I have written a chapter with many tables (20+) that are all set to 'tbp' for bottom, top and page. There is also text around these tables.

The placement of most of the tables turned out to be on top of a page. But sometimes, Latex even puts two tables at the top and none at the bottom. This means I never get two tables with one at the top and one at the bottom, like you can see it often in books (Why? Is this considered bad design by Latex?). Sometimes I get one table at the bottom though.

I have read this: How to influence the position of float environments like figure and table in LaTeX? (very helpful), but now I am wondering if I should change some tables to 'tb' only, forcing them to be placed at the bottom. Some questions:

1) Anyone can explain me, why there are sometimes placed 2 tables at the top, the second below the first? - I'd like one there at maximum. 2) Can you recommend to make changes 'manually'? and related to that, 3) does that influence the whole document a lot?

I wanted to ask this before I stupidly try to experiment with my tables.


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  • did you mean to say tb ? tp would prevent them going at the bottom. If you only ever want one float at the top then put \setcounter{topnumber}{1} (it is 2 by default) – David Carlisle Dec 10 '13 at 21:54
  • @DavidCarlisle No, I used tbp in all the tables. Does the p always prevent bottom placement? Does it also prevent bottom placement, if I use \setcounter{topnumber}{1}? – TomM Dec 10 '13 at 22:14
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    [tbp] doesn't prevent bottom floats, but what you said above (which you could edit:-) is [tp] which would prevent bottom floats whatever the settings of the parameters. – David Carlisle Dec 10 '13 at 22:35
  • @DavidCarlisle ahh yeah, done! ;) – TomM Dec 10 '13 at 23:36

LaTeX fills the top area before the bottom area and only attempts the bottom area if the float will not fit in the top. thus to encourage floats to go top and bottom you need to restrict the top

\setcounter{topnumber}{1}% 2 in article

would only allow one float at the top, or

\renewcommand\topfraction{.5}% .7 in article

would restrict the top area to half a page.

Beware though restricting the area too much makes it harder to place floats, so if you do use the optional argument, make sure you always use p to allow float pages.

You may also want to open up the bottom area a bit

\setcounter{bottomnumber}{2}% 1 in article

\renewcommand\bottomfraction{.5}% .3 in article

If your chapter is all tables with no text, you do not want floats at all, just use minipage and the capt-of package so you can caption them as tables. The LaTeX float algorithm isn't designed for a long sequence of consecutive floats.

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  • Thanks! No, my chapter is text plus tables which belong to the text. I will use \setcounter{topnumber}{1}. This hopefully does the job. – TomM Dec 10 '13 at 22:11

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