Windows Installation

From ConTeXt wiki

NOTE: October 18, 2011: The contents of this page are partly obsolete. To start with, MK IV is warmly recommended nowadays, and the command used for various operations is no longer texexec, in MK IV it is (usually) context. At least try the other Windows installation pages, linked to this page, before following these instructions.


In order to be able to run ConTeXt under Windows, you will need:

  • a TeX distribution
  • some scripting languages: Ruby is absolutely required (unless you plan to use MK IV exclusively), Perl and GhostScript are highly recommended, the rest is optional.
  • your favorite text editor and PDF viewer

If this was too many options to your taste, try the Simple Windows Installation page instead.


You have to bear in mind that ConTeXt is being developed reasonably fast (see Release Notes), so it's recommended to update it regulary. The command

ctxtools --update

used to work OK, but is no more recommended. All the three distributions mentioned here have their own way to update. We'll come back to that later (and move this section to a better place).

TeX Distributions

You first need to choose a TeX distribution. Options are:

ConTeXt Standalone

  • the official ConTeXt distribution
  • easy to keep up-to-date
  • includes (almost) everything that you need for ConTeXt
  • no LaTeX
    • if you don't need it, that's a rather small & convenient way to use ConTeXt
    • if you need it, you can have ConTeXt Standalone installed parallel to TL or MikTeX

There are two ways to install it on Windows:

  • use GUI intaller by Vyatcheslav [1] (sets environmental variables globally)
  • install from command-line (TODO: instructions)

TeX Live

  • reference distribution for (La)TeX for all platforms
  • released once per year and sent to members of TeX user groups on DVDs
  • used to be gigantic; but since 2008 one can install separate packages and update them
  • binaries are compatible with ConTeXt Standalone
  • ConTeXt is outdated
    • but it's possible to update it manually
    • new ConTeXt update mechanism is being prepared

Another distribution worth mentioning is W32TeX that came to our attention when Akira (its author) was the first one to manage to compile XeTeX for Windows, and still provides the very latest Windows binaries for XeTeX, LuaTeX, pdfTeX, MetaPost, ... Distribution is a bit specific, but his binaries are great - compatible with TeX Live and used in ConTeXt Standalone.

ConTeXt Standalone with TexWorks

This assumes you are not already using a LaTeX distribution like MikTeX.

  1. You do not need to install Ruby first unless you want to run MkII.
  2. Download the ConTeXt Standalone here
  3. Run first-setup.bat from the command line. By default, this will download the beta version. If you want the stable version, add --context=current
  4. It is probably a good idea to make sure ConTeXt is visible from the PATH. In Windows 7, you should go to System > Advanced > Environment Variables and add C:\context\tex\texmf-mswin\bin to your user PATH, assuming you put your ConTeXt folder in C:\. This will allow you to run ConTeXt from the command line anywhere, using context filename.tex.
  5. Install the TexWorks standalone and accept the default options upon installation.
  6. Go to Preferences > Typesetting and add the directory where context.exe is located. It is the same one you added to your PATH.
    1. Next, under Processing Tools, create a new one and call it anything you want. In the Progream field, enter the path of context.exe, the same as above. In the Arguments section, add $fullname and you are done.
  7. Now populate the screen with ConTeXt code, select ConTeXt and press Typeset. A PDF screen should pop up with the document.


If you already worked with (La)TeX before, you probably already have it installed. Try

gswin32 --version

You have to download GhostScript (filename gs851w32.exe or a similar one) and preferrably GSview as well (gsv47w32.exe or similar). Be sure to include the executables (folder where gswin32.exe is located) into the PATH variable.

Special Notes

Installation Instructions

TODO: I made an example how to use the stand-alone distr. isolated from an existing distro. I would like to "join" this somehow with the first section and move opening of cdemo.bat to something like testing the installation. Perhaps pragmatex.bat can be executed with autorun or something if one is not using another TeX distribution. (See: To-Do List)

by Ville Voipio on the mailing list, 2006-01-19 (modified)

Here is a step by step of how it should go (i.e. what I did with success):

  1. Install Perl and Ruby
  2. Download, unzip it and move/rename the isoimage folder to your favourite destination. The instructions to follow assume that you renamed isoimage to
    There should be one folder (usr) and a few files in it.
  3. Open the folder c:\Programs\context and double-click cdemo.bat.
  4. Now you should see the editor SciTE open with a few files. Press F7 to compile one of the files.

If everything goes smoothly, you are done. If not, read these instructions again carefully. If you cannot get it work, mail the list.

TODO: review these steps: join the information - notes about ruby, Acrobat, ... apply to all windows distributions. (See: To-Do List)

A few notes on the procedure above:

  • It is up to you to choose the location where you unzip the file in step #2, no magic there. Just that you know where the files are.
  • The actual location of the ConTeXt tree in step #2 does not matter. I use c:\context, but you might use something else. However, I would not use anything with a space in the name (e.g. c:\Program Files\context), as that may confuse things. [Seems to work with an August 2006 stand-alone distribution.]
  • After you have verified everything works in step #3, you can toss cdemo.bat away and use cstart.bat to start everything. Make a link to it somewhere so that you can start the system by a shortcut or through the Start menu. Do not move the batch script anywhere, it has to be run in the root directory of the distribution (e.g. c:\Programs\context).
  • Make sure you have something Acrobatish (any decent PDF viewer) installed, otherwise you won't see the results in step #4.
  • A final note: to have it finally running you should build the formats first. To do so there is at least a way:
 (assuming C:\Programs\context)
 cd C:\Programs\context
 Then close the SciTe window but remain in the cmd.
Then, in one line:
C:\Programs\context\usr\local\context\tex\setuptex.bat C:\Programs\context\usr\local\context\tex
 texexec --make --all
Then, close the cmd, double-click in cdemo.bat
and voila !
  • Another way to do it could be to type: texexec --make --all directly in SciTe console.

How to use the stand-alone distr. if you have MikTeX/TeX Live installed

  1. Create a file pragmatex.bat (the name doesn't really matter) with this content:
    C:\Programs\context\usr\local\context\tex\setuptex.bat C:\Programs\context\usr\local\context\tex
    and make sure that this file is visible by PATH.
  2. You can safely continue using your old TeX distribution (MikTeX, TeX Live, ...). If you want to invoke the stand-alone distribution, just execute
    from the command-line and all the subsequent calls to texexec will use files from the stand-alone tree (you'll notice the difference in file names when running ConTeXt).
  3. To avoid the need to open a new prompt each time you want to run ConTeXt, create another .bat file in your .tex file's folder with the following content:
call C:\Programs\context\usr\local\context\pragmatex.bat 
context filename.tex

If you place the pragmatex file in your ConTeXt directory, this will allow you to call ConTeXt from anywhere on your computer with one click. The disadvantage is that it's linked to a specific .tex file.

Use the same .bat file to run ConTeXt with any .tex file

  1. You can use the .bat file above for any .tex file you have.

Just do the following modification:

call C:\Programs\context\usr\local\context\pragmatex.bat 
context %1

and save it as ConTeXtthis.bat. Now, you can use it this way:

ConTeXtthis.bat anyfile.tex 

Where anyfile.tex is your main ConTeXt source file. This whole instruction works well whit TeXnicCenter