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Where does \mbf come from and what is its relation to boldsymbol?

Background: It seems that in mtpro2 \mathbf does not work for many greek symbols and \mbf is recommended in some instances. I have always used \boldsymbol to get italic bold and \mathbf for upright bold. the command \mbf is new to me and seems specific to mtpro2?

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Yes, \mbf is defined only by mtpro2 AFAIK. Again, \mathbf does not generate “math bold face”. Instead, \mathbf generates “text bold face while in math mode”. If you say $\mathbf{fi}$ versus $\mbf{fi}$, the former will have the usual ligature while the latter behaves as “f times i”. This is more apparent if you set your text font to, say, Latin Modern, while using MathTime Pro 2 for math.

The \boldsymbol command is provided by the AMS bundle (amsbsy, to be more specific) to access math bolditalic face. The amsbsy manual states, just below the first paragraph, that

Note: It is recommended nowadays to use the bm package, which became available in 1997.

So, please consider using \usepackage{bm} and then \bm{...} instead.

However, the complete version of mtpro2 already provides its own command, \mathbold, to access its (non-free) math bolditalic. Neither bm nor amsbsy is needed.

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{lmodern}
\usepackage{mtpro2} % complete version for access to math bolditalic
\begin{document}
\showoutput
$\mathbf{fi}$ (Latin Modern Bold) versus
$\mbf{fi}$ (MathTime Pro~2 Bold)\par
Use \verb|\mbf| for math variables that are set
in ``bold upright'' form.\par
MathTime Pro~2 ``complete'' defines \verb|\mathbold|:
$\mathbold{fi}$, no need for \verb|\boldsymbol|.
\end{document}

mathbf versus mbf versus mathbold

Addendum

To accommodate portability, I’d recommend using the \mbf+\bm combo throughout your document. Your preamble could look like this:

% Use \mbf for bold upright, \bm for bold italic

% Your fonts
\usepackage{newtxtext}
\usepackage{mtpro2}
\usepackage{bm}

% Your collaborator's fonts
%\usepackage{lmodern}
%\usepackage{bm}

% Your other collaborator's fonts
%\usepackage{unicode-math}

...

\makeatletter
\AtBeginDocument{%
  % For non-mtpro2 users, switch \mbf to \mathbf
  \@ifpackageloaded{mtpro2}{}{\let\mbf\mathbf}%
  % For unicode-math users, switch \bm to \symbf
  \@ifpackageloaded{unicode-math}{\let\bm\symbf}{}%
}
\makeatother
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  • Very informative. So I should actually use \bm instead of \boldsymbol? Yes I have the paid version of mtpro2. It is quite annoying that mtpro2 then has its own definition with \mathbold, which then requires a rewrite if you want to test a different math font.
    – mu7z
    Jul 1, 2019 at 6:26
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    @mu7z My recommendation is the \mbf+\bm combo. I’ve added some discussion on portability of your document with your collaborator(s). Jul 1, 2019 at 15:42
  • Fantastic recommendation, many thanks.
    – mu7z
    Jul 1, 2019 at 18:20
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    @mu7z \bm works also with the lite mtpro2 (by producing the so-called poor man’s bold) and with other math font packages (the traditional ones, not the OpenType ones). Essentially it comes down to personal preference. You can always use the mtpro2-exclusive \mathbold and later \let\mathbold\boldsymbol, say, when you share your documents with others. Jul 2, 2019 at 7:26
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    @mu7z Also, compare $\bm{\int f(x) \, dx}$ with $\mathbold{\int f(x) \, dx}$, ;) Jul 2, 2019 at 7:32

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