What is the 'best' package for typesetting chemical formulas? (I don't need anything but the chemical formulas.)

Assume I want to typeset

The dissociation of a AgBr molecure requires an energy of $E = \qty{123456789}{\J}$.

I am using the siunitx package for the physical quantity but what about AgBr?

  • 5
    Take a look at chemmacros by @cgnieder. It would be something like \ch{AgBr}or \ch{Fe2O3}.
    – Johannes_B
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 17:11
  • If you really only want the names, I think just typing directly is easiest :-)
    – Joseph Wright
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 17:12
  • @JosephWright I have a feeling my code will be easier to read when typing the names using macros. Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 17:13
  • 1
    Maybe have a look at tex.stackexchange.com/questions/87253/cursive-text-after/… for some alternatives
    – cgnieder
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 17:53
  • One advantage to using a package like chemmacros over direct typing is that you can make a strong penalty for hyphenating formulas. That is, you can prevent situations where you end up with Ag- <newline> Br
    – pdanese
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 14:16

1 Answer 1


The answer depends a bit on what you actually need. If all your formulae are as simple as AgBr or FeO there is no need for any package and you can just type them as they are. If you want some macro for marking the formulae in your source something like


would suffice. Or - if you plan to use it in math mode, too -


The second version would even allow you to typeset formulae like AlBr3 and even simple reaction equations:



$\chem{H_2} + (1/2)\,\chem{O_2} = \chem{H_2O}$

$2\,\chem{H_2} + \chem{O_2} \to 2\,\chem{H_2O}$


Output 1

Only if you need more complicated features or if you have to type a lot of those formulae and not just some ten or twenty then one of the chemistry packages will start to bring you benefits. There are two packages to consider:

  1. mhchem
  2. chemformula

The differences between both of them are

  • subtle differences in the syntax,
  • differences in the layout of the equations, e.g., regarding spacing,
  • a different set of options for customization,
  • probably more I have forgotten right now.


\ce{H2 + (1/2) O2 = H2O}

\ce{2H2 +  O2 -> 2H2O}


Output 2



\ch{H2 + (1/2) O2 == H2O}

\ch{2 H2 +  O2 -> 2 H2O}


Output 3

  • 11
    I'd avoid using any kind of "hack" if there is a good package to do something in a simple manner. I would recommend something like mchem (which I use) right away.
    – DetlevCM
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 19:03
  • 1
    Thank you, Clement. Great answer. (Of course you mean \newcommand*\chem[1]{\ensuremath{\mathrm{#1}}}; you forgot \chem.) Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 19:06
  • 13
    @DetlevCM I wouldn't consider a small macro a “hack” but rather good LaTeX practice... Although I actually wrote the chemmacros bundle I rather wanted to give an overview over the various possibilities (and my answer isn't even complete!) to present a choice to the OP any anyone interested. Of course mhchem is a great package if you have some more serious chemistry in your documents :)
    – cgnieder
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 19:14
  • 2
    @cgnieder in a loose definition, any modification is a hack - which includes a small macro. My key worry with doing these things is, that in the end you start defining more and more as you go along and end up with a mess or several months later have forgotten what you did. I use mchem because it is what I found when I searched for a package one or two years ago - I had a look at the chemmacros manual and it looks very good.
    – DetlevCM
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 6:42
  • 13
    @DetlevCM However you call it: writing own macros is the very heart of LaTeX's philosophy IMHO. Regarding »in the end you start defining more and more as you go along and end up with a mess« - that's how most of my packages were born :)
    – cgnieder
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 7:57

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