Take the 2-minute tour ×
TeX - LaTeX Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for users of TeX, LaTeX, ConTeXt, and related typesetting systems. It's 100% free, no registration required.

LaTeX is wonderful for writing mathematical papers, but while the output is perfectly typeset it is not visually very exciting. And although it may just be "familiarity breeds contempt", I am basically fed up of the CMR fonts.

I want to write some course notes that don't look like a dry mathematical paper, but rather have a bit of additional "pizzazz" to relieve the visual monotony for the students, and to provide subtle visual assistance in navigating the notes.

It's not that I want the course notes to look like a 1000-page Calculus text or a ".. For Dummies" book where the entire book is a mass of cute little icons, call-outs, footnotes, marginal comments, cartoons etc, but just something that gives some attractive chapter and section headings, a few distinct ways to frame material that is either background, or advanced or otherwise to be separated from the main flow.

I've searched a bit and the most promising thing to explore further that I have come across so far is a package called "memoir".

Does anyone else have any recommendations?

share|improve this question
    
What subject do the course notes cover? –  Yiannis Lazarides Nov 10 '11 at 4:53
    
First year Linear Algebra –  Gordon Nov 10 '11 at 7:31
13  
ctan.org/tex-archive/macros/latex/contrib/comicsans (ok, just kidding) –  Federico Poloni Nov 10 '11 at 8:34
    
Perhaps Showcase of beautiful typography done in TeX & friends is what you are looking for? –  Konrad Rudolph Nov 11 '11 at 11:33
    
Would the tag {fun} take away from this question's authority too much? –  doncherry Nov 11 '11 at 20:55
show 1 more comment

7 Answers

up vote 43 down vote accepted

I think it depends a lot on the subject of your lecture notes. Good lecture notes should be readable, easy to file and easily identifiable as your notes, i.e., your own distinct style. Personally I don't like the idea of framing things up too much. I would recommend you use the grid package.

enter image description here

Another alternative, is the tufte-latex class. This is a good class, especially if you want to talk to the students via "sidenotes" and ancillary material can go in the margins.

Whatever, you decide on spend some time to develop the first couple of lecture notes. They are the beginning of the start of your future book!

share|improve this answer
2  
The documentation to the grid package is greatly inspirational in terms of design. Thank you for bringing my attention to it. –  Harold Cavendish Nov 10 '11 at 14:00
1  
Those tables with broken vertical lines are ugly! –  Aditya Nov 11 '11 at 22:58
    
@Aditya One has to style them to what he likes:) –  Yiannis Lazarides Nov 12 '11 at 23:33
add comment

I would second Yiannis recommendation of the tufte-latex (T-L) class and provide an example out of a PhD thesis in physics (sorry, German. T-L supports handouts and books. It also uses Palatino as the default font. If you dislike the LateX default fonts in particular, because you see them everywhere, you could try to use Xe- or Lua-LaTeX and load any system font you like.

enter image description here

share|improve this answer
1  
Thanks for this. It is a great example of usage of the class, especially given the poor design of most the theses classes. I also like the graphic, which is almost like sparklines! One thing for the class is that it looks better with a lot of text. I tried it with code and did not work very well. Did you do the graphic with TikZ? –  Yiannis Lazarides Nov 10 '11 at 6:58
    
We also used some sparklines with the sparkline package, but not on that page. We do our figures with Igor and then use Illustrator. It seems like a weird idea, I got it from Edward Tufte's blog. It works really well. –  Andy Nov 10 '11 at 9:48
1  
Great example of typesetting. I always love to see good layouts done with LaTeX. –  Konrad Rudolph Nov 13 '11 at 10:39
add comment

There have been some amazing demonstrations here on TeX.sx of using the TikZ package to provide colourful enhancements to page headings, section headings, and such.

Here are some links that have beautiful results (not all of them use TikZ):

share|improve this answer
add comment

I sometimes use randomized frames to remove the visual monotonicity of course notes. One example is this (and ignore the mistake in the solutions!). The details for creating this style are explained in the accompanying article.

That style is created using Metapost in ConTeXt, but it should be relatively easy to create a similar look using TikZ in LaTeX.

share|improve this answer
    
Those crazy margins give me a headache. –  Lorem Ipsum Nov 11 '11 at 21:47
    
@yoda: I don't understand what you mean by "crazy margins": the hanging indentation of the problems or the randomized frames on the solution. –  Aditya Nov 11 '11 at 22:56
    
I kind of like them. It is a little bit like someone used a pencil to box some text by hand. –  Andy Nov 13 '11 at 13:44
add comment

In order to include high quality vector graphics and even animated pdf files, I recommend Asymptote. Asymptote is a vector graphics language that uses LaTeX for writing labels, equations, etc. It can generate eps, pdf, jpg and png formats.

share|improve this answer
    
I currently use Tikz for graphics, but always happy to look at other things. –  Gordon Nov 11 '11 at 4:46
add comment

I also recommend the tufte-latex class with the TikZ package. If your documents include exercises, I suggest you consider the fortextbook option of the eqexam package.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I fully agree with the recommendations for tufte-tex and XeTeX as I use both regularly. I would also recommend using sagemath and the sageTeX package if you have ready access to a non-Microsoft computer. Though it's not particularly useful for physical handouts, if your students all have computer access, you might consider using the animate package. I use all of these packages quite regularly and have been quite pleased with the results.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.