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What are some good tutorials on writing custom styles (classes) that clearly explain commands used and some of the features that TeX has to offer in the way of styles?

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Are you asking about help for writing packages (in general), or specifically about layout/fonts/etc.? –  Juan A. Navarro Jul 29 '10 at 10:59
@EricR - I'm shocked that this one has zero answers thus far. This is one question I thought would be featured! Sadly, I don't know of any! I'm on a quest to write a custom style (see tex.stackexchange.com/questions/615), and I'll let you know what I find, but I don't have an answer for you yet. –  Kevin Vermeer Jul 30 '10 at 0:50
@Navarro, I'm asking for help writing packages in general, it's a quite broad question, perhaps something to help intermediate LaTeX users get started writing their own styles when the ones they have fail to meet their needs. @reemrevnivek, wonderful, thank you! –  EricR Jul 30 '10 at 17:03
So if you're asking for tutorials about writing document classes (and not a "style guide" that gives advice about what looks good), it's probably better not to tag this subjective. :-) –  ShreevatsaR Jul 30 '10 at 20:14
I'd be tempted to stick with the LaTeX2e 'package'/'class' naming here. In this context, 'style' is really the LaTeX2.09 name (although the file extension still reflects the older use, of course). –  Joseph Wright Jul 31 '10 at 16:08
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6 Answers

up vote 37 down vote accepted

This is a starter.

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Thank you, that's an excellent resource, with actual code included. Much appreciated. –  EricR Aug 3 '10 at 21:03
Excellent work. Very helpful for beginners like myself. Thank you. –  Heisenb0rg Mar 4 '11 at 19:38
Lots of fluff up until section 5.1, but helpful! –  ashkan Sep 24 '12 at 19:58
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While I cannot point to a pre-built 'how to' guide, I can at least try to provide some pointers here. The first point to remember is that LaTeX2e is rather weak at providing documented 'hooks' for customisation in the kernel. As a result, a lot has to be done by loading support packages.

At the most basic, a class is a collection of instructions to alter the standard formatting. Many simple classes therefore start out as little more than a customised preamble spun out into a separate file. Unless you are very experienced, it is likely that the best place to start a custom class is by loading one of the standard ones, for example


It's then possible to load a selection of packages (using \RequirePackage rather than \usepackage), to allow modification. Obvious examples here would be geometry, float, caption, various font packages, etc. Quite a lot can be achieved by simply bundling up a group of support packages and appropriate options into one file.

The next thing to consider is providing custom commands. These might be as simply as something like


which I do in a slightly-customised letter class for my own use. Of course, what makes sense here will depend on what you want. Custom commands might of course depend on packages that you know will be loaded as they are included in the list for the class.

The next thing that people tend to do in custom classes is simple redefinition of LaTeX internals. The most obvious one is \@maketitle, which you may well want to modify. Remember that class files set @ as a letter, so \makeatletter is not needed. At this stage, modifications tend to be made by starting with the existing code and altering it. The LaTeX2e kernel classes (article.cls, report.cls, etc.) and the kernel itself (latex.ltx) are the first port of call for code to modify. Taking the \@maketitle example, the version from article.cls reads

  \vskip 2em%
  \let \footnote \thanks
    {\LARGE \@title \par}%
    \vskip 1.5em%
      \lineskip .5em%
    \vskip 1em%
    {\large \@date}%
  \vskip 1.5em}

So obvious changes are to alter the spacing or fonts.

Beyond that, you are in to serious (La)TeX programming, where I'd suggest writing some of the code as a package and requiring it from the class might be better. This is a complex subject, and I think is not the way to start out learning how to write class files!

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Oh, so that's why one should use \makeatletter! Pretty good answer. –  rberaldo May 5 '11 at 2:49
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The LaTeX Companion[1] has a chapter on writing package/class files.

EDIT: The table of content is available online. The relevant chapter is Appendix A and in particular Section A.4. The style of the chapter is pretty much the same as the style of the rest of the book (Chapter 3 is available online) with all needed commands explained in some details and with lots of examples (and counterexamples).

[1] F. Mittelbach and M. Goossens, The LaTeX Companion. Addison-Wesley 2004

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Flynn (2006) and clsguide?

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Those are both good links about the elements of a new class, and they should certainly be on-hand when writing a new class or following a tutorial, but they don't provide much for someone who's never made one. They read too much like an API rather than a how-to. –  Kevin Vermeer Jul 31 '10 at 15:31
I'm afraid that this is probably the best you will get. The issues of programming LaTeX are well-known, and make it very difficult to actually write a 'how to' document. This is one of the reasons for trying to provide a proper programming system within the LaTeX3 work. –  Joseph Wright Aug 1 '10 at 7:38
These are more like the Java API, when we're looking for how-to tutorials. –  Kevin Vermeer Aug 1 '10 at 20:38
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If it's the syntax of writing macros that you're looking for I'd definitely recommend Tex By Topic

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Thank you, but this is more slanted at online tutorials and writing .cls/.sty files. –  EricR Aug 3 '10 at 21:04
If you want to do some tweaking or write a cls yourself, you will probably need some experience with low-level TeX as well. –  Juan A. Navarro Aug 7 '10 at 10:54
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I wrote an article on the LaTeX Community Forum on how to write a LaTeX class file. It's specifically about creating form-style documents, but there is some general class-writing stuff in there, if that's of any use.

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That's excellent! Very well documented and easy to read. Thank you for sharing –  EricR Jan 28 at 15:15
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