Consider the below MWE of .Rmd file containing Arabic text which needs xelatex engine to be rendered by pandoc. As the documentation of the latter says putting this option would make it: --latex-engine=xelatex.


title: "Minimal Working Example `.Rmd` in Arabic"
author: "Author Name"
date: "Friday, July 08, 2016"
output: pdf_document
latex-engine: xelatex


# مقدمة عن التقرير
# نتائج البحث
# الخلاصة

# Introduction of the Report

# Results

# Summary

So this how it appears in Emacs editor:

enter image description here

This is my setup:

  1. Ubuntu 16.04
  2. Emacs GNU Emacs 24.5.1 (x86_64-pc-linux-gnu, GTK+ Version 3.18.9) of 2016-04-17 on lgw01-04, modified by Debian
  3. Pandoc
  4. polymode-mode and markdown-mode from MELPA latest as of this date
  5. init.el setup in relation to polymode-mode
  6. ESS 16.04

init.el - polymode-mode

(require 'poly-R)
(require 'poly-markdown)
(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.md" . poly-markdown-mode))
(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.org" . poly-org-mode))
(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.Rnw" . poly-noweb+r-mode))
(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.Rmd`enter code here`" . poly-markdown+r-mode))

init.el - customizataions

 '(ess-rutils-keys t)
 '(ess-swv-pdflatex-commands (quote ("xelatex" "pdflatex" "texi2pdf" "make")))
 '(ess-swv-processor (quote knitr))

Primary Issue When I export the .Rmd buffer to pdf by M-n-e, I am prompted for 3 options: Rmarkdown-ESS, Rmarkdown, and pandoc. I picked Rmarkdown-ESS this was the error log:

/usr/bin/pandoc +RTS -K512m -RTS 4G_report.utf8.md --to latex --from markdown+autolink_bare_uris+ascii_identifiers+tex_math_single_backslash-implicit_figures --output /home/username/.emacs.d/docs/rstat/4th_examCom_program_2015_2016/4G_report[exported].pdf --template /home/username/R/my_R_library/rmarkdown/rmd/latex/default-1.15.2.tex --highlight-style tango --latex-engine pdflatex --variable graphics=yes --variable 'geometry:margin=1in' 
! Package inputenc Error: Unicode char س (U+633)
(inputenc)                not set up for use with LaTeX.

See the inputenc package documentation for explanation.
Type  H <return>  for immediate help.

l.293 \end{verbatim}

Try running pandoc with --latex-engine=xelatex.
pandoc: Error producing PDF
Error: pandoc document conversion failed with error 43

so as you can see the error suggests using --latex-engine=xelatex in pandoc instead of the default pdflatex. So how to set xelatex engine as default in polymode export? I tried to set the engine to xelatex in the YAML header but it didn't work. Or is there a way to change the value of a variable like pm-exporter/pandoc?

Secondary Issue
When I export to html I want the Arabic text direction to be from right-to-left and the English part of the text to be from left-to-right. Although I enjoy this bidi-direction inside Emacs editor, well this is one of the good reasons to pick this editor, but unfortunately I dont' get the same effect in the html export, and I don't know whether the same issue will arise int the pdf. So what do I need to get that effect in the exported document?

2 Answers 2


Is it as simple as the following in your init.el?

(setq TeX-engine 'xelatex)
(setq latex-run-command "xelatex")

When exporting from Org-Mode, you can add the following line to your init, to set XeLaTex as the default compiling engine:

(setq org-latex-compiler "xelatex")

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