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I've been given permission to install LaTeX in a laboratory in my University. Given the simplicity of working with MikTeX Package Manager and that I will only be installing in the Windows partition, I've decided to install MikTeX.

However, I've been asked that the installation takes as less space as needed. I'm not comfortable with the packages that come with the Basic Installer, feeling that they are lacking many significant ones.

So, I'd like to know your opinion on what packages/classes may prove useful in order to write documentation for assignments as well as a degree thesis. Bear in mind that it will be used for assignments in Elec. Engineering.

Some packages I've already considered are:

  • AMS bundle
  • pgf/tikz
  • beamer
  • graphicx
  • array/tabulary
  • mathtools
  • babel (documents will be in Spanish)
  • hyperref
  • placeins
  • todonotes
  • listings
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Have you considered leaving the installer as it is? MikTeX will download the missing packages on demand if they are not found on the install directory. So your installation will always be minimal, according to your needs. –  Paulo Cereda May 5 '11 at 21:06
1  
@Paulo But then each user would have to download common packages. Also, if the Windows environment has some sort of security policy that prevents persistant changes, then they may be re-downloading packages each time they log on. –  Sharpie May 5 '11 at 21:17
    
@Sharpie: you are right, I didn't considered such cases. Thanks for pointing them. =) –  Paulo Cereda May 5 '11 at 21:25
    
@Paulo All computers in all laboratories are freezed, so any packages installed will be removed on reboot. –  fabikw May 5 '11 at 22:23
1  
Makes some sense (not that we've ever done it that way ourselves). The only other easy route for a fuller install is to put it on a read-only shared drive somewhere -- TeX Live works great this way. MiKTeX might do just as well, but we had problems with that a few years ago, and we just switched to TeX Live instead of burning a ton of time troubleshooting it. –  Mike Renfro May 6 '11 at 2:17
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

How minimal it should be depends almost completely on the type of document you are going to write.

So, for a thesis I think that you should consider packages like these:

  • For encoding issues:
    • inputenc
  • For formatting content:
    • geometry (to change the borders and size of your document's pages)
    • setspace (to alter some spacings)
    • enumitem (to alter the space among the items of lists)
    • float (to improve the behaviour of float elements)
    • fancyhdr (to improve the headers and footer of the pages)
    • fncychap (to improve the look of every chapter title)
    • caption (to format the captions of floating environments)
    • footmisc (footnotes always at the bottom of the page)
  • For figures:
    • wrapfig (to wrap figures)
    • subfig (when you have more than one image on every figure environment)
  • For tables:
    • tabularx (improves tabular environment)
    • multicol (to span columns)
    • multirow (to span rows)
    • colortbl (to change the background color of some cells or rows.)
    • rccol (improves the right alignement of cells)
  • For bibliography:
    • bibtopic (improves bibliography management and presentation)

And if you will present some algorithms or pseudocode, then algorithm2e is worth a look.

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I would throw in memoir if MikTeX basic does not include it. Memoir is a great document class that provides a lot of bang by including the functionality of the following packages:

Which Packages are Automatically Included By Memoir?

Along with a nicely unified interface for adjusting document layout and style.

Even if you don't use Memoir, the list of packages it emulates are probably good ones to make sure are included in your installation.

In addition, I found the following packages useful as an Engineering student:

  • mhchem: For chemical formulae. Great for Chemistry lab reports.
  • mathpazo: Great set of math fonts that pair with Palatino. I find it a good replacement for people who find Computer Modern too "thin".
  • preview: For cropping things like TikZ pictures into stand-alone documents.
  • siunitx: For beautifully typeset units and tables containing numbers. Absolutely essential.
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