Is there a package that contains a TeX to PDF converter/renderer available on Ubuntu 12.04?

If not, can you recommend a tool for me to download from elsewhere that can do this that is simple to install?

  • Welcome Triss, I investigated this a while back and I'm not sure there is a way via the command line. I use Lyx. You might find some useful information here though latex2rtf.sourceforge.net/ Jul 22, 2012 at 11:05
  • @StephenMyall: Lyx is not a command line utility. Jul 23, 2012 at 6:40
  • 1
    Im aware of that and thats why I commented rather than answer your question. I wanted to let you know that I had looked for a command line utility before for this type of conversion with no luck. I hope you have better luck. Jul 23, 2012 at 6:46

5 Answers 5


At the command line, first install the texlive package if it isn't already installed:

sudo apt-get install texlive

Then use the pdflatex utility to convert the file like this:

pdftex /path/to/myfile.tex

The path /path/to/myfile.tex is, of course, an example path. You would put the path to your own file on your system.

Notice that although the utility is called pdflatex you execute it with the command pdftex (without the la).

There are several settings that you can read about in the help for pdflatex:

pdflatex --help

The setting I use the most is the one to generate the pdf in a different directory:

pdflatex --output-directory=../otherdir /path/to/myfile.tex

The pdflatex utility is also interactive, so that if you forget to supply necessary information it will prompt you to enter it before converting the file.

  • 8
    pdftex and pdflatex don't seem to be the same thing. pdflatex supports LaTeX but pdftex doesn't (tex.stackexchange.com/a/258622)
    – bmaupin
    Oct 24, 2017 at 19:01
  • 2
    I support @bmaupin's comment. TeX and LaTeX are not the same. If you force me to answer I had to make an educated guess that LaTeX is a 'superset' of TeX. Once aware it's trivial to switch between an e.g. wrongly pdftex file.tex to pdflatex but for the uninitiated it might be confusing as you casually switch from the former to the latter in your answer.
    – nuala
    Aug 27, 2020 at 17:45
  • Upvoted. I added a few extras to install in my new answer here, too. Jun 17 at 17:07
  • 1
    Big update: you may need to use pdflatex instead of pdftex. I've described the differences now in my answer. Jun 17 at 18:23

As far as I know, you won't find a single standalone binary that will do this for you. The typical utility is called pdflatex and is part of the TeX Live package. It's in the repositories, so simply opening the terminal and typing the below will install pdflatex and lots of other essential TeX stuff:

sudo apt-get install texlive
  • 1
    For people who see this QnA, do visit tex.stackexchange.com and a sample pdf question tex.stackexchange.com/questions/149649/…
    – abel
    Dec 12, 2013 at 17:11
  • 19
    The difficulty with this answer is that it doesn't actually tell the asker how to use the pdflatex utility to make the conversion on the command line. Since that was the question, this doesn't provide a full answer. (Some of us may be able to just read man pages, but for command-line novices who might read this some more explanation is important.)
    – monotasker
    Jun 5, 2014 at 17:46
  • You may also need sudo apt install texinfo. I did.
    – Richard
    Oct 28, 2016 at 11:41

You should try rubber. It is a command-line tool to handle all the tasks associated with compiling TeX documents into pdf, dvi, etc.


For Ubuntu 13.10 I suggest you use texlive-full. It worked for me but I'm non experienced user (:-)

To install it, open a terminal window and type or copy/paste:

sudo apt-get install texlive-full
  • Does this still apply for 15.x? Jan 4, 2016 at 18:59
  • 3
    Better? No. texlive-full is just a huge archive that include lots of Latex related packages, including texlive itself (which in fact is shorthand for texlive-base). By installing texlive-full you will get lots of things you probably will never use, like texlive-lang-czechslovak. May 16, 2018 at 14:34

Install texlive and all the extras: how to convert a .tex file to a PDF (TeX to PDF, and LaTeX to PDF)

Tested on Ubuntu 22.04.2.

In addition to the main texlive program, there are some extras and extra fonts and things you might want too. So, I've gathered the commands from this tutorial (Linux Hint: How Do I Convert a .tex Latex File to PDF in Linux?) and placed them all below:

1. Install texlive

sudo apt update

# (copy and paste and run this whole block of lines at once)
sudo apt install -y \
    texlive \
    texinfo \
    texlive-fonts-recommended \
    texlive-fonts-extra \

2. Use it: produce file.pdf from file.tex

# 1: for a plain TeX format .tex file
pdftex my_TeX_file.tex

# 2: for a LaTeX format .tex file
pdflatex my_LaTeX_file.tex

From man pdftex (emphasis added):

The typical use of pdfTeX is with a pregenerated formats for which PDF output has been enabled. The pdftex command uses the equivalent of the plain TeX format, and the pdflatex command uses the equivalent of the LaTeX format.

More details, and ! Undefined control sequence. errors

Notice that you may need to use pdflatex above, not pdftex. That's because pdftex is for plain TeX format, whereas pdflatex is for LaTeX format. pdftex is more limited and doesn't process LaTeX packages at all, resulting in bad results. See here: TEX Stack Exchange: "Undefined control sequence" at beginning of any simple document.

If your .tex document has any \documentclass{} or \usepackage{} calls at all, for instance, then it is LaTeX format, and you'll have to use a tool such as latex, pdflatex, xelatex, or lualatex instead of pdftex. pdflatex works very well for me.

The errors I see when I mistakenly try to process a LaTeX format document using pdftex look like this, for instance:

makani$ pdftex documentation/control/aero/aero_spec.tex
This is pdfTeX, Version 3.141592653-2.6-1.40.22 (TeX Live 2022/dev/Debian) (preloaded format=pdftex)
 restricted \write18 enabled.
entering extended mode
! Undefined control sequence.
l.1 \documentclass
! Undefined control sequence.
l.2 \usepackage
! Undefined control sequence.
l.3 \geometry
! Undefined control sequence.
l.4 \usepackage
! Undefined control sequence.
l.5 \usepackage

To find the solution at the link above, I used this Google search: pdftex Undefined control sequence.

Full demo

Here's a full demo of an online LaTeX .tex file you can process. It works very well.

We will convert this LaTeX file to a PDF: https://github.com/google/makani/blob/master/documentation/control/aero/aero_spec.tex

# download this LaTeX file
wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/google/makani/master/documentation/control/aero/aero_spec.tex
# convert it to a PDF
pdflatex aero_spec.tex

Now, manually open up aero_spec.pdf in your favorite PDF viewer, such as Foxit Reader, which allows you to highlight, underline, write notes, etc, in the PDF.

Here's what the generated PDF looks like:

enter image description here

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