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I would like to know how I can increase the size of the first alphabet of first paragraph of a chapter using (Xe/La/?)tex. Please look at the image shown below.

Image related to question

  1. What is such an effect called? How do I achieve it using Latex?

  2. Are there any special fonts to be used for this purpose that contain ornamental/decorative alphabet faces? Or can it be achieved by some manipulation of existing alphabet glyphs?

  3. I am not a designer. I know this site is focused on Tex and not typography but I'd appreciate any pointers to popular typeface combinations for this purpose with popular text faces. E.g. If I am using Adobe Garamond Pro as my text face, what would be a suitable type to use for such a first-alphabet-decoration?

  4. And finally (this question may tantamount to heresy here): Is there a way to do this in Microsoft Word / OpenOffice?

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The buzzword is drop caps. Here is a link and this for lots of resources. – percusse Dec 13 '11 at 7:56
@perusse Thanks. I'll take a look. – hashable Dec 13 '11 at 8:30
up vote 20 down vote accepted

These are called dropcaps or lettrine (from the French). The best package to use is lettrine which is available from ctan.

Use as:

  \lettrine{A}{gain find} more words her...

They are very difficult to handle typographically, unless the whole page design has been developed with dropcaps incorporated. The modern trend is to use a sans serif font rather than a serified for the dropcap.

Can Microsoft do it? It can, but not recommended to be used for typesetting books.

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Thanks at lot. Can you clarify what you mean by "they are very difficult to handle typographically". Difficult to handle by what? Tex? – hashable Dec 13 '11 at 8:32
@hashable Difficult to blend with the design. For example in a novel, they might look ok, but not in many other publications. Ask yourself, what function do they serve? Their function is only decorative, so in effect you decorating a page! Technically there is no problem to handle them with (La)TeX. What type of book are you writing? – Yiannis Lazarides Dec 13 '11 at 8:53
You can see some (probably quite good) examples in the Showcase thread: 1 2 3 4 – yo' Feb 2 '13 at 11:07
  1. (Dropped) initial (and some small caps following). See eg here: http://www.ctan.org/keyword/dropped

  2. See eg http://tex.blogoverflow.com/2011/08/putting-colors-in-initials/

  3. I don't know.

  4. Probably yes.

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If you're willing to use the Linux Libertine and Biolinum fonts, loading them with the command


in the preamble, you can create drop-caps with the commands

\LlettrineS[<height in number of lines>]{<letter>} % w/ border
\LlettrineM[<height in number of lines>]{<letter>} % w/ mosaic

\renewcommand*\LlettrineDline{<height in number of lines>} % followed by
\LlettrineD{<letter>} % for display-style letters

There are also related commands if you want to use the Biolinum (sans-serif) font. Overall, the manual says that the production of drop caps ("lettrine"s) is still in development. At this time, this approach may be a bit experimental... Give it a chance and see if you like the results...

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