I find myself sometimes in the position that I need to know the "official" syntax and behavior of LaTeX2e user macros or environments. I'm talking about common things like minipage. Usually I find something by doing a Google search for latex <command>, e.g. latex minipage. There are a couple of online helps in English and German available, but there are mostly incomplete. To stick with the example of minipage, most of them do not include the second and third optional argument.

Is there a comprehensive online or PDF manual freely available which explains the full syntax of LaTeX2e user level macros/environments?

Wanted features would be:

  • Comprehensive (all arguments, all macros/environments, default values for optional arguments)
  • Well organized, so that all macros/environments are quickly found.
  • Nicely formatted

I had a look at the LaTeX wikibook and other online sites, as well as source2e, but none of them really fulfill the above points. I realize that there might be books which handle these but I'm looking for something digital.

I personally need this because I like to support or emulate such standard macros or environments in my packages, but normal user will find a comprehensive manual also useful.

If there is no such document I'm might add it to my TODO list.

  • 5
    The 'free' is I guess the issue. You can buy the Guide to LaTeX and The LaTeX Companion as PDF books, but have to pay.
    – Joseph Wright
    Nov 10, 2011 at 10:59
  • @JosephWright: Good point. Note that I'm looking more for a technical reference, not a guide. Nov 10, 2011 at 11:00
  • I assume you mean something like TeX by Topic in terms of formal specifications?
    – Joseph Wright
    Nov 10, 2011 at 11:04
  • @JosephWright: I mean, no introduction or long explanation required, but the arguments and behavior explained. Nov 10, 2011 at 11:11
  • There isn't, as far as I know.
    – Leo Liu
    Nov 10, 2011 at 14:59

3 Answers 3


Perhaps you are looking for something like the (unofficial) »LaTeX2e Reference Manual«. Maybe, maybe not.

  • Actually, this looks very promising. I might have seen this already once, but forgot that it existed. Nov 10, 2011 at 11:08
  • 2
    And users may contribute for improving and extending: home.gna.org/latexrefman
    – Stefan Kottwitz
    Nov 10, 2011 at 11:56
  • Yes, this is not comprehensive, but useful enough for most users.
    – Leo Liu
    Nov 10, 2011 at 15:01
  • texdoc latex2e is the command line shortcut for this manual Nov 29, 2012 at 7:39

AFAIK, there isn't such a document. Even the book Guide to LaTeX, or the Appendix H of the book as a reference, is not comprehensive. When I wrote my book on LaTeX, I find that I have to read source2e sometimes.

It is difficult to say, what are user macros in LaTeX2e. I think all macros (and some primitives also) in LaTeX2e kernel and standard documents, without a @ in the name, are user-level. For convinience, graphics and some other common packages can be added into the list.

Some examples you can find in source2e:

  • Is \DeclareMathVersion a user-level macro? It is described in fntguide but I think almost all users and most package writers would never use it.
  • What about \ooalign? It is come from Plain TeX and is mainly used for compound symbols.
  • And how do you think about the symbol \relbar? You can find it in the definition of \longrightarrow, but why should I use it myself?

As Thorsten Donig said, the document latex2e-help-texinfo is a good refernece. There are some similar ones:

  • latex2e-help-texinfo: LaTeX: Structured documents for TeX --- unofficial LaTeX reference manual.

    It is distributed with MiKTeX and TeX Live. A good reference for common users.

  • tex-references: References for TeX and Friends.

    Available on CTAN. A HTML reference for Plain TeX, LaTeX, and some others. Very useful.

  • LatexHelpBook: LaTeX Help e-Book in HTML and CHM format.

    Available on CTAN. Also distributed with WinEdt editor.

    It is a collection of latex2e-help-info, usrguide, clsguide, fntguide, cfgguide, modguide, UK-FAQ, The TeX Catalogue, ... Quite a lot of documents in one file, but badly selected. Personally I don't like it.

maybe more...


I've always found Help on LaTeX Commands to be useful as a quick reference. Of course it's all html based, so it doesn't meet your criterion of being a nicely formatted PDF. But I'll leave the answer up for others who might not have such requirements.


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