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20. Formatting and Printing Hardcopy

There are three major shell commands for making a printed manual from a Texinfo file: one for converting the Texinfo file into a file that will be printed, a second for sorting indices, and a third for printing the formatted document. When you use the shell commands, you can either work directly in the operating system shell or work within a shell inside XEmacs.

If you are using XEmacs, you can use commands provided by Texinfo mode instead of shell commands. In addition to the three commands to format a file, sort the indices, and print the result, Texinfo mode offers key bindings for commands to recenter the output buffer, show the print queue, and delete a job from the print queue.

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20.1 Use TeX

The typesetting program called TeX is used for formatting a Texinfo file. TeX is a very powerful typesetting program and, if used correctly, does an exceptionally good job. (See section How to Obtain TeX, for information on how to obtain TeX.)

The standalone makeinfo program and XEmacs functions texinfo-format-region and texinfo-format-buffer commands read the very same @-commands in the Texinfo file as does TeX, but process them differently to make an Info file (see section Creating an Info File).

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20.2 Format with tex and texindex

You can format the Texinfo file with the shell command tex followed by the name of the Texinfo file. For example:

tex foo.texi

TeX will produce a DVI file as well as several auxiliary files containing information for indices, cross references, etc. The DVI file (for DeVice Independent file) can be printed on virtually any device (see the following sections).

The tex formatting command itself does not sort the indices; it writes an output file of unsorted index data. To generate a printed index after running the tex command, you first need a sorted index to work from. The texindex command sorts indices. (The source file ‘texindex.c’ comes as part of the standard Texinfo distribution, among other places.) (texi2dvi runs tex and texindex as necessary.)

The tex formatting command outputs unsorted index files under names that obey a standard convention: the name of your main input file with any ‘.tex’ (or similar, see (web2c)tex invocation section ‘tex invocation’ in Web2c) extension removed, followed by the two letter names of indices. For example, the raw index output files for the input file ‘foo.texinfo’ would be ‘foo.cp’, ‘foo.vr’, ‘foo.fn’, ‘foo.tp’, ‘foo.pg’ and ‘foo.ky’. Those are exactly the arguments to give to texindex.

Instead of specifying all the unsorted index file names explicitly, you can use ‘??’ as shell wildcards and give the command in this form:

texindex foo.??

This command will run texindex on all the unsorted index files, including any that you have defined yourself using @defindex or @defcodeindex. (You may execute ‘texindex foo.??’ even if there are similarly named files with two letter extensions that are not index files, such as ‘foo.el’. The texindex command reports but otherwise ignores such files.)

For each file specified, texindex generates a sorted index file whose name is made by appending ‘s’ to the input file name. The @printindex command looks for a file with that name (see section Printing Indices and Menus). texindex does not alter the raw index output file.

After you have sorted the indices, you need to rerun tex on the Texinfo file. This regenerates the DVI file, this time with up-to-date index entries.

Finally, you may need to run tex one more time, to get the page numbers in the cross-references correct.

To summarize, this is a five step process:

  1. Run tex on your Texinfo file. This generates a DVI file (with undefined cross-references and no indices), and the raw index files (with two letter extensions).
  2. Run texindex on the raw index files. This creates the corresponding sorted index files (with three letter extensions).
  3. Run tex again on your Texinfo file. This regenerates the DVI file, this time with indices and defined cross-references, but with page numbers for the cross-references from last time, generally incorrect.
  4. Sort the indices again, with texindex.
  5. Run tex one last time. This time the correct page numbers are written for the cross-references.

Alternatively, it’s a one-step process: run texi2dvi (see section Format with texi2dvi).

You need not run texindex each time after you run tex. If you do not, on the next run, the tex formatting command will use whatever sorted index files happen to exist from the previous use of texindex. This is usually ok while you are debugging.

Sometimes you may wish to print a document while you know it is incomplete, or to print just one chapter of a document. In that case, the usual auxiliary files that TeX creates and warnings TeX gives when cross-references are not satisfied are just nuisances. You can avoid them with the @novalidate command, which you must give before the @setfilename command (see section @setfilename). Thus, the beginning of your file would look approximately like this:

\input texinfo
@setfilename myfile.info

@novalidate also turns off validation in makeinfo, just like its --no-validate option (see section Pointer Validation).

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20.3 Format with texi2dvi

The texi2dvi command automatically runs both TeX and texindex as many times as necessary to produce a DVI file with sorted indices and all cross-references resolved. It is therefore simpler than manually executing the textexindextextex sequence described in the previous section.

To run texi2dvi on an input file ‘foo.texi’, do this (where ‘prompt$ ’ is your shell prompt):

prompt$ texi2dvi foo.texi

As shown in this example, the input filenames to texi2dvi must include any extension (‘.texi’, ‘.texinfo’, etc.). Under MS-DOS and perhaps in other circumstances, you may need to run ‘sh texi2dvi foo.texi’ instead of relying on the operating system to invoke the shell on the ‘texi2dvi’ script.

One useful option to texi2dvi is ‘--command=cmd’. This inserts cmd on a line by itself after the @setfilename in a temporary copy of the input file before running TeX. With this, you can specify different printing formats, such as @smallbook (see section Printing “Small” Books), @afourpaper (see section Printing on A4 Paper), or @pagesizes (see section @pagesizes [width][, height]: Custom Page Sizes), without actually changing the document source. (You can also do this on a site-wide basis with ‘texinfo.cnf’; see section Preparing for TeX).

With the ‘--pdf’ option, texi2dvi produces PDF output instead of DVI (see section PDF Output), by running pdftex instead of tex. Alternatively, the command texi2pdf is an abbreviation for running ‘texi2dvi --pdf’. The command pdftexi2dvi is also supported as a convenience to AUC-TeX users, since the latter merely prepends ‘pdf’ to DVI producing tools to have PDF producing tools.

texi2dvi can also be used to process LaTeX files; simply run ‘texi2dvi filename.ext’.

Normally texi2dvi is able to guess the input file language by its contents and file name suffix. If, however, it fails to do so you can specify the input language using ‘--language=lang’ command line option, where lang is either ‘latex’ or ‘texinfo’.

texi2dvi will use etex (or pdfetex) if they are available; these extended versions of TeX are not required, and the DVI (or PDF) output is identical, but they simplify the TeX programming in some cases, and provide additional tracing information when debugging ‘texinfo.tex’.

Several options are provided for handling documents, written in character sets other than ASCII. The ‘--translate-file=file’ option instructs texi2dvi to translate input into internal TeX character set using translation file file (see TCX files: (web2c)TCX files section ‘TCX files: Character translations’ in Web2c: A TeX implementation).

The options ‘--recode’ and ‘--recode-from=enc’ allow conversion of an input document before running TeX. The ‘--recode’ option recodes the document from encoding specified by ‘@documentencoding’ command (see section documentencoding) to plain 7-bit ‘texinfo’ encoding.

The option ‘--recode-from=enc’ recodes the document from enc encoding to the encoding specified by ‘@documentencoding’. This is useful, for example, if the document is written in ‘UTF-8’ encoding and an equivalent 8-bit encoding is supported by makeinfo.

Both ‘--recode’ and ‘--recode-from=enc’ use recode utility to perform the conversion. If recode fails to process the file, texi2dvi prints a warning and continues using unmodified input file.

For a list of other options, run ‘texi2dvi --help’.

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20.4 Shell Print Using lpr -d

The precise command to print a DVI file depends on your system installation. Two common ones are ‘dvips foo.dvi -o’ and ‘lpr -d foo.dvi’.

For example, the following commands will (perhaps) suffice to sort the indices, format, and print the Bison Manual:

tex bison.texinfo
texindex bison.??
tex bison.texinfo
lpr -d bison.dvi

(Remember that the shell commands may be different at your site; but these are commonly used versions.)

Using the texi2dvi shell script (see the previous section):

texi2dvi bison.texinfo
lpr -d bison.dvi
# or perhaps dvips bison.dvi -o

lpr is a standard program on Unix systems, but it is usually absent on MS-DOS/MS-Windows. Some network packages come with a program named lpr, but these are usually limited to sending files to a print server over the network, and generally don’t support the ‘-d’ option. If you are unfortunate enough to work on one of these systems, you have several alternative ways of printing DVI files:

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20.5 From an XEmacs Shell

You can give formatting and printing commands from a shell within XEmacs. To create a shell within XEmacs, type M-x shell. In this shell, you can format and print the document. See section Format and Print Hardcopy, for details.

You can switch to and from the shell buffer while tex is running and do other editing. If you are formatting a long document on a slow machine, this can be very convenient.

You can also use texi2dvi from an XEmacs shell. For example, here is how to use texi2dvi to format and print Using and Porting GNU CC from a shell within XEmacs:

texi2dvi gcc.texinfo
lpr -d gcc.dvi

See the next section for more information about formatting and printing in Texinfo mode.

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20.6 Formatting and Printing in Texinfo Mode

Texinfo mode provides several predefined key commands for TeX formatting and printing. These include commands for sorting indices, looking at the printer queue, killing the formatting job, and recentering the display of the buffer in which the operations occur.

C-c C-t C-b
M-x texinfo-tex-buffer

Run texi2dvi on the current buffer.

C-c C-t C-r
M-x texinfo-tex-region

Run TeX on the current region.

C-c C-t C-i
M-x texinfo-texindex

Sort the indices of a Texinfo file formatted with texinfo-tex-region.

C-c C-t C-p
M-x texinfo-tex-print

Print a DVI file that was made with texinfo-tex-region or texinfo-tex-buffer.

C-c C-t C-q
M-x tex-show-print-queue

Show the print queue.

C-c C-t C-d
M-x texinfo-delete-from-print-queue

Delete a job from the print queue; you will be prompted for the job number shown by a preceding C-c C-t C-q command (texinfo-show-tex-print-queue).

C-c C-t C-k
M-x tex-kill-job

Kill the currently running TeX job started by either texinfo-tex-region or texinfo-tex-buffer, or any other process running in the Texinfo shell buffer.

C-c C-t C-x
M-x texinfo-quit-job

Quit a TeX formatting job that has stopped because of an error by sending an <x> to it. When you do this, TeX preserves a record of what it did in a ‘.log’ file.

C-c C-t C-l
M-x tex-recenter-output-buffer

Redisplay the shell buffer in which the TeX printing and formatting commands are run to show its most recent output.

Thus, the usual sequence of commands for formatting a buffer is as follows (with comments to the right):

C-c C-t C-b             Run texi2dvi on the buffer.
C-c C-t C-p             Print the DVI file.
C-c C-t C-q             Display the printer queue.

The Texinfo mode TeX formatting commands start a subshell in XEmacs called the ‘*tex-shell*’. The texinfo-tex-command, texinfo-texindex-command, and tex-dvi-print-command commands are all run in this shell.

You can watch the commands operate in the ‘*tex-shell*’ buffer, and you can switch to and from and use the ‘*tex-shell*’ buffer as you would any other shell buffer.

The formatting and print commands depend on the values of several variables. The default values are:

    Variable                              Default value

texinfo-texi2dvi-command                  "texi2dvi"
texinfo-tex-command                       "tex"
texinfo-texindex-command                  "texindex"
texinfo-delete-from-print-queue-command   "lprm"
texinfo-tex-trailer                       "@bye"
tex-start-of-header                       "%**start"
tex-end-of-header                         "%**end"
tex-dvi-print-command                     "lpr -d"
tex-show-queue-command                    "lpq"

You can change the values of these variables with the M-x set-variable command (see (xemacs)Examining section ‘Examining and Setting Variables’ in XEmacs User’s Manual), or with your ‘init.el’ initialization file (see (xemacs)Init File section ‘Init File’ in The XEmacs Manual).

Beginning with version 20, XEmacs offers a user-friendly interface, called Customize, for changing values of user-definable variables. See (xemacs)Easy Customization section ‘Easy Customization Interface’ in XEmacs User’s Manual, for more details about this. The Texinfo variables can be found in the ‘Development/Docs/Texinfo’ group, once you invoke the M-x customize command.

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20.7 Using the Local Variables List

Yet another way to apply the TeX formatting command to a Texinfo file is to put that command in a local variables list at the end of the Texinfo file. You can then specify the tex or texi2dvi commands as a compile-command and have XEmacs run it by typing M-x compile. This creates a special shell called the ‘*compilation*’ buffer in which XEmacs runs the compile command. For example, at the end of the ‘gdb.texinfo’ file, after the @bye, you could put the following:

Local Variables:
compile-command: "texi2dvi gdb.texinfo"

This technique is most often used by programmers who also compile programs this way; see (xemacs)Compilation section ‘Compilation’ in XEmacs User’s Manual.

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20.8 TeX Formatting Requirements Summary

Every Texinfo file that is to be input to TeX must begin with a \input command and must contain an @setfilename command:

\input texinfo
@setfilename arg-not-used-by-@TeX{}

The first command instructs TeX to load the macros it needs to process a Texinfo file and the second command opens auxiliary files.

Every Texinfo file must end with a line that terminates TeX’s processing and forces out unfinished pages:


Strictly speaking, these lines are all a Texinfo file needs to be processed successfully by TeX.

Usually, however, the beginning includes an @settitle command to define the title of the printed manual, an @setchapternewpage command, a title page, a copyright page, and permissions. Besides an @bye, the end of a file usually includes indices and a table of contents. (And of course most manuals contain a body of text as well.)

For more information, see:

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20.9 Preparing for TeX

TeX needs to know where to find the ‘texinfo.tex’ file that the ‘\input texinfo’ command on the first line reads. The ‘texinfo.tex’ file tells TeX how to handle @-commands; it is included in all standard GNU distributions. The latest version is always available from the Texinfo source repository:


Usually, the installer has put the ‘texinfo.tex’ file in the default directory that contains TeX macros when GNU Texinfo, XEmacs or other GNU software is installed. In this case, TeX will find the file and you do not need to do anything special. If this has not been done, you can put ‘texinfo.tex’ in the current directory when you run TeX, and TeX will find it there.

Also, you should install ‘epsf.tex’, if it is not already installed from another distribution. More details are at the end of the description of the @image command (see section Inserting Images).

To be able to use quotation marks other than those used in English you’ll need to install European Computer Modern fonts and optionally CM-Super fonts, unless they are already installed (see section Inserting Quotation Marks).

If you intend to use the @euro command, you should install the Euro font, if it is not already installed. See section @euro{} (€): Euro Currency Symbol.

Optionally, you may create an additional ‘texinfo.cnf’, and install it as well. This file is read by TeX when the @setfilename command is executed (see section @setfilename). You can put any commands you like there, according to local site-wide conventions. They will be read by TeX when processing any Texinfo document. For example, if ‘texinfo.cnf’ contains the line ‘@afourpaper’ (see section Printing on A4 Paper), then all Texinfo documents will be processed with that page size in effect. If you have nothing to put in ‘texinfo.cnf’, you do not need to create it.

If neither of the above locations for these system files suffice for you, you can specify the directories explicitly. For ‘texinfo.tex’, you can do this by writing the complete path for the file after the \input command. Another way, that works for both ‘texinfo.tex’ and ‘texinfo.cnf’ (and any other file TeX might read), is to set the TEXINPUTS environment variable in your ‘.cshrc’ or ‘.profile’ file.

Which you use of ‘.cshrc’ or ‘.profile’ depends on whether you use a Bourne shell-compatible (sh, bash, ksh, …) or C shell-compatible (csh, tcsh) command interpreter. The latter read the ‘.cshrc’ file for initialization information, and the former read ‘.profile’.

In a ‘.cshrc’ file, you could use the following csh command sequence:

setenv TEXINPUTS .:/home/me/mylib:

In a ‘.profile’ file, you could use the following sh command sequence:


On MS-DOS/MS-Windows, you would say it like this(9):

set TEXINPUTS=.;d:/home/me/mylib;c:

It is customary for DOS/Windows users to put such commands in the ‘autoexec.bat’ file, or in the Windows Registry.

These settings would cause TeX to look for ‘\input’ file first in the current directory, indicated by the ‘.’, then in a hypothetical user ‘me’’s ‘mylib’ directory, and finally in the system directories. (A leading, trailing, or doubled ‘:’ indicates searching the system directories at that point.)

Finally, you may wish to dump a ‘.fmt’ file (see (web2c)Memory dumps section ‘Memory dumps’ in Web2c) so that TeX can load Texinfo faster. (The disadvantage is that then updating ‘texinfo.tex’ requires redumping.) You can do this by running this command, assuming ‘epsf.tex’ is findable by TeX:

initex texinfo @dump

(dump is a TeX primitive.) Then, move ‘texinfo.fmt’ to wherever your .fmt files are found; typically, this will be in the subdirectory ‘web2c’ of your TeX installation.

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20.10 Overfull “hboxes”

TeX is sometimes unable to typeset a line without extending it into the right margin. This can occur when TeX comes upon what it interprets as a long word that it cannot hyphenate, such as an electronic mail network address or a very long title. When this happens, TeX prints an error message like this:

Overfull @hbox (20.76302pt too wide)

(In TeX, lines are in “horizontal boxes”, hence the term, “hbox”. ‘@hbox’ is a TeX primitive not needed in the Texinfo language.)

TeX also provides the line number in the Texinfo source file and the text of the offending line, which is marked at all the places that TeX considered hyphenation. See section Catching Errors with TeX Formatting, for more information about typesetting errors.

If the Texinfo file has an overfull hbox, you can rewrite the sentence so the overfull hbox does not occur, or you can decide to leave it. A small excursion into the right margin often does not matter and may not even be noticeable.

If you have many overfull boxes and/or an antipathy to rewriting, you can coerce TeX into greatly increasing the allowable interword spacing, thus (if you’re lucky) avoiding many of the bad line breaks, like this:

\global\emergencystretch = .9\hsize
@end tex

(You should adjust the fraction as needed.) This huge value for \emergencystretch cannot be the default, since then the typeset output would generally be of noticeably lower quality; the default is ‘.15\hsize’. \hsize is the TeX dimension containing the current line width.

For what overfull boxes you have, however, TeX will print a large, ugly, black rectangle beside the line that contains the overfull hbox unless told otherwise. This is so you will notice the location of the problem if you are correcting a draft.

To prevent such a monstrosity from marring your final printout, write the following in the beginning of the Texinfo file on a line of its own, before the @titlepage command:


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20.11 Printing “Small” Books

By default, TeX typesets pages for printing in an 8.5 by 11 inch format. However, you can direct TeX to typeset a document in a 7 by 9.25 inch format that is suitable for bound books by inserting the following command on a line by itself at the beginning of the Texinfo file, before the title page:


(Since many books are about 7 by 9.25 inches, this command might better have been called the @regularbooksize command, but it came to be called the @smallbook command by comparison to the 8.5 by 11 inch format.)

If you write the @smallbook command between the start-of-header and end-of-header lines, the Texinfo mode TeX region formatting command, texinfo-tex-region, will format the region in “small” book size (see section Start of Header).

See section @small… Block Commands, for information about commands that make it easier to produce examples for a smaller manual.

See section Format with texi2dvi, and Preparing for TeX, for other ways to format with @smallbook that do not require changing the source file.

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20.12 Printing on A4 Paper

You can tell TeX to format a document for printing on European size A4 paper (or A5) with the @afourpaper (or @afivepaper) command. Write the command on a line by itself near the beginning of the Texinfo file, before the title page. For example, this is how you would write the header for this manual:

\input texinfo    @c -*-texinfo-*-
@c %**start of header
@setfilename texinfo
@settitle Texinfo
@c %**end of header

See section Format with texi2dvi, and Preparing for TeX, for other ways to format for different paper sizes that do not require changing the source file.

You may or may not prefer the formatting that results from the command @afourlatex. There’s also @afourwide for A4 paper in wide format.

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20.13 @pagesizes [width][, height]: Custom Page Sizes

You can explicitly specify the height and (optionally) width of the main text area on the page with the @pagesizes command. Write this on a line by itself near the beginning of the Texinfo file, before the title page. The height comes first, then the width if desired, separated by a comma. Examples:

@pagesizes 200mm,150mm  


@pagesizes 11.5in      

This would be reasonable for printing on B5-size paper. To emphasize, this command specifies the size of the text area, not the size of the paper (which is 250mm by 177mm for B5, 14in by 8.5in for legal).

To make more elaborate changes, such as changing any of the page margins, you must define a new command in ‘texinfo.tex’ (or ‘texinfo.cnf’, see section Preparing for TeX).

See section Format with texi2dvi, and Preparing for TeX, for other ways to specify @pagesizes that do not require changing the source file.

@pagesizes is ignored by makeinfo.

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20.14 Cropmarks and Magnification

You can (attempt to) direct TeX to print cropmarks at the corners of pages with the @cropmarks command. Write the @cropmarks command on a line by itself between @iftex and @end iftex lines near the beginning of the Texinfo file, before the title page, like this:

@end iftex

This command is mainly for printers that typeset several pages on one sheet of film; but you can attempt to use it to mark the corners of a book set to 7 by 9.25 inches with the @smallbook command. (Printers will not produce cropmarks for regular sized output that is printed on regular sized paper.) Since different printing machines work in different ways, you should explore the use of this command with a spirit of adventure. You may have to redefine the command in ‘texinfo.tex’.

You can attempt to direct TeX to typeset pages larger or smaller than usual with the \mag TeX command. Everything that is typeset is scaled proportionally larger or smaller. (\mag stands for “magnification”.) This is not a Texinfo @-command, but is a plain TeX command that is prefixed with a backslash. You have to write this command between @tex and @end tex (see section Raw Formatter Commands).

Follow the \mag command with an ‘=’ and then a number that is 1000 times the magnification you desire. For example, to print pages at 1.2 normal size, write the following near the beginning of the Texinfo file, before the title page:

@end tex

With some printing technologies, you can print normal-sized copies that look better than usual by giving a larger-than-normal master to your print shop. They do the reduction, thus effectively increasing the resolution.

Depending on your system, DVI files prepared with a nonstandard-\mag may not print or may print only with certain magnifications. Be prepared to experiment.

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20.15 PDF Output

The simplest way to generate PDF output from Texinfo source is to run the convenience script texi2pdf (or pdftexi2dvi); this simply executes the texi2dvi script with the ‘--pdf’ option (see section Format with texi2dvi). If for some reason you want to process the document by hand, simply run the pdftex program instead of plain tex. That is, run ‘pdftex foo.texi’ instead of ‘tex foo.texi’.

PDF stands for ‘Portable Document Format’. It was invented by Adobe Systems some years ago for document interchange, based on their PostScript language. Related links:

At present, Texinfo does not provide ‘@ifpdf’ or ‘@pdf’ commands as for the other output formats, since PDF documents contain many internal links that would be hard or impossible to get right at the Texinfo source level.

PDF files require special software to be displayed, unlike the plain ASCII formats (Info, HTML) that Texinfo supports. They also tend to be much larger than the DVI files output by TeX by default. Nevertheless, a PDF file does define an actual typeset document in a self-contained file, so it has its place.

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20.16 How to Obtain TeX

TeX is freely redistributable. You can obtain TeX for Unix systems via anonymous ftp or on physical media. The core material consists of the Web2c TeX distribution (http://tug.org/web2c).

Instructions for retrieval by anonymous ftp and information on other available distributions: http://tug.org/unixtex.ftp.

The Free Software Foundation provides a core distribution on its Source Code CD-ROM suitable for printing Texinfo manuals. To order it, contact:

Free Software Foundation, Inc.
51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor
Boston, MA   02110-1301
Telephone: +1-617-542-5942
Fax: (including Japan) +1-617-542-2652
Free Dial Fax (in Japan):
      0031-13-2473 (KDD)
      0066-3382-0158 (IDC)
Electronic mail: gnu@gnu.org

Many other TeX distributions are available; see http://tug.org/.

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This document was generated by Aidan Kehoe on December 27, 2016 using texi2html 1.82.