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What are the main differences between the book, report, and article document classes?

I am interested in the following:

  1. visual differences in the final document;
  2. differences in the way the document must be coded;
  3. differences between the standard classes and their KOMA-Script equivalents; and
  4. any other significant differences.
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It would be great if answers could possibly also address the memoir class as it seems to be quite similar as well. – s0rce Mar 3 '12 at 21:37
up vote 136 down vote accepted

As Schweinebacke has noted, there are two kind of differences: a) differences in availability of commands and environments b) differences in the default settings. Only the latter may be changed easily using options and commands.

Differences with regard to available commands and environments:

  • book and report feature the \chapter sectioning command, while article doesn't.

  • In book and report, \appendix will cause \chapters to be typeset as "Appendix X" instead of "Chapter X". For article, this isn't applicable.

  • book and report will start a new page for \parts , while article won't.

  • book offers the \frontmatter, \mainmatter, and \backmatter commands to control page numbering (Roman for the front matter, arabic elsewhere) and numbering of sectioning titles (no numbering in the front and back matter), while report and article don't.

  • book doesn't offer the abstract environment, while report and article do.

Differences with regard to default settings:

  • The book class uses the twoside class option (which means different margins and headers/footers for even and odd pages), while report and article use oneside.

  • book uses openright (new parts and chapters start on "right" pages, adding a blank page before if necessary), while report uses openany. (Note that "right" means an odd page in twoside mode, but any page in oneside mode.) For article, the distinction between openright and openany isn't applicable.

  • book uses the headings pagestyle for non-chapter-starting pages, while report and article always use plain.

  • book and report use titlepage (the title page and -- if applicable -- the abstract environment will be typeset on pages of their own), while article uses notitlepage.

  • For book and report, the lowest-level sectioning command which is numbered and incorporated into the table of contents is \subsection, while for article it is \subsubsection.

  • book and report will use the arguments of \chapters and \sections for running headings (if such headings are present), while article will use \sections and \subsections.

  • book and report will number floats (figures, tables etc.), equations, and footnotes per chapter, while article will number them continuously. Note that footnotes -- even when numbered per chapter -- do not feature a chapter prefix.

  • book and report will use \bibname (which defaults to "Bibliography") for the heading of bibliographic references, while article will use \refname (which defaults to "References").

All of the above is valid for scrbook v. scrreprt vs. scrartcl as well.

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twoside vs. oneside, openright vs. openany, headings vs. plain are differences in the default settings only. These may be changed by options or commands. The differences about \frontmatter, \mainmatter, \backmatter and abstract are differences in availability of commands/environments. So they may be more important. – Schweinebacke Dec 3 '11 at 15:51
The openright option forces chapters to start always on odd pages. – Thorsten Donig Dec 4 '11 at 10:30
Which one would you use for a thesis? – skan Jun 22 at 17:49
@skan: depends. As is written above, book does not support the abstract environment, so if you need that, you either have to use report or put in a replacement yourself. Similarly for other features. There are also various thesis templates/class files floating around on the internet if you don't have strict formatting requirements (or maybe there is already one for your university). If you need to write your own and have requirements, you may consider using the memoir class. – Willie Wong Jun 22 at 18:32

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