunately; but in that case I also recommend reporting a bug to the GCC mailing list; see Bugs in Using and Porting GNU CC.

To report compiler bugs effectively requires perseverance and perspicacity: you must find the miscompiled line, and that usually involves delving backwards in time from the point of error, checking through TeX’s (or whatever program’s) data structures. Good luck.


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Index EntrySection

--allPath searching options
--casefold-searchPath searching options
--cnf-linePath searching options
--cnf-line’, source for pathPath sources
--debug=numAuxiliary tasks
--dpi=numPath searching options
--engine=namePath searching options
--expand-braces=stringAuxiliary tasks
--expand-path=stringAuxiliary tasks
--expand-var=stringAuxiliary tasks
--format=namePath searching options
--helpStandard options
--help-formatsAuxiliary tasks
--interactivePath searching options
--mktex=filetypePath searching options
--mode=stringPath searching options
--must-existPath searching options
--no-casefold-searchPath searching options
--no-mktex=filetypePath searching options
--path=stringPath searching options
--progname=namePath searching options
--safe-extended-in-name=nameAuxiliary tasks
--safe-extended-out-name=nameAuxiliary tasks
--safe-in-name=nameAuxiliary tasks
--safe-out-name=nameAuxiliary tasks
--show-path=nameAuxiliary tasks
--subdir=stringPath searching options
--var-brace-value=variableAuxiliary tasks
--var-value=variableAuxiliary tasks
--versionStandard options
--with-mktextex-defaultmktex configuration
--without-mktexfmt-defaultmktex configuration
--without-mktexmf-defaultmktex configuration
--without-mktexocp-defaultmktex configuration
--without-mktexofm-defaultmktex configuration
--without-mktexpk-defaultmktex configuration
--without-mktextfm-defaultmktex configuration
-1 debugging valueDebugging
-A option to lsls-R
-D numPath searching options
-iname, find predicateCasefolding examples
-L option to lsls-R

; translated to ‘:’ in texmf.cnfConfig files

: may not be :Searching overview
:: expansionDefault expansion

!! and casefoldingCasefolding examples
!! in path specificationsls-R
!! in TEXMFDBSls-R

. directories, ignoredls-R
. filesls-R
.2602gfUnable to generate fonts
.afmSupported file formats
.baseSupported file formats
.bibSupported file formats
.bltxmlSupported file formats
.bstSupported file formats
.cidSupported file formats
.cmapSupported file formats
.cnfSupported file formats
.dllSupported file formats
.encSupported file formats
.epsSupported file formats
.epsiSupported file formats
.feaSupported file formats
.fmtSupported file formats
.istSupported file formats
.ligSupported file formats
.luaSupported file formats
.luatexSupported file formats
.lucSupported file formats
.luctexSupported file formats
.mapSupported file formats
.memSupported file formats
.mfSupported file formats
.mftSupported file formats
.mlbibSupported file formats
.mlbstSupported file formats
.mpSupported file formats
.ocpSupported file formats
.ofmSupported file formats
.oplSupported file formats
.otpSupported file formats
.ovfSupported file formats
.ovpSupported file formats
.pfaSupported file formats
.pfbSupported file formats
.pkSupported file formats
.poolSupported file formats
.poolSupported file formats
.poolSupported file formats
.proSupported file formats
.profile, (un)writable by TeXSecurity
.progname qualifier in texmf.cnfConfig files
.risSupported file formats
.sfdSupported file formats
.soSupported file formats
.texSupported file formats
.tex file, included in ls-Rls-R
.texluaSupported file formats
.texlucSupported file formats
.tfmSupported file formats
.tluSupported file formats
.ttcSupported file formats
.ttfSupported file formats
.vfSupported file formats
.wSupported file formats
.webSupported file formats
.webSupported file formats

{ expansionBrace expansion

/ may not be /Searching overview
/, trailing in home directoryTilde expansion
//Subdirectory expansion
/etc/profileUnable to find files
/etc/profile and aliasesls-R
/var/tmp/texfontsmktex configuration

\, line continuation in texmf.cnfConfig files
\openinSearching overview
\special, suppressing warnings aboutSuppressing warnings

= omitted in texmf.cnf and misparsingConfig files

~ expansionTilde expansion

$ expansionVariable expansion

2602gfUnable to generate fonts

8.3 filenames, usingmktex configuration

absolute filenamesSearching overview
access system callCasefolding examples
access warningsSearching overview
AFMFONTSSupported file formats
aliases for fontsFontmap
aliases, for filenamesFilename aliases
allSuppressing warnings
all matches, findingPath searching options
alphabetical order, notSubdirectory expansion
announcement mailing listMailing lists
API, re-entrantProgramming overview
append-only directories and mktexpkGlobal font cache and security
appendonlydirmktex configuration
Apple filesystem, case-insensitiveCasefolding rationale
arguments to mktexmktex script arguments
argv[0]Calling sequence
autoconf, recommendedCalling sequence
automounter, and ls-Rls-R
auxiliary tasksAuxiliary tasks

Bach, Johann SebastianDefault expansion
backslash-newlineConfig files
basic glyph lookupBasic glyph lookup
Berry, KarlHistory
BIBINPUTSSupported file formats
BIBINPUTSSupported file formats
blank lines, in texmf.cnfConfig files
BLTXMLINPUTSSupported file formats
brace expansionBrace expansion
Breitenlohner, PeterHistory
BSTINPUTSSupported file formats
BSTINPUTSSupported file formats
bug addressReporting bugs
bug checklistBug checklist
bug mailing listMailing lists
bugs, reportingReporting bugs

c-*.hCalling sequence
c-auto.hProgramming overview
cache of fonts, localGlobal font cache and security
calling sequenceCalling sequence
casefolding examplesCasefolding examples
casefolding fallback rationaleCasefolding rationale
casefolding searchCasefolding search
ChangeLog entryBug checklist
checklist for bug reportsBug checklist
checksumSuppressing warnings
circle fontsFontmap
client_path in kpse->format_infoCalling sequence
CLUAINPUTSSupported file formats
CMAPFONTSSupported file formats
cmr10, as fallback fontFallback font
cmr10.vfSearching overview
cnf.cConfig files
cnf.hProgramming with config files
comments, in fontmap filesFontmap
comments, in texmf.cnfConfig files
comments, makingIntroduction
common features in glyph lookupBasic glyph lookup
common problemsCommon problems
compilation value, source for pathPath sources
compiler bugsTeX or Metafont failing
compiler bugs, findingTeX or Metafont failing
conditions for useIntroduction
config filesConfig files
config files, for Kpathsea-using programsCalling sequence
config files, programming withProgramming with config files
config.hProgramming overview
config.logBug checklist
config.psSpecially-recognized files, search path forSupported file formats
config.statusBug checklist
configuration bugsBug checklist
configuration file, source for pathPath sources
configuration of mktex scriptsmktex configuration
configure options for mktex scriptsmktex configuration
context diffBug checklist
continuation characterConfig files
core dumps, reportingBug checklist
crashes of TeX and securitySecurity
crashes, reportingBug checklist
CWEBINPUTSSupported file formats

database searchSearching overview
database, for filenamesFilename database
database, format ofDatabase format
debuggerBug checklist
debugging options, in Kpathsea-using programCalling sequence
debugging outputDebugging
default expansionDefault expansion
default_texsizesFallback font
device, wrongUnable to generate fonts
directories, making append-onlymktex configuration
directory permissionsGlobal font cache and security
directory structure, for TeX filesTeX directory structure
disabling mktex scriptsmktex configuration
disk searchSearching overview
disk searching, avoidingls-R
disk usage, reducingLogging
doc filesSupported file formats
DOS compatible namesmktex configuration
dosnamesmktex configuration
dot filesls-R
doubled colonsDefault expansion
dpinnn directoriesmktex configuration
DVILJMAKEPKmktex script names
DVILJSIZESFallback font
dvipdfmx.cfgSpecially-recognized files
DVIPSFONTSSupported file formats
DVIPSHEADERSSupported file formats
DVIPSMAKEPKmktex script names
DVIPSSIZESFallback font
dynamic creation of filesmktex scripts

EC fonts, and dynamic source creationmktex scripts
elt-dirs.cSubdirectory expansion
elt-dirs.cSubdirectory expansion
enabling mktex scriptsmktex configuration
ENCFONTSSupported file formats
engine namePath searching options
environment variable, source for pathPath sources
environment variables for TeXSupported file formats
environment variables in pathsVariable expansion
environment variables, oldUnable to find files
epoch, seconds sinceLogging
error message macrosCalling sequence
examples, of casefolding searchesCasefolding examples
excessive startup timeSlow path searching
expand.cBrace expansion
expanding symlinksCalling sequence
expansion, defaultDefault expansion
expansion, path elementSearching overview
expansion, search pathPath expansion
expansion, subdirectorySubdirectory expansion
expansion, tildeTilde expansion
expansion, variableVariable expansion
explicitly relative filenamesSearching overview
extensions, filenameFile lookup
externally-built filename databaseFilename database
extra colonsDefault expansion

failed mktex… script invocationmktex script names
fallback fontFallback font
fallback resolutionsFallback font
FAQ, KpathseaCommon problems
Farwell, MatthewSubdirectory expansion
file formats, supportedSupported file formats
file lookupFile lookup
file permissionsGlobal font cache and security
file types, registering newProgramming overview
filename aliasesFilename aliases
filename databaseFilename database
filenames, absolute or explicitly relativeSearching overview
files, unable to findUnable to find files
filesystem searchSearching overview
filesystem, case-(in)sensitiveCasefolding rationale
Findutils, GNU packageCasefolding examples
floating directoriesSearching overview
fmtutilmktex script names
fmtutil.cnfSpecially-recognized files
fmtutils.cnfmktex configuration
font alias filesFontmap
font generation failuresUnable to generate fonts
font of last resortFallback font
font set, infinitemktex scripts
FONTCIDMAPSSupported file formats
FONTFEATURESSupported file formats
fontmap filesFontmap
fontmapsmktex configuration
fontmapsmktex configuration
fontnamemktex configuration
fontnames, arbitrary lengthFontmap
FOOINPUTSSupported file formats
FOOINPUTSSupported file formats
fopen, redefinedDebugging
format of external databaseDatabase format
fundamental purpose of KpathseaIntroduction

gdb, recommendedBug checklist
gfSupported file formats
GFFONTSSupported file formats
globally writable directoriesGlobal font cache and security
glyph lookupGlyph lookup
glyph lookup bitmap toleranceBasic glyph lookup
GLYPHFONTSSupported file formats
GLYPHFONTSSupported file formats
glyphlist.txtSpecially-recognized files
GNU C compiler bugsTeX or Metafont failing
GNU General Public LicenseIntroduction
group-writable directoriesGlobal font cache and security
GSFTOPK_DEBUG (128)Debugging

hash table buckets, printingDebugging
hash table routinesCalling sequence
hash_summary_only variable for debuggingDebugging
history of KpathseaHistory
Hoekwater, TacoHistory
home directories in pathsTilde expansion
HOME, as ~ expansionTilde expansion

identifiers, characters valid inConfig files
include fontmap directiveFontmap
INDEXSTYLESupported file formats
input lines, readingCalling sequence
interactive queryPath searching options
interface, not frozenIntroduction

kdefault.cDefault expansion
Knuth, Donald E.History
Knuth, Donald E., archive of programs byunixtex.ftp
Kpathsea config file, source for pathPath sources
kpathsea_cnf_getProgramming with config files
KPATHSEA_DEBUGCalling sequence
kpathsea_find_fileFile lookup
kpathsea_find_fileCalling sequence
kpathsea_find_glyphGlyph lookup
kpathsea_find_glyphCalling sequence
kpathsea_finishCalling sequence
kpathsea_in_name_okSafe filenames
kpathsea_in_name_ok_extendedSafe filenames
kpathsea_in_name_ok_silentSafe filenames
kpathsea_in_name_ok_silent_extendedSafe filenames
kpathsea_init_progFallback font
kpathsea_init_progCalling sequence
kpathsea_newCalling sequence
kpathsea_open_fileCalling sequence
kpathsea_out_name_okSafe filenames
kpathsea_out_name_ok_extendedSafe filenames
kpathsea_out_name_ok_silentSafe filenames
kpathsea_out_name_ok_silent_extendedSafe filenames
kpathsea_set_program_nameCalling sequence
kpathsea_var_valueProgramming with config files
kpathsea.hProgramming overview
kpse mode of LuaTeXSecurity
KPSE_DEBUG_HASH (2)Debugging
KPSE_DEBUG_STAT (1)Debugging
KPSE_DEBUG_VARS (64)Debugging
KPSE_DOT expansionKPSE_DOT expansion
kpse->debug variableCalling sequence
kpse->format_infoCalling sequence
kpse->invocation_nameCalling sequence
kpse->invocation_short_nameCalling sequence
kpse->program_nameCalling sequence
kpsewhichInvoking kpsewhich
Kpsewhich, and debuggingDebugging

last-resort fontFallback font
leading colonsDefault expansion
leaf directories wrongly guessedUnable to find files
leaf directory trickSubdirectory expansion
license for using the libraryIntroduction
LIGFONTSSupported file formats
lines, reading arbitrary-lengthCalling sequence
Linux File System Standardmktex configuration
local cache of fontsGlobal font cache and security
log fileLogging
logging successful searchesLogging
lost+found directorySearching overview
lostcharSuppressing warnings
ls-RSupported file formats
ls-R database filels-R
ls-R, simplest buildls-R
LUAINPUTSSupported file formats
luaotfloadSafe filenames
LuaTeX and securitySecurity

Mac filesystem, case-insensitiveCasefolding rationale
MacKenzie, DavidHistory
MacKenzie, DavidSubdirectory expansion
magic charactersSearching overview
mailing listsMailing lists
MAKETEX_DEBUG (512)Debugging
MAKETEX_FINE_DEBUG (1024)Debugging
memory allocation routinesCalling sequence
metafont driver filesmktex configuration
Metafont failuresTeX or Metafont failing
Metafont installationUnable to generate fonts
Metafont making too-large fontsUnable to generate fonts
Metafont using the wrong deviceUnable to generate fonts
MFBASESSupported file formats
MFINPUTSSupported file formats
MFPOOLSupported file formats
MFTINPUTSSupported file formats
MISCFONTSSupported file formats
mismatched checksum warningsSuppressing warnings
MISSFONT_LOGmktex script names
missfont.logmktex script names
missing character warningsSuppressing warnings
mkocpmktex script names
mkofmmktex script names
mktex script configurationmktex configuration
mktex script namesmktex script names
mktex scriptsmktex scripts
mktex.cnfSpecially-recognized files
mktex.cnfmktex configuration
mktex.optmktex configuration
mktex.optmktex configuration
mktexdirmktex configuration
mktexfmtmktex script names
mktexmfmktex script names
mktexpkmktex script names
mktexpk can’t guess modeUnable to generate fonts
mktextexmktex script names
mktextfmmktex script names
MLBIBINPUTSSupported file formats
MLBSTINPUTSSupported file formats
mode directory, omittingmktex configuration
Morgan, TimHistory
MPINPUTSSupported file formats
MPMEMSSupported file formats
MPPOOLSupported file formats
MPSUPPORTSupported file formats
MT_FEATURESmktex configuration
multiple TeX hierarchiesBrace expansion
must existSearching overview

names for mktex scriptsmktex script names
Neumann, GustafHistory
NFS and ls-Rls-R
nomfdriversmktex configuration
nomodemktex configuration
noneSuppressing warnings
null pointers, dereferencingBug checklist
numeric debugging valuesDebugging

obtaining TeXunixtex.ftp
OCPINPUTSSupported file formats
OFMFONTSSupported file formats
online Metafont display, spuriousUnable to generate fonts
openout_anySafe filenames
OPENTYPEFONTSSupported file formats
optimization caveatTeX or Metafont failing
options for debuggingDebugging
OTPINPUTSSupported file formats
overview of path searchingSearching overview
overview of programming with KpathseaProgramming overview
OVFFONTSSupported file formats
OVPFONTSSupported file formats

paranoid mode, for output filesSafe filenames
path expansionPath expansion
path searchingPath searching
path searching optionsPath searching options
path searching, overviewSearching overview
path searching, standaloneInvoking kpsewhich
path sourcesPath sources
pathsearch.hProgramming overview
pc Pascal compilerHistory
pdfglyphlist.txtSpecially-recognized files
pdftex.cfgSpecially-recognized files
PDFTEXCONFIGSupported file formats
pdftexconfig.texSpecially-recognized files
permission deniedSearching overview
permissions, directoryGlobal font cache and security
permissions, fileGlobal font cache and security
PKFONTSSupported file formats
plain.baseUnable to generate fonts
privacy, semblance ofLogging
problems, commonCommon problems
proginit.hCalling sequence
program-varying pathsSupported file formats
programming overviewProgramming overview
programming with config filesProgramming with config files
programming with KpathseaCalling sequence
programs using the libraryIntroduction
proof modeUnable to generate fonts
PSHEADERSSupported file formats
pxp Pascal preprocessorHistory

quoting variable valuesVariable expansion

rationale for casefolding fallbackCasefolding rationale
re-entrant APIProgramming overview
readableSuppressing warnings
reading arbitrary-length linesCalling sequence
recording successful searchesLogging
relative filenamesSearching overview
reporting bugsReporting bugs
resident.cCalling sequence
resolution, settingPath searching options
resolutions, last-resortFallback font
restricted mode, for output filesSafe filenames
retrieving TeXunixtex.ftp
right-hand side of variable assignmentsConfig files
RISINPUTSSupported file formats
Rokicki, TomHistory
root userTilde expansion
runtime configuration filesConfig files
runtime debuggingDebugging

Sauter fonts, and dynamic source creationmktex scripts
scripts for file creationmktex scripts
search path, definedSearching overview
search, case-insensitiveCasefolding search
searching for filesFile lookup
searching for glyphsGlyph lookup
searching overviewSearching overview
searching the databaseSearching overview
searching the diskSearching overview
security considerationsSecurity
SELFAUTODIRCalling sequence
SELFAUTOLOCCalling sequence
SELFAUTOPARENTCalling sequence
sending patchesBug checklist
setgid scriptsGlobal font cache and security
SFDFONTSSupported file formats
shell commands, securitySecurity
shell variablesVariable expansion
shell_escape, example for codeProgramming with config files
site overrides for mktex…mktex configuration
skeleton TeX directoryTeX directory structure
slow startup timeSlow path searching
source filesSupported file formats
sources for search pathsPath sources
specialSuppressing warnings
st_nlinkSubdirectory expansion
ST_NLINK_TRICKSubdirectory expansion
stack traceBug checklist
standalone path searchingInvoking kpsewhich
standard error and debugging outputDebugging
standard optionsStandard options
startup time, excessiveSlow path searching
string routinesCalling sequence
stripmktex configuration
stripsuppliermktex configuration
striptypefacemktex configuration
subdirectory searchingSubdirectory expansion
suffixes, filenameFile lookup
suggestions, makingIntroduction
Sun 2History
supplier directory, omittingmktex configuration
supplier directory, omittingmktex configuration
supported file formatsSupported file formats
suppressing warningsSuppressing warnings
symbolic links not foundUnable to find files
symbolic links, and ls-Rls-R
symlinks, resolvingCalling sequence
system C compiler bugsTeX or Metafont failing
system-dependent casefolding behaviorCasefolding rationale

T1FONTSSupported file formats
T1INPUTSSupported file formats
T42FONTSSupported file formats
tcfmgr.mapSpecially-recognized files
TDSTeX directory structure
TeX directory structureTeX directory structure
TeX environment variablesSupported file formats
TeX failuresTeX or Metafont failing
TeX file lookupFile lookup
TeX glyph lookupGlyph lookup
TeX supportTeX support
TeX Users GroupIntroduction
TEX_HUSHSearching overview
TEX_HUSHSuppressing warnings
tex-file.cFile lookup
tex-file.hProgramming overview
tex-glyph.cGlyph lookup
tex-glyph.hProgramming overview
tex-k@tug.orgMailing lists (bug address)Reporting bugs
TEXBIBSupported file formats
TEXBIBSupported file formats
TEXCONFIGSupported file formats
TEXDOCSSupported file formats
TEXFONTMAPSSupported file formats
TEXFONTSSupported file formats
TEXFONTSSupported file formats
TEXFONTSSupported file formats
TEXFONTSSupported file formats
TEXFORMATSSupported file formats
TEXINDEXSTYLESupported file formats
TEXINPUTSSupported file formats
TEXINPUTSSupported file formats
TEXMFTeX directory structure
texmf_casefold_searchCasefolding search
TEXMF_OUTPUT_DIRECTORY, and missfont.logmktex script names
TEXMF_OUTPUT_DIRECTORY, and paranoid output filesSafe filenames
texmf.cnfSpecially-recognized files
texmf.cnf missing, warning aboutConfig files
texmf.cnf, and variable expansionVariable expansion
texmf.cnf, definition forConfig files
texmf.cnf, source for pathPath sources
TEXMFCNFConfig files
TEXMFCNFSupported file formats
TEXMFDBSSupported file formats
TEXMFINISupported file formats
TEXMFINISupported file formats
TEXMFINISupported file formats
TEXMFOUTPUT, and missfont.logmktex script names
TEXMFOUTPUT, and paranoid output filesSafe filenames
TEXMFSCRIPTSSupported file formats
TEXMFSYSVARSafe filenames
texmfvarmktex configuration
TEXMFVARmktex configuration
TEXMFVARSafe filenames
TEXPICTSSupported file formats
TEXPKSSupported file formats
TEXPOOLSupported file formats
TEXPSHEADERSSupported file formats
TEXPSHEADERSSupported file formats
TEXSIZESFallback font
TEXSOURCESSupported file formats
TFMFONTSSupported file formats
tilde expansionTilde expansion
tilde.cTilde expansion
time system callLogging
tolerance for glyph lookupBasic glyph lookup
trailing ‘/’ in home directoryTilde expansion
trailing colonsDefault expansion
translations, of path searching descriptionPath searching
TRFONTSSupported file formats
trick for detecting leaf directoriesSubdirectory expansion
trojan horseSafe filenames
trojan horse attackSecurity
try_std_extension_firstFile lookup
TTFONTSSupported file formats
typeface directory, omittingmktex configuration
typeface directory, omittingmktex configuration

unable to find filesUnable to find files
unable to generate fontsUnable to generate fonts
unameBug checklist
unknown special warningsSuppressing warnings
unreadable file warningsSuppressing warnings
unreadable filesSearching overview
unrestricted mode, for output filesSafe filenames
unusable ls-R warningls-R
usage patterns, findingLogging
USE_TEXMFVARmktex configuration
USE_VARTEXFONTSmktex configuration
USERPROFILE, as ~ expansionTilde expansion

varfontsmktex configuration
variable expansionVariable expansion
variable.cVariable expansion
variable.hProgramming with config files
VARTEXFONTSmktex configuration
VAX 11/750History
version numbers, determiningBug checklist
VF files, not foundSearching overview
VFFONTSSupported file formats
Vojta, PaulHistory

Walsh, NormanHistory
warning about unusable ls-Rls-R
warning, about missing texmf.cnfConfig files
warnings, file accessSearching overview
warnings, suppressingSuppressing warnings
WEB2CSupported file formats
Weber, OlafHistory
WEBINPUTSSupported file formats
whitespace, in fontmap filesFontmap
whitespace, not ignored on continuation linesConfig files
Windows and casefoldingCasefolding rationale

XDviSpecially-recognized files
XDVIFONTSSupported file formats
XDVIMAKEPKmktex script names
XDVISIZESFallback font

zuhn, davidHistory