# Is there a common set of packages that is available in every distribution?

Or at least in most distributions...

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Why the downvote? I think this question makes sense. –  topskip Aug 10 '10 at 7:09
"Distribution" is a little vague. Do you mean TeX distribution, or OS distribution? And what do you mean by "most"? –  Andrew Stacey Aug 10 '10 at 7:41
I am talking about tex distributions. (Sorry, was away from computer for "some time"...) –  EricSchaefer Sep 6 '10 at 16:44

In theory, the only packages that are guaranteed to be present are the ones which are part of the latex distribution itself, and the ones in /macros/latex/required. To quote:

These are packages that the LaTeX team have declared are ‘required’ of any LaTeX distribution—in the sense that any package writer is entitled to assume the presence of these packages in support of her package.

You get amslatex, babel, slovak, cyrillic, grfguide, graphics, graphicx, trig, keyval, epsfig, color, psnfss, afterpage, array, bm, calc, dcolumn, delarray, enumerate, fileerr, fontsmpl, ftnright, hhline, indentfirst, layout, longtable, multicol, rawfonts, showkeys, somedefs, tabularx, theorem, trace, varioref, verbatim, xr, xspace.

In practice, if it's on CTAN, it's probably in your distribution.

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There is, I am afraid, nothing like Python's standard library, which comes with a long list of uniformly documented modules.

Add to that that there's plain TeX, LaTeX and ConTeXt, the whole situation is quite sorry indeed.

Good question, and perhaps in a couple of years they'll be a more encouraging answer.

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The two main TeX distributions are TeX Live and MiKTeX. Of the two, TeX Live defaults to installing 'everything' while MiKTeX starts with a small, basic set of packages. So the 'core' you can assume is likely to be available is defined more or less by what MiKTeX installs as 'basic' packages. Of course, if you mean Linux distros then life is very different.

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In fact, most packages that are distributed via the CTAN directory are included in all modern distributions – at the moment, that’s 2300 packages in `contrib` alone (i.e. packages that are not part of the LaTeX core).