As a beginner, I keep running into difficulties when in the need of positioning elements. Pushing them down, up, left or right should be easy concepts, but I find it hard to visualize as a beginner how this should be done, especially when I want to put something relative some some other element.

In any way, this site has been most helpful but I was wondering if there is a recommended tutorial on how to position elements in LaTeX?

Half of my searches direct to the LaTeX wiki and this page, but these do not answer my most common questions, like this or this. I'm specifically looking for documentation with regards to positioning that:

  • Starts from scratch (focused at beginners)
  • Uses images to illustrate (one image is worth... etc)
  • Applies 'best practices' / explains what is the 'right way' and what is not, even though both might work.

I know, this is asking a lot. But I'm just wondering you know of something...

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    Among online tutorials for LaTeX newcomers, I can recommend Nicola Talbot's "LaTeX for Complete Novices" (theoval.cmp.uea.ac.uk/~nlct/latex/novices/novices_a4.pdf) and Andrew Roberts' "Getting to Grips with LaTeX" (andy-roberts.net/writing/latex). The books by Marc van Dongen, "LaTeX and Friends", Springer Verlag 2012, and Peter Flynn, "Formatting Information: An Introduction to Typesetting with LaTeX", Silmaril Consultants 2011 (latex.silmaril.ie/formattinginformation/beginlatex-a4.pdf) may also be of interest. Both books stress matters of document organization...
    – Mico
    Feb 21, 2012 at 11:59
  • @Mico Thanks for mentioning LaTeX and Friends. Would you mind hyperlinking it to csweb.ucc.ie/~dongen/LAF/LAF.html (no need to do this). Just out of curiosity, are you Mico Loretan (No need to answer)?
    – user10274
    Feb 21, 2012 at 22:59
  • @MarcvanDongen: Yupp, I'm the one (and probably only) Mico Loretan. :-) If you click on my name, you'll be taken to my profile, where you can also find out my age, where I live, and what I do for a living. I'm afraid I can't edit the comment above at this point, though, to add a link to your book's website. However, I trust that people who read my comment will also read yours and hence obtain the necessary link.
    – Mico
    Feb 22, 2012 at 0:42
  • @Mico Thanks. No worries about the link. I should have though about non-editability... Your book is still in the pipeline. As soon as I get my complimentary copies I'll send it to you.
    – user10274
    Feb 22, 2012 at 0:44
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    @Mico Could you perhaps post your comment as an answer? The links you provide are quite useful but I can not accept this if this is a comment.
    – user
    Feb 23, 2012 at 12:01

3 Answers 3


You mention that you're a newcomer to LaTeX. Welcome! It sounds to me that, in order to develop some basic familiarity with LaTeX-based versions of the document building blocks you express interest in, it may be a good idea to start with a solid introductory tutorial into many LaTeX-related matters. Perhaps the best-known such tutorial is Tobi Oetiker et al.'s The Not So Short Introduction to LATEX2ε, most recently updated in 2011. [Update Nov. 2020: The document was most recently updated in March 2018.] This document is so well known and so highly regarded that it's been translated into about two dozen languages!

Among the other LaTeX tutorials for beginners that are available online, I can also recommend Nicola Talbot's LaTeX for Complete Novices and Andrew Roberts's Getting to Grips with LaTeX.

The recent books by Marc van Dongen, LaTeX and Friends, Springer, 2012, and Peter Flynn, Formatting Information: An Introduction to Typesetting with LaTeX, Silmaril Consultants, 2011, may also be of interest to you, particularly because they both stress matters of document organization and how to implement them using LaTeX.

Happy LaTeXing!


latex, outside of drawing environments, positions things things with a sort of "rubber band" model:

-- suppose you have a set of objects {a, b, ..., z} attached to a rubber band, which is itself stretched between two immovable anchor points.

-- now suppose you want to have object "q" at a position 1cm to the right of where it is: other things being equal, everything to the left of "q" {a, ..., p} will move a little further apart from each other, while everything to the right of "q" {r, ..., z} will move a little closer to each other.

so moving "q" isn't easily achievable without impact on other things.

this is the basis of why "simple" positioning is hard.

an obvious way to address the problem is to "do your positioning first", and then typeset. there are packages (such as textpos) which are designed for placing things at a precise position on the page; they work very well -- for example, they're a good basic way of generating posters, with bits and pieces dotted around a sheet. however, you can't run text around such things: you can't have a page of text with a series of objects fitted in to gaps in the text.

tex, of course, works round these problems, by placing constraints on how typesetting may proceed: these are regularly discussed here and in other forums, but all they are doing is adjust the rules about how the rubber bands are allowed to stretch, and where they are allowed to break and attach themselves to something new.

so "positioning in general", which seems to be what you are asking about, is a rather tricky concept in tex. advice on positioning a particular thing at a particular place, in a particular context, may be available; all these things derive from the rules in the tex book, or in the luatex manual. but a general collection of such derived rules, for placing general sorts of objects on a page, is bound to be a large document, and as far as i know, no-one has worked on creating such a thing.


There are the commands \moveleft<dimen><box>, \moveright<dimen><box> in vertical mode, and \raise<dimen><box>, and \lower<dimen><box> in horizontal mode. For example (plain):

\moveleft1in\vbox to0pt{\hsize3in\input story \vss}
Foo bar \raise2ex\hbox{baz}
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    He asks about LaTeX, not about TeX primitives. Feb 21, 2012 at 22:02
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    @Martin: I'm not sure I understand your comment. Does LaTeX have some aliased names for the above commands? Or do you mean I should alias them, package the result and send it to ctan just so I can link it here and say it's LaTeX?
    – morbusg
    Feb 22, 2012 at 6:44
  • @morbusg: latex does indeed have alternative names for the tex primitives. however, you're talking about moving things that already have a position, not about giving them a position in the first place. Feb 24, 2012 at 18:30
  • @wasteofspace: quote from the OP: “Pushing them down, up, left or right”. I wanted to give instant satisfaction, because I noticed how the primitive names directly map to those words. I understand it can be seen as offering a bazooka when someone is trying to shoot themselves in the foot, but hey, instant satisfaction. An answer to the question, as posed, no? Besides, I'm not sure they work the way you say, since the box contents is given there and then.
    – morbusg
    Feb 24, 2012 at 19:07

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