Back in the days when I was about to graduate from the University of Zagreb I had problems with getting OpenOffice format my diploma thesis the way I wanted it to be. My neighbor had been telling me about LaTeX and how cool it is so I decided to give it a try. It was two weeks before the diploma thesis submission deadline that I decided to rewrite the thesis in LaTeX. It took me some time to get it done, but I was quite happy with the result.
I’ve been an Emacs user for a year now. Emacs has a cool module called Org-mode. To quote from Wikipedia, Org-mode is “an editing and organizing mode for notes, planning, and authoring, in the free software text editor Emacs.” Org-mode is the tool that I use all day long every day, and one special feature it has is that it lets you write plain text and it will produce the LaTeX output for you — among many other output formats — automatically. Ever since I discovered the feature I write in LaTeX substantially less. I let Org-mode do it for me, and only polish the output if needed.
I’ve been using Org-mode to write notes in a class and to write homework too. This semester I’m taking the class on technical communications, and the professor spotted something strange in my PDF homework submissions. Org-mode uses LaTeX as an intermediate step to export to PDF, and the text in the PDFs Org-mode produced was hard to read due to the low contrast in the PDF reader the professor uses. He figured out it was because of type 3 bitmapped fonts. I was surprised to find that out, and my hunch was that Org-mode had something to do with it.
So I’d opened an Org-mode document and exported it to a temporary LaTeX buffer to inspect what LaTeX packages Org-mode puts there. I thought it must have been some weird LaTeX package that was the reason why PDFs had type 3 fonts. By default Org-mode includes these packages in each LaTeX export:
Wow, 14 packages for a simple plain text homework, and for most of them I don’t even know what they’re for. Then I went to the CTAN website and to Wikipedia to check them out. After reading the package descriptions, I realized I don’t need all of them. Those that I find useful are inputenc, fontenc, fixltx2e, longtable, float, textcomp, latexsym, and hyperref.
Therefore, Org-mode had to be tweaked. To do that, I had to change the default value of the org-export-latex-default-packages-alist Emacs variable. The default value included those 14 packages, and I needed only the subset. First I checked the help page with:
C-h v org-export-latex-default-packages-alist
and then opened the ~/.emacs Emacs configuration file to add the following command:
(setq org-export-latex-default-packages-alist '(("utf8" "inputenc" t) ("" "lmodern" nil) ("T1" "fontenc" t) ("" "fixltx2e" nil) ("" "longtable" nil) ("" "float" nil) ("" "textcomp" t) ("" "latexsym" t) ("" "hyperref" nil) "\\tolerance=1000"))
As you can see, there is one additional package that I decided to include: lmodern, the Type 1 font set according to The (Not So) Short Introduction to LaTeX2e. That did away with the type 3 fonts problem and now only PostScript Type 1 fonts are used. With this setting you can have whatever Latin characters you wish to have in your Org-mode/LaTeX documents without any problems.
The funny thing is that I changed the course of this blog post while writing it. I had a problem with copy-pasting non-ASCII letters from LaTeX-produced PDFs so I went back to the tutorial mentioned earlier while writing this post and realized that “all you need todo is to add […] to the preamble of your document and you are all set for creating excellent PDF output with full support for the full Latin character set.” I immediately tried it out and that’s it, no more funny copy-pastes of my name spanning two rows. Usually I wouldn’t include the lmodern package, and when I copy-pasted my name from the output PDF file I’d get the following:
Marko Dimjaˇevi ́ s c
Obviously, that’s not the desired result. I guess other folks with their names having those “weird” letters from the European alphabets have a similar issue when writing in LaTeX/Org-mode. Hopefully this blog post will help.