ConTeXt Standalone

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< Installation | ConTeXt Minimals/Tree | ConTeXt Minimals/Structure | ConTeXt Minimals/Implementation | ConTeXt Minimals/TODO | ConTeXt Minimals/Contents >

The ConTeXt Minimal is a complete, up-to-date ConTeXt distribution which can be upgraded efficiently. It can be used to install either the stable or the beta version of ConTeXt. It can also be used in parallel with existing TeX installtions such as MikTeX, TeXLive, or older minimal installation. It is aimed towards ConTeXt users, so it does not include LaTeX specific packages and binaries.

NOTE: ConTeXt develops at a fast pace, and sometimes beta releases have serious bugs. ConTeXt minimals allow you to test the latest ConTeXt release without having to worry if an upgrade will mess an critical project. You can have two (or multiple) parallel ConTeXt minimals, and freeze one for your critical projects, and use the other one for experimenting.

General Information

Supported platforms

Platform short name Binarties from Notes
Windows mswin Akira Kakuto (W32TeX)
Linux linux compiled with glibc 2.3.6
Linux, 64-bit linux-64 Peter Münster Should be renamed to linux-amd64
Linux, PowerPC linux-ppc Piotr Kopszak
Mac OS X, Intel osx-intel Mojca Miklavec
Mac OS X, PowerPC osx-ppc Mojca Miklavec
Mac OS X, Universal Binaries osx-universal Mojca Miklavec
FreeBSD freebsd Yue Wang, Diego Depaoli Should be renamed to freebsd-intel
FreeBSD, AMD64 freebsd-amd64 Michael Krauß
Solaris, Intel solaris-intel Michael Krauß
Solaris, Sparc solaris-sparc Vladimir Volovich compiled on solaris 8

We need volunteers for providing binaries for other platforms. If you want to support a platform, please write to ConTeXt Mailing Lists


  • Ruby 1.8
  • Rsync (The windows binary of rsync are distributed with the minimals)

Disc space required

ConTeXt macro files are small (less than 10MB), but the minimals comes with various free fonts which considerable increase the size of the distribution to around 200MB).

Installation and use on Unix like platforms (Linux/FreeBSD/Solaris)


Select a folder where you want to install ConTeXt. For a single user installation, you can use your $HOME/context directory. For a multi-user installation, in Linux you can use /opt/code; in Mac you can use /Applications/ConTeXt Note that, at present, while using MKIV, you need to have write permissions[1] in the installation directory. In order to install the minimals, ownload, and place it in your installation directory. Then open a terminal, go to the installation directory, and run

 sh ./

This takes a long time, so go have a coffee.

By default, the minimals installs ConTeXt beta. If you want the stable version of ConTeXt, you can use

sh ./ --context=current


ConTeXt minimals works in a non-interfering manner because it does not put anything in your $PATH and does not set any system variables. This in turn means that in order to use it, you need to do some initialization. An intialization script called setuptex is provided in installation-dir/tex/.

If you run context from a terminal, source setuptex before running ConTeXt. This depends on the shell that you are using.

  • bash users can use
  source /installation-dir/tex/setuptex
  • zsh users can use
  . /installation-dir/tex/setuptex
  • (t)csh users can use
  source /installation-dir/tex/setuptex.csh

If you run ConTeXt from an editor, you need to source setuptex in a terminal and then open your editor from the same terminal.

Exlusive usage

The above method means that you always have to type source /installation-dir/tex/setuptex in a terminal before you can use typeset. If you always use ConTeXt minimals and never use LaTeX or plain TeX provided by another TeX distribution, you can add the above intialization line to the startup script of your shell. For bash, this means $HOME/.bashrc; for zsh, this means $HOME/.zshrc; for (t)csh, this means $HOME/.cshrc or $HOME/.tcshrc. Then, setuptex will always be sourced in your terminal.

Depending on how your editor intializes, you may still need to source it in order to run ConTeXt directly from your editor, In theory, it is sufficient to add /installation-dir/tex/texmf-<platform>/bin to your path in order to use the minimals. You can try to add this to the paths that your editor searches.


For updating the ConTeXt minimals, just run again.


ConTeXt minimals does not touch anything outside its installation folder. So to uninstall it, you can simply remove the installation folder.

Remaking formats

Normally, the update script should create the formats for you. If for some reason you need to recreate the formats, you can do the following:

  • For making MKII format.
texexec --make --all 
  • For making XeTeX format
texexec --make --xtx --all 
  • For making MKIV format
luatools --selfupdate
mtxrun --selfupdate
luatools --generate
context --make

Installation and usage on Mac

TODO: Merge details from ConTeXt Minimals/Mac Installation (See: To-Do List)

Installation and use on Windows

If you want to use ConTeXt minimals alongside MikTeX/TeXLive (needed if you also run LaTeX), the follow the command-line installation method. Otherwise, you can follow either the command line or GUI installation method.


Command line method

Download and unzip to a directy where you want to install ConTeXt. It is recommended that you choose a directory that does not have a space in its full paht. Then open cmd.exe, go to the installation directory and run


This takes a long time, so go have a coffee.

By default, the minimals installs ConTeXt beta. If you want the stable version of ConTeXt, you can use

 first-setup.bat --context=current

GUI Installer

There is also a GUI installer made by Vyatcheslav Yatskovsky. Download and run the installer and it will ask you where to install the minimals, which distribution to use (stable or beta) and whether or not you want to make formats.

NOTE: The GUI installer asks if you want to set environmental variables globally. Click this only if you do not use MikTeX or TeXLive and do not plan to use LaTeX

You should also see the slides giving details about the GUI installer.


If you used the GUI installer and said yes to setting the evironmental variables globally, then you can run ConTeXt from anywhere. Otherwise, before running ConTeXt, you need to run setuptex.bat which is provided in installation-dir\tex\. This can be done by typing


on cmd.exe before you run ConTeXt. To avoid always having to type this, you can create a shortcut to cmd.exe and edit the command line to read (assuming you installed the minimals in C:\Programs; otherwise replace C:\Programs\ with your installation directory)

 C:\WINDOWS\System32\cmd.exe /k C:\Programs\context\tex\setuptex.bat

This starts up a new command shell with the environment pre-loaded.


If you used the command line method, just run first-setup.bat again to update the minimals.

If you used the GUI installer, just run the installer again.

command-line method: uninstallation

If you used the command-line installer, you can just delete the installation directory to uninstall the minimals.

If you used the GUI installer, you can use standard windows tools for uninstalation.


  • rsync sometimes has problems with paths with uppercase letters (like c:\Temp or c:\Documents and Settings). Installing into all-lowercase paths without spaces sometimes helps.
  • If you're behind firewall and rsync times out you need to open port 873 for outgoing TCP connections.


  1. Actually, you only need write permission for $TEXMFCACHE.