Richard M. Stallman invented the Texinfo format, wrote the initial processors, and created Edition 1.0 of this manual. Robert J. Chassell greatly revised and extended the manual, starting with Edition 1.1. Brian Fox was responsible for the standalone Texinfo distribution until version 3.8. Karl Berry continued maintenance from Texinfo 3.8 (manual edition 2.22), and Gavin Smith has continued maintenance since Texinfo 6.0.
Richard Stallman included an on-line, hypertext help system called Info in the original implementation of Emacs (in 1975/6). Stallman had been inspired after seeing a presentation a couple of years earlier on the “NLS” hypertext system of Douglas Engelbart.
In another development, in the 1970’s at CMU, Brian Reid developed
a program and format named Scribe to mark up documents for printing.
It used the
@ character to introduce commands, as Texinfo does.
Much more consequentially, it strove to describe document contents
rather than formatting, an idea wholeheartedly adopted by Texinfo.
Meanwhile, people at MIT developed another format called Bolio. Richard Stallman (RMS) worked on converting Bolio to use TeX as its typesetting language, resulting in BoTeX. The earliest BoTeX version seems to have been 0.02 on October 31, 1984.
BoTeX could only be used as a markup language for documents to be printed, not for online documents. RMS combined BoTeX and Info to create Texinfo, a mark-up language for text that is intended to be read both online and as printed hard copy.
The original translator to create Info was written
(primarily by RMS and Bob Chassell) in Emacs Lisp, namely the
texinfo-format-buffer and other functions. In the early 1990s,
Brian Fox reimplemented the conversion program in C, now called
makeinfo, as well as the standalone
In 2012, the C
makeinfo was itself replaced by a Perl
implementation generically called
texi2any. This version
supports the same level of output customization as
texi2html, an independent program originally written by
Lionel Cons, later with substantial work by many others. The many
additional features needed to make
texi2html a replacement
makeinfo were implemented by Patrice Dumas. The first,
never-released version of
texi2any was based on the
That implementation, however, was abandoned in favor of the current
program (also written by Patrice Dumas), which parses the Texinfo
input into a tree for processing. It inherited the design of
customization and other features from
texi2html (for more
texi2html compatibility, see
texi2html: Ancestor of
texi2any is a full reimplementation: it constructs
a tree-based representation of the input document for all back-ends
to work from.
The new Perl program is much slower than the old C program. The speed
gap has partially closed since first release, but it may not ever be
entirely comparable. So why did we switch? In short, we intend and
hope that the present program will be much easier than the previous C
makeinfo to extend to different output
styles, back-end output formats, and all other customizations.
In more detail:
texi2htmlfor years. Thus, in effect two independent implementations of the Texinfo language had developed, and keeping them in sync was not simple. Adding the HTML customization possible in
texi2htmlto a C program would have been an enormous effort.
makeinfocode had become convoluted to the point where adding a new back-end was quite complex, requiring complex interactions with existing back-ends. In contrast, the new implementation provides a clean tree-based representation for all back-ends to work from. People have requested numerous different back-ends (LaTeX, the latest (X)HTML, …); this change made them much more feasible to implement. Which leads to the last item:
makeinfoimplementation for anyone to read and contribute to, with the resulting obvious benefits. After ten years, contributed back-ends were yet to happen, but it is still believed that this structure could in theory lend better to contributions.
texi2any is intended to be a reference implementation
that defines parts of the language not fully specified by the manual.
Without such a reference, alternative implementations would be very
likely to have subtle, or not-so-subtle, differences in behavior,
and thus Texinfo documents would become dependent on the processor.
It is also important to have consistent command-line options for
all processors. Extensive tests of the language and processor were
developed at the same time as
texi2any; we encourage anyone
thinking of writing a program to parse Texinfo input to make use of
With the release of
texi2any as the reference
implementation, development of both the C implementation of
texi2html has been halted. Going
forward, we ask authors of Texinfo documents to use only