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What is the minimal latex distribution available? Ideally i am looking for something like Mimetex but to generate dvi instead of png. Altenratively i am happy with <50Mb distros.

I don't care about any major packages, the only thing i am looking for is support for (primitive) equations.

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If you can live with a text processing system that isn't LaTeX, and isn't as powerful, have a look at "lout" - it's tiny compared to anything latexian. sourceforge.net/apps/mediawiki/lout/… –  wrt Oct 2 '09 at 5:15
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3 Answers

Installed size is not a common metric, but here is a basic place to start:

The debian packages it takes to have basic latex seem to be tex-common, texlive-common, texlive-base, and texlive-base-bin. They add up to about 28 MB installed size. Including texlive-doc-base adds about 1.2 MB.

That is pretty trimmed down installation and does quite a bit of the stuff that would normally go into a full LaTeX environment. In particular, it does not include the fonts. That's where the heavy weight is going to come in (the lmodern font package is 46 MB).

Also, the set described above depends on perl, and various X libraries, and the system c libraries, etc. etc.

So it is hard to say exactly how "big" it is.

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This is a first post, so they won't let me put more than one hyperlink, hence manual footnotes below.

Assuming you're looking for a Linux or Windows-based LaTeX distro, you might try TeXLive. If you do a full install, it is by no means small, but it can be run directly from a live DVD. For this you have two choices. You can do a 'live installation', [described here] (see fn. 2, below) which sets up a minimal writeable environment on your computer, while all the input files and binaries remain on the DVD, or you can run TexLive portably from USB and DVD, with no install at all [described here.] (see fn.3 below) Both of these schemes work on Linux and Windows. You need to use the text-mode installer for these.

And if you choose to do a regular install (possible from the DVD or from the net), you will also be able to easily choose between 'schemes', meta-packages that control what components to install. [Screenshots here.] (See fn. 4 below).

The current version of TeXlive is 2008, but the 2009 version should be out fairly soon (within 2 1/2 months anyway). TexLive has an annual release cycle, and they nearly always(!) manage to to get it out in the calendar year of their version number.

Hope that helps.

Manual footnotes:
[2] www.tug.org/texlive/doc/texlive-en/texlive-en.html#x1-260003.2.5

[3] www.tug.org/texlive/doc/texlive-en/texlive-en.html#x1-400005

[4] www.tug.org/texlive/doc/texlive-en/texlive-en.html#x1-230003.2.2

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Note that TeXLive 2009 is now out, and can still be run live. Like last year it has a small installer and rough modularity to choose what you want. I'm told that, on Windows MikTeX has a much higher degree of modularity, which may let you get your size down even further. –  ScoBe Nov 12 '09 at 13:07
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If you don't need full latex compatability, you might consider XeTeX - there's an ok wikipedia page. With it, you could install a minimal tex or tex live - still large, but you don't have to install the Tex fonts, it can use your system fonts.

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