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I have seen many questions where users are not sure whether they have a specific package suggested in a solution or perhaps even request alternatives (to avoid installation) or want some information on how to install it. As such, I typically include the CTAN link with when listing packages used, since the "Getting it" link will provide ways of installing packages if not installed already:

\usepackage{geometry}% http://ctan.org/pkg/geometry

What I'm interested in is to know which packages are included in a default installation for some distribution (across the many distribution that exists...). Almost like a \listfiles for an MWE containing all packages in the default distribution, if such an MWE could ever exist. For example, if someone (say, a new user) is running the Basic Installation of MiKTeX 2.9, how would I know what the difference is between it and, say, the Complete Installation? And what about different versions, say MiKTeX 2.8? Or TeX Live 2010 and 2011? What about MacTeX?

Perhaps there are sources scattered across the Internet I don't know about. Ideally, something like a historic archive similar to @MartinScharrer's Automated Mercurial Repositories of CTAN.

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There's no such beast as a "default LaTeX distribution". My advice is usually to install everything, which is the philosophy of MacTeX, and update frequently, –  egreg Dec 8 '11 at 16:27

2 Answers 2

The simple answer is to try to typeset your document. If the package is not available you'll know soon enough.

I doubt there is a consistent method across distributions that will tell you what is installed.

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Hi Herb, and welcome. The usual practice around here is not to "sign" answers, since your name appear at the bottom of it anyway. And everyone can edit, so I've removed the closing for you. :-) –  Alan Munn Dec 7 '11 at 1:03
    
I guess I'd start with the CTAN's own directory of packages (possibly without the ones in the obsolete subtree), and draw the (logical) equivalent of lines from the CTAN's holdings to the package holdings of some of the better-known free distributions, moving on to some of commercial distributions such as Scientific Workplace. –  Mico Dec 7 '11 at 2:13
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@Herb: You might have misunderstood the question. Werner wants to know which package are installed by default by certain LaTeX distributions, not how to find out if a specific package is installed. –  Martin Scharrer Dec 7 '11 at 9:52

I think the answer is highly dependent on the distribution. I use the MacPorts version of texlive which has sevearal different ports, each including a whole bunch of latex packages: texlive-latex, texlive-latex-extra, etc. A list of all of those ports and what packages are included in each is available here. I imagine other distributions of tex will have a similar list somewhere, but I only know the one for my distro.

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