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List here which packages can be used to make text easier to read and nicer to look at. After all, the superior typographic quality is one of the main reasons to prefer LaTeX to, for example, MS Word.

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5 Answers 5

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The microtype package, which enables pdfTeX's microtypographical enhancements such as character protrusion and font expansion.

From the Wikipedia article on microtypography:

  • The width of glyphs can be increased or decreased. These methods are sometimes called expansion. (Bringhurst 2005) suggests about 3% expansion or contraction of interword spacing and about 2% expansion or compression of glyphs. Compare Kashida in Persian typography.
  • Glyphs at the end of a line can be extended beyond the end of the line to create a more even line at the edge of the text. This is called protrusion or hanging punctuation.
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i second microtype! –  Mica Sep 23 '10 at 20:22
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A little more detail would be nice, not everyone knows what "character protrusion" and "font expansion" mean. –  Malabarba Sep 24 '10 at 18:32

The typearea package calculates page dimensions based on typographical rules. It divides a page into parts and calculates the margins accordingly. The user may specify the number of parts and a binding correction. Users don't need to figure out which margin sizes might look well.

typearea is part of the KOMA-Script bundle but may be used together with other classes as well.

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+1 But beware that this wastes a lot of space with a large paper size (such as A4) due to the way it calculates margins. I’m not convinced that the classic type area calculation is well-suited for larger paper sizes. –  Konrad Rudolph Sep 23 '10 at 12:23
    
That is already included in the KOMA Script classes, isn't it? –  Ingo Sep 23 '10 at 17:29
    
Yes, it's part of KOMA-Script but working with other classes as well. I'll add this in the post. –  Stefan Kottwitz Sep 23 '10 at 20:06
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Good typography ~= wasted space :-) although I agree a4/letter are bad sizes for typesetting. –  Will Robertson Sep 23 '10 at 22:10
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@ShreevatsaR: Yes, that documentation was never intended for print. I have to say that I find it exceedingly ugly even so. –  Konrad Rudolph Sep 25 '10 at 15:17

Not a package as such, but combining LaTeX with quality fonts (with ligatures, old-style figures, proper small caps etc.) can produce very nice-looking documents, e.g. this book set in Adobe Jenson, from the TeX showcase.

Installing OTF fonts in LaTeX can be done with oftinst

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+1 for recommending document-appropriate fonts. I wholeheartedly agree. And although microtype streaks ahead of all others in my 'must have' LaTeX packages collection, it would still lag behind typeface selection if it ever came to such a choice. (BTW, while Adobe Jenson is outstandingly beautiful font for certain old-style novel genres, I'd hesitate to use it almost anywhere else; which, Chris, just goes to prove your point! BTW2, Adobe Jenson and Adobe's Font Folio Collection (Type1) Janson are two entirely different beasts! Two wonderful but quite different fonts so similarly named.) –  Geoffrey Jones Sep 24 '10 at 2:41
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Computer Modern, the default TeX font, already has ligatures, old-style figures, real small caps and even optical sizes. –  Philipp Sep 24 '10 at 9:29
    
@Philipp - true, but (in my opinion) it's not as attractive as many of the best commercial typefaces, despite having extensive 'expert' features. Certainly even sticking with CM, using small caps and old-style figures can really distinguish a document from something produced by Word. –  Chris Johnson Sep 24 '10 at 12:41
    
@Geoffrey - A agree about Jenson being old-style. I have found Minion rather attractive for mathematical documents: quite modern-looking, but retaining a Renaissance feel, and with a full complement of Greek glyphs for equations. –  Chris Johnson Sep 24 '10 at 12:51
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@Chris, Minion Pro is my second favourite typeface for modern texts, only bested by Adobe Sabon with OSF in the body text with lining figures in headers, etc. If the text I'm writing requires it, I will (through some proprietary automating magic) substitute and rescale Adobe Minion Pro OSF and little things like $ symbols in place of Sabon OSF chars. Agree that it (along with MathTime Pro 2) is perfect for maths. Thanks for the comment about CM; your words evince greater tact than I could ever muster on that particular point. –  Geoffrey Jones Sep 24 '10 at 13:26

babel, for language-specific hyphenation. Or polyglossia for XeTeX-usage.

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As babel has already been mentioned, I'd like to complement this with the latest hyphenation patterns. For the latest patterns for english (American patterns), add

\RequirePackage[english=usenglishmax]{hyphsubst}

before the documentclass. For ngerman, add

\RequirePackage[ngerman=ngerman-x-latest]{hyphsubst}

there.

If anybody knows more updated hyphenation patterns, please edit them in!

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This pacakge does not work with LuaTeX. Any ideas why? –  Ingo May 3 '12 at 17:17
    
@Ingo: No, not really, sorry, but that sounds like good material for a new question here! A quick look into hyphsubst didn't reveal anything about LuaTeX. –  doncherry May 3 '12 at 18:18

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