Running Mark IV

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ConTeXt Mark IV does not use the kpathsea library to find files and configuration settings. It follows that running mktexlsr or fmtutil has no effect. This page explains the details of setting up and maintaining Mark IV.


The most important original motivation for this page was that the TeX Live 2008 edition contained Mark IV, but it was only copied to the installed system, no post-install setup took place at all. For the Tex Live 2008 release, the post-install setup had to be done manually. TeX Live 2009 did not come with a usable Mark IV at all because the luatex on the 2009 editions was too old compared to the ConTeXt version. Instructions on how to deal with TeX Live 2009 were needed then. TeX Live 2010 has a working Context Mark IV out of the box: you can just run 'context' directly. At most, you could run luatools --generate; context --make to deal with any tlmgr updates you may have performed since installing TeX Live.

In TeX Live 2011, not even that is needed and you only have to run mtxrun --generate when files are installed manually outside of tlmgr. If you are running tl 2011, this page is just background information, there should be no need to take actual actions.

Special notes (TL 2008/2009):

  • Windows: Running Mark IV under Windows is the same as on Unix, but see below for a installation hints for the 'spaces in names' problem that seem to affect Windows users more often than other platforms.

Special notes (TL 2010):


If you have trouble following these instructions, please direct you questions or complaints on the ntg-context mailing list, not the tex-live list.

Just for the extremely impatient unix user that knows how to deal with a web2c-based TeX distribution and has a simple, private (single-user) installation, this is the only absolutely required extra knowledge:

 luatools --generate        # 2010 and earlier


 mtxrun --generate          # 2011

is the Mark IV replacement for mktexlsr.

 context --make

is the Mark IV replacement for fmtutil.

 context myfile.tex

typesets a file.

Everybody else should read on.

A note for windows users: (tl2008/2009) the luatex executable does not accept filenames with spaces in their name. This means that if you are on windows you will at least have to set up a texmfcnf.lua as explained below, and you likely will even have to reinstall texlive, because the default texlive installation directory itself contains spaces. Details.

Generating and updating formats

Before first use and after each update to either the ConTeXt distribution or the luatex executable you will have to regenerate the formats. The manual command for that is:

 context --make cont-en

This will generate a new Mark IV format with the English interface. Without an explicit format argument, it will generate four formats: Mark IV cont-en, Matk IV cont-nl, luatex+mptopdf, and luatex+plain.

Starting with 2011, formats are automatically (re)generated by context myfile.tex when it believes it is necessary to do so. Specifically: assuming the format already exists, automatic regeneration takes places whenever the ConTeXt version of the luatex version do not match the ones in the pre-existing format. Manual patches of the core files still require manual regeneration of the formats.

The generated formats are stored inside the texmf cache.

Experimental speedup

In addition to standard luatex we provide luajittex which uses just in time compilation to speed up processing. The speedup is mostly due to the faster virtual machine. The exact speedup depends on the tex/lua ratio and we measured speedups between 10% and 40%. You force this engine with

 context --jit ....

Alternatively you can put

% engine=luajittex

on top of your main document source.

Using fonts

The OSFONTDIR environment variable should contain the paths where the system fonts must be looked for.

See Fonts in LuaTeX#Getting access to the system fonts

Downloaded files

If you have the program 'curl' installed, then your input file can contain e.g.


and the referenced file will be downloaded automatically and placed in the 'texmf cache' if is not found in the cache already.

In case of trouble

File not found (TL 2008/2009)

  • You may get errors like
 I can't find file `C:/Program.tex'.

This is likely caused by the luatex executable not handling filename quoting properly yet. If filenames with spaces work at all, you are just lucky.

This problem is most likely to happen on Windows. There two steps to deal with it:

  • You must put the main texmf tree in path without spaces. If you're installing Mark IV via TeXLive 2008, then simply change the top installation path at install time.
  • If you're running XP or Server 2003 (and not Vista or Server 2008), you must also set the TeX user home and the Lua cache to paths without spaces. C:/tlhome is a good candidate.
    • In texmf.cnf set TEXMFHOME to C:/tlhome/$USERNAME or to something similar of your liking. Using $USERNAME in the path will still give a per-user directory, just not under "Documents and Settings". This assumes that the user name doesn't have spaces of course...
    • As mentioned above, create/edit texmfcnf.lua and put a line like return { TEXMFCACHE = 'C:/tlhome/$USERNAME/.texlive2008/texmf-var' }, which sets each user's cache inside his space-free TeX home path.

Cache internals

(this paragraph is for developers and power-users only)

If you look at the folder that TEXMFCACHE points to, you will see a folder named luatex-cache. Inside that, there is the folder context. Inside the context folder, there usually is a single subfolder with a hexadecimal name. This is the md5sum of the name of the 'tex root' location (to be precise, it is the md5sum of the full path expansion of the context lua equivalent of the TEXMFCNF variable).

Below this, there are currently four folders:

  • curl contains downloaded files. The url is converted to something that can be represented on disk by replacing problematic characters by dashes
  • fonts contains the file data/names.tma, this is the 'font name database' (and the derived names.tmc, tmc files are byte-compiled lua code for faster loading). There are also subdirectories containing the preprocessed metrics for non-tex fonts, one folder for each font type.
  • formats contains the Mark IV format file
  • trees has a small set of files with hexadecimal names, one for each of the top-level constituents of TEXMF (containing the filename database for that tree), and one for each of the found texmf.cnf files (containing in preprocessed form all the variables defined by that file). The filenames are md5sums of the contained directory or filename.