I am writing a commentary book made of about 500 pages, where each page contains up to 3 sections (different commentaries on the same verse), "a" "b" and "c". In each page, the content length of each section is different: in page 1, for example, there may be a long "a", no "b", and a short "c"; In page 2, there may be a medium "a", a short "b", and a long "c", etc.

I would like to layout the sections on each page, so that the page area is used efficiently. Here is an example of a NON efficient layout, that I want to prevent:

aaa bbb ccc
aaa     ccc
aaa     ccc

As you can see, there is a lot of wasted area.

Initially, I tried to create columns and control their widths according to the content length, for example:

aaa b ccccc
aaa b ccccc
aaa b ccccc

This is more efficient, however, column "b" is too narrow and difficult to read.

Another thing I tried is to keep the width constant and use floats. For example, suppose I only have columns "a" and "b":

aaa bbb 

If I had only two columns, this could be quite simple:

  • If a is much longer than b, then make b float right;
  • If b is much longer than a, then make a float left;
  • If they are approximately the same length, then make them two adjacent columns.

However, this becomes much more complicated when there are 3 columns, as there are many possible combinations.

Is there a general solution to this problem?

  • Have you got some pictures of your desired output? This sounds a little like something that I needed to do and that I tweaked a footnote package for (but you wouldn't need the endnote element, it seems). tex.stackexchange.com/questions/60942/… – Daniel Harbour Mar 4 '14 at 9:05
  • Actually, this may be more to the point: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/23194/… – Daniel Harbour Mar 4 '14 at 9:09
  • Do you need to preserve the order of presentation of a, b, and c, or can they be rearranged? For instance, one could just combine the two shortest into one column, and have the third section in its own column. – Nick Matteo Mar 13 '14 at 18:23
  • @Kundor The order can be changed. Combining the two shortest into one column can be a good idea in some cases, but it doesn't solve all cases (i.e. when the combination of the two shortest is still shorter than the third one). – Erel Segal-Halevi Mar 13 '14 at 20:28
  • Can you change typesetting mechanism from columns to rows to get, for instance, one common paragraph "a) aaaaa b) bbbb c) ccccccccc"? – Malipivo Mar 27 '14 at 5:46

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