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I just started a course where every student has to write some stuff as a homework (10-15 pages).To ease the creation of such a document I want to provide a template for LaTeX (as it is most spread).

I thought it would be easy when I provide a small archive where they will find a template.tex, with some basic layout settings, title page as well as some preselected packages, so they just can start typing their work. Additionally I will include some helpful latex documents in that archive and a basic directory structure. However, I wanted to make a modern template: Paying regard to l2tabu and consistency in the document was also an aim. I know I could hide most of the preamble in a separate document and let it include, but I wanted to have at least all template code in one single file.

I think a document class would be too much work/overhead for this small course <20 attendees.

How would you do that?

If you are interested on my draft: http://www.informatik.uni-leipzig.de/~math/t.zip. As the course is in german, please regard specific European settings as paper format A4, etc.

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Well in my opinion such templates are only a source of problems. template.tex contains a lot code which is probably unnecessary or are simple design decisions. This makes it difficult for students to understand which package/what code is responsible for which effect and to make a minimal example when he/she runs into a problem.

Imho a template should only load babel, inputenc (or selinput), fontenc, microtype, perhaps amsmath, perhaps hyperref (without specific options), perhaps scrpage2 (ditto). Every other information should go in small examples: example-bibliography, example-tabulars, example-colorlinks etc. This will force the students to build their document in steps and so help them to understand the structure. It will also give them a collection of minimal examples they can use for tests (and questions).

Beside this here some problems in template.tex:

  1. \setlength{\parindent}{0pt}: Not a good idea, better use one the of options of scrartcl.

  2. \usepackage{geometry} /\newgeometry{margin=0.1cm}: This will overwrite the settings of typearea, so should be considered carefully. (And it shouldn't be done only for the titlepage).

  3. \usepackage[T1]{fontenc} is missing.

  4. backend=bibtex: Why not biber?

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Tanks for the review of my document. (1) and (3) are easy to correct. (4) I've choosen bibtex, as biber will not work with rubber (I know latexmk does a better job). (2) Struggles me most: How about \recalctypearea? I use geometry only for get rid of the margins on the titlepage. For the suggestion on example files for various features: As this is a computer science course I expect that the attendees are able to comment in and out, so they will understand how the whole thing is working, thanks anyway. – math Nov 8 '12 at 14:40
@math I never need to reset margin for a title page. And I don't see any sense it putting such a special requirement in a template. Also your view of your students is a bit inconsistent. If they are so good in computer science why should you offer a template at all? And why do you feel a need to hide most of the preamble? Beside this: learning a computer language starts with "hello world" examples. – Ulrike Fischer Nov 8 '12 at 17:14
Yes your are right, its twofold: On the one hand I want to give them a good start, and on the other hand my design choices will hinder them a bit. But I think generate appealing documents is also important. (I know that appealing is highly subjective) To find the right tradeoff is always not so easy. However the argument "every language starts with 'hello world'" let me undo some design decisions so the template will be more hello-worldish. Thanks again. – math Nov 9 '12 at 10:05
So I removed geometry package, made the biblatex style to default numbers (which made the DeclareCiteCommands obsolete), switched to biber, as rubber is deprecated anyway, removed some more packages such as tabularx, dtklogos and asmsymb. So the preamble is mostly settings to titlepage and header and footer. I will not update the template link above. – math Nov 9 '12 at 10:37
I do understand that you want to show appealing examples. But examples and templates are different things. There is no problem to add an "example-for-an-appealing-document.tex" to the lot. But a template is not for showing what all can be done with latex, or for demonstrating code. It is meant for direct use. So it should be overloaded with other tasks like "tutorial" or "example code". – Ulrike Fischer Nov 9 '12 at 11:02

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