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I understand that the suffix .cls stands for classes.

Then, why packages don't have the suffix .pkg, but rather have .sty?

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Because they are used to style things...? –  Mariano Suárez-Alvarez Feb 8 '13 at 21:42
    
@MarianoSuárez-Alvarez Style things? Like lastpage and many other are (not) doing, for example ... :-/ And why not \usestyle then? –  tohecz Feb 8 '13 at 21:44

2 Answers 2

up vote 18 down vote accepted

LaTeX 2.09 did not have the distinction everything were called styles.

 \documentstyle[12pt,longtable]{article}

When we made latex2e, there were relatively few "main document styles" (article/report/book) accounted for the vast majority of documents and they were part of the core distribution so changing those to be "classes" was not too hard.

the majority of "style files" worked unchanged or with only minor updates with 2e, so forcing a filename change would have been too disruptive, but "style" seemed to be the wrong name so "package" was introduced.

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This is an historical artifact.

In LaTeX 2.09 there weren't "document classes", but "document styles", with extension .sty: book.sty, article.sty and so on.

Additional "packages" were loaded as options to \documentstyle and they needed to have the .sty extension as well.

When LaTeX2e introduced document classes (extension .cls), the .sty extension was kept because some of the additional packages could be used out of the box simply with \usepackage. Maintaining two possible extensions is cumbersome (and LaTeX2e had severe limitations on memory usage).

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