Using pdflatex, I would like to set an A4 article. I believed (from this answer) that it did not matter whether I use




But when I compile the two, I get different page margins. So I am now confused which is the "correct" way to use A4 paper. Is it maybe that one option only changes the paper format from letter to A4 but maintains the page margins, while the other adapts the margins to the new format? (Just a guess...)


\usepackage[a4paper]{geometry} %\documentclass[a4paper]{article} as the alternative
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marked as duplicate by Bernd, Mensch, Raaja, Stefan Pinnow, Zarko Jun 24 at 10:02

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  • Is the ˋ\textwidthˋ same? Then your clue is right that the difference is only the paper format. In general LaTEX itself does not know about physical page dimensions, as this depends on the backend. The ˋgeometryˋ package is able to issue the pdfspecial commands, so I assume your clue is correct. – Daniel Dec 22 '18 at 10:20
  • @Daniel: You are just right, it seems! The default \textwidth of the letter format is apparently 345pt, which is maintained if I set the page size via the documentclass option. If I use the geometry package instead, it is changed to approx. 418.25. Thanks for the hint! – Bernd Dec 22 '18 at 11:01
  • So if I infer correctly, one should rather use the geometry option because it does not only change the paper format but also chooses "matching" page margins? – Bernd Dec 22 '18 at 11:02
  • It depends :-) The real question is what is a "correct" margin and if you consider the text area or the margin or the proportion between both as the defining characteristic of "correctness". IMHO, the standard LaTeX classes are letter-centric, so geometry may have the better defaults for A4. I personally prefer koma-script and its typearea package, which calculates the margin depending on typographic rules. Its documentation, Chapter 2, provides a good introduction into the topic of typographic page calculations, definitely worth a read. – Daniel Dec 23 '18 at 23:36