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The command \footnote is really annoying me. I have to use hacks to use it in section headings, epigraphs, tables, minipages and whatnot.

Can it be fixed? Has someone already implemented a footnote command that Just Works™?

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3 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted

To get footnote in headings you can use either footmisc or simply the option argument of \section[without footnote]{with footnote}. But I agree with the comments claiming that one shouldn't use footnotes in a section heading.

With minipage (and tabular and \parbox and even \mbox) the problem is that they trap the footnote. You can either use \footnotemark inside such boxes and \footnotetext outside, or you can use the footnote package which offers a lot options to help footnotes escape E.g.

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage[stable]{footmisc}
\usepackage{footnote}
\makesavenoteenv{minipage}
\begin{document}
\section{title\footnote{a footnote}}

\begin{minipage}{5cm}
 text\footnote{in minipage} text
\end{minipage}%

\end{document}

See also the FAQ: http://www.tex.ac.uk/cgi-bin/texfaq2html?label=footintab.

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Ah, footnote.sty! I'd either forgotten about that one or I knew knew about it :) This is the answer to the question, methinks. –  Will Robertson Sep 14 '10 at 0:13
    
It turns out that the implementation is quite simple. Interestingly, footnote works, and solves the biggest problem, but I found out that hyperref does not like footmisc. No visible effects, though. –  Mateus Araújo Sep 14 '10 at 4:23
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Not that I'm aware of, but it might be nice to have. There are numerous issues here:

  • \section: do you really want a footnote in a section heading? If so, you definitely don't want that footnote to end up in the ToC.

  • table: tables float, and the idea of a floating object sending a footnote to the bottom of the page is a little weird (mostly in terms of the design, but it would also be a horror to implement). That's why it's usual to use a minipage inside a table and have minifootnotes attached to tables.

  • minipage: it's often desirable to have minipages have their own minifootnotes (see above). So ideally you need a new \footnote command with the option to break out into the complete page.

  • epigraph: these are usually set in a minipage, so once so solve the minipage problem you're set.

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Why is it that everybody is horrified by the idea of footnotes in section headings? In my case, the section heading is the name of a common algorithm, and I use a footnote to inform of the existence of an alternative name. And no, I don't want it in the ToC, there's a hack for that. About minipages, I guess the user expects the footnote to go to the complete page (I have never seen a footnote in a minipage!), so the option should be the other way around. –  Mateus Araújo Sep 13 '10 at 0:02
6  
Section headings are for signposting, not for containing material that is 100% precise and accurate and self-contained. That's what the text is for. But opinion in document design is just that: opinion. –  Will Robertson Sep 13 '10 at 0:27
3  
As this question is tagged 'best-practices': I agree with Will. I will even go one further: As a reader I find footnotes annoying, period. Typically footnotes fall into two categories: 1) stuff that the author wants you to read but is a diversion from the main text 2) irrelevant stuff that is not worth reading. Category 1) should be in a place where it is not so d*mn easy to miss it. Category 2) should not be printed at all. But indeed that is just my opinion. –  Taco Hoekwater Sep 13 '10 at 8:04
1  
@Taco, your opinion is laudable and one with which I might generally agree. However, I'd add the rider that while footnotes don't go so well with some document types, others across the broad spectrum of document genres would not function without footnote and/or endnote capabilities. As an academic working in a very technical field, I would hate to forego footnotes -- either too much information would end up in the body text thus making it a slog, or too much information would be lost, especially the subtext needed to carry out informed and effective scholarly review. –  Geoffrey Jones Sep 13 '10 at 12:48
    
@Taco, @Geoffrey: Category (3), documenting sources. This can be included in the main text, but consumes a lot of space in the text (especially if you are following the title-date referencing system), for something that few readers will want to read more than a few of, and will know to look for if they need it. I agree that digressions should not go into footnotes. The major academic style guides all say this; Chicago has a section entitled "Remedies for Excessive Annotation". –  Charles Stewart Sep 14 '10 at 12:42
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Perhaps not a 100% signed-up part of the Just Works™ family, but the footmisc package especially with its stable option is probably as perfect as it currently gets. Check it out, I think you'll like it.

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It's a nice package, but mainly because of its other options. stable only fixes the footnotes on section headings. –  Mateus Araújo Sep 12 '10 at 23:55
    
hmm, in the classic sense of "your mileage might vary", and I certainly wouldn't want to disagree with your thinking in that case, but I've found it very useful manytimes for places like minipages too. –  Geoffrey Jones Sep 13 '10 at 12:30
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