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I've heard a lot of recommendations to use the KOMA-Script document classes in place of the base document classes. I appreciate that there is a lot of added functionality, and customisation is easier. But before I jump in, I would like to know of any potential problems with these classes.

In my particular case, I am writing a thesis - it's part of the way through, and I've been compiling using the base classes (report), and a bunch of packages. But in the interest of keeping the question broadly relevant, answers with problems that don't affect my use-case are more than welcome.

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I'm writing my thesis since april 2012. Currently I haven't found any issues concerning KOMA-script, so I definitively would suggest to use it. –  martin Sep 19 '12 at 6:59
    
@martin: Did you start from scratch using KOMA? I started using a template provided by a supervisor (which may not have been such a great idea, in the long run). –  naught101 Sep 19 '12 at 7:08
    
I have used a very simple template-code, which contains only the necessary package imports. My advantage is that my university doesn't define many rules, so I am relatively free in formatting. To switch from another document class to KOMA you should not be the biggest problem, but I would test it with a backup copy first. –  martin Sep 19 '12 at 9:06
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Backup, bah... that is what git is for :) –  naught101 Sep 19 '12 at 15:00
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You may want to look at tex.stackexchange.com/questions/7742/… –  StrongBad Sep 19 '12 at 15:13
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7 Answers

up vote 40 down vote accepted

I can think only of two reason not to use the KOMA-classes:

  1. That you have a dead line and not the time to handle the problems involved with switching to another class.

  2. That someone requires that you use another class (e.g. via a template).

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up-vote for dead line, switching could cause problems –  martin Sep 19 '12 at 9:07
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I would add one more point to your list: 3. Some packages can not work together with KOMA-Script. If you need to use them you will have a problem. –  Kurt Sep 19 '12 at 17:28
    
@Kurt: Big, no small list of KOMA-Script imcompatible packages now! ;-) –  Speravir Sep 19 '12 at 18:01
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@Speravir: It is more a hint to naught101 to check his used packages (we do not know) for incompatibilities with KOMA-Script. But a list of packages known to be incompatible could be very helpfull. See what-packages-are-incompatible-with-koma-script. –  Kurt Sep 19 '12 at 18:48
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@Kurt: Imho the problem with "incompatible packages" is already in my list: You can always switch from the package to the built-in features of KOMA or a better package if no requirement/template force you to use it and if you have enough time. –  Ulrike Fischer Sep 20 '12 at 9:22
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I should add that at least in English, the documentation for KOMA is considerably more sparse than most similarly-scoped LaTeX packages or classes on CTAN. (Compare it, for an extreme example, to TikZ, which has great documentation, with specific compilable examples available for just about anything one can imagine wanting to do, both in the manual, and on the web.)

If one is newer to LaTeX, one is therefore much more likely to struggle, more often and longer, with KOMA than one would with the standard classes, where a quick web search will provide an answer to almost any beginner's question. With KOMA, you have to rely pretty heavily on the poorly translated manual, because there isn't as much additional information available on the web. One can usually work out what the translator is trying to say, but there are certainly also parts that are virtually impenetrable.

I didn't have a huge amount of experience with LaTeX when I first tried KOMA, so I learned about all this the hard way when I switched to KOMA part-way through a larger project. I found quite a few things that were trivial to learn about in the standard classes and were theoretically even easier to implement in KOMA. Unfortunately, the documentation assumes a greater level of mastery of LaTeX, which was made worse by the fact that there are parts of the (English) manual that are still today barely comprehensible. Fortunately, I know just enough German to be able to get help in that language. Without that, I likely would have quickly abandoned the class entirely. (Because I did read the German sites and manual, I actually really like KOMA a lot now.)

But as much as I like it, this is really not yet a set of classes that is ready for an English-only LaTeX beginner, or even intermediate, user. The main problem is that the manual assumes you understand more about LaTeX than any similar manual I have encountered, and the (English) writing is sufficiently poor to be hard to understand even when you do know enough LaTeX.

So, a great (perhaps even the best) set of classes for a seasoned LaTeX user, or a native German speaker, but still an unqualified disaster for the English-only novice. Whenever I start a collaborative effort (eg. grant proposal, etc.) with another LaTeX user, and they ask what class I use, we wind up using whatever they like to use. I simply can't honestly recommend the class at this point, since I know that most of my colleagues will feel that learning it isn't worth their time, and will wind up resenting it.

I still like it best for my own work, though.

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There simply is no reason to not use KOMA.

Let me elaborate it a bit further: I am not aware of any KOMA-specific reason to not use KOMA, besides the "standard reasons", most of which have been mentioned in the other answers. I call them "standard reasons", because they basically hold for any class or package X:

  • If you use X and get used to its features it will be hard to go back (because it is different).
  • You collaborator may not like X (because it is different).
  • You might have to invest some time to use X (because it is different).
  • You may not like X (because it is different).

Yes, KOMA is a bit different. That is the reason to use it.

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Why is KOMA better than memoir? –  isomorphismes Sep 24 '13 at 6:34
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@isomorphismes: That's a different topic extensively discussed here, especially in the answers of Stefan Kottwitz and lockstep. (The English manual is now complete and readable, so I would no longer consider "mostly German documentation" as a disadvantage of KOMA.) –  Daniel Sep 24 '13 at 11:07
    
Great, thank you. –  isomorphismes Sep 25 '13 at 5:49
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If you have never used this class and if you are not able to learn by reading his manual, and if you do not know someone who can help you with this class then do not use this class!

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Well, but that’s even true for the standard classes. –  Speravir Sep 20 '12 at 0:39
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@Speravir: You are right. So, this is also a good reason for NOT using these standard classes! Some people unfortunately forget it... –  Paul Gaborit Sep 20 '12 at 6:09
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@paul-gaborit to pursue the reasoning ... subject to the conditions given, don't start with latex. if i had thus constrained myself i would never have started (back then there were rather few latex users, anywhere). –  wasteofspace Jun 3 '13 at 9:55
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For writing a thesis or any document that you do not have to share with other people KOMA script can be recommended without hesitations. Especially the great documentation enables you to adapt the style to your personal requirements.

If you want to exchange the text with someone else they might not be familiar with KOMA script or only have ancient version installed. Additionally almost every publisher or journal frowns upon using anything else but the standard article class or sometimes allow revtex but nothing else.

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If you want to profit from KOMA-Script's added functionality, but are used to the "look and feel" (width/height of the text area, headings font/fontsize, header/footer etc.) of the standard classes, there's no straightforward class option to switch back to the standard layout. (In a sense, this is only consequential as one aim of KOMA-Script is to provide a typographically sound layout). Still, that's not a reason to shy away from KOMA-Script; the following settings produce a layout similar to that of the standard classes.

\documentclass[10pt,chapterprefix=true]{scrbook}

\areaset{345pt}{550pt}

\setkomafont{disposition}{\normalfont\bfseries}
\addtokomafont{chapterprefix}{\huge}
\addtokomafont{chapter}{\Huge}

\renewcommand*{\chapterheadstartvskip}{\vspace*{50pt}}
\renewcommand*{\chapterheadendvskip}{\vspace{40pt}}

\usepackage{etoolbox}

\makeatletter
\patchcmd{\@@makechapterhead}{.5\baselineskip}{20\p@}{}{}
\makeatother

\usepackage[markuppercase]{scrpage2}
\clearscrheadfoot
\ohead{\pagemark}
\ihead{\headmark}
\cfoot[\pagemark]{}
\pagestyle{scrheadings}

\usepackage{lipsum}

\begin{document}

\chapter{foo}

\section{foobar}

\lipsum[1-12]

\end{document}
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Although it doesn't actually address the question, I like this answer a lot :) –  naught101 Sep 19 '12 at 15:04
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I would be hesitant about using the KOMA classes for your particular use case of writing a thesis. When writing a thesis I would suggest seeing if your university has an official, or unofficial, thesis class that meets the archaic and strict rules about formating that many universities impose. It is worth talking to others who have used LaTeX for their theses at your university in the past.

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That's not really a recommendation against using KOMA over the base classes, though, is it? Fortunately, my department is pretty easy about this kind of thing. As long as it looks neat and consistent, it's fine. –  naught101 Sep 19 '12 at 7:26
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@naught101 It is a reason why you should not use the KOMA-Script package, which is the title of your question. I was suggesting that instead of using KOMA in place of a base class, you should use your university template. On a pedantic note, I think most thesis classes are built upon the base book class, so in a way they are using the base classes. As for lack formatting requirements, you are lucky. –  StrongBad Sep 19 '12 at 7:34
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@DanielE.Shub The 'archaic thesis requirements' business is mainly a US issue. European institutions seem in the main to be a lot more relaxed about this: when I wrote my thesis, the problem was lack of guidelines! –  Joseph Wright Sep 19 '12 at 7:40
    
@Joseph that is not always a bad thing. –  daleif Sep 19 '12 at 8:20
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