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I began learning LaTeX in the last week and I'm really feeling the learning curve. Something I appreciate is the thoroughness of the documentation for the packages. At first I came across the caption and fancyhdr package documentations which were like 60 pages, and I thought that was pretty long. Then, I learned about tikz, and found out it had 1,300+ pages of documentation. Today I also found out that the pgfplots and tcolorbox packages both have 500+ pages of documentation. Which LaTeX packages have some of the longest documentation and which one is the very longest?

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  • Maybe source3 is a good contender, 1553 pages. (although this can hardly count as documentation)
    – user202729
    Apr 14, 2022 at 4:54
  • This is more of a curiosity question than a practical question though
    – user202729
    Apr 14, 2022 at 4:55
  • @user202729 There's precedent which gave me the idea for this question tex.stackexchange.com/questions/574563/…
    – arara
    Apr 14, 2022 at 5:00
  • Actual documentation length should be proportional to package complexity, intuitively. Some packages have one page of documentation (or less) because they have one command, or the package is so easy to use. The question might be heading towards an index factor relating to: "Which packages are thoroughly documented?" (from the perspective of the intended audience/user)
    – Cicada
    Apr 14, 2022 at 6:18
  • A far more useful measure is documentation to code ratio, indentfirst stars here.... Apr 14, 2022 at 7:10

1 Answer 1

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Using a quick script wrapper around qpdf to give me a more useful formatted output and then a combination of find and sort from the folder /usr/local/texlive/2021/texmf-dist/doc,¹ I got the following list of the longest PDF documents:

Pages File Description
639 support/bib2gls/bib2gls.pdf Utility for converting bib files to gloss files
652 latex/minitoc/minitoc-fr.pdf French documentation for Minitoc plus annotated source code
694 generic/xypic/xysource.pdf Annotated Xy-pic source
739 generic/knuth-pdf/xetex/xetex.pdf WEAVE output of the XeTeX source code
820 generic/knuth-pdf/pdftex/pdftex.pdf WEAVE output of the pdfTeX source code²
1153 latex/base/source2e.pdf Annotated LaTeX source code
1172 latex-dev/base/source2e.pdf Annotated LaTeX kernel source code (dev version)
1321 generic/pgf/pgfmanual.pdf TikZ
1443 latex/lwarp/lwarp.pdf lwarp LaTeX to HTML converter
1552 latex/l3kernel/source3.pdf Expl3 reference and source

Based on a cursory glance over these files, it appears that TiKZ's documentation has the most actual documentation content (as opposed to annotated source code), although this is at least in part because of a highly thorough reference section.

Also worth a gander is my investigation with regard to a similar question at Reddit about why MacTeX is so big.³


  1. Yes, I know that TeX live 2022 is out, but I've not had a chance to upgrade yet.
  2. Raise your hand if you were surprised that the pdfTeX source code is longer than the XeTeX source code
  3. TLDR: Docs account for 3G of the space with lots of little files adding up. Fonts, surprisingly were 2.7G (mostly TTF/OTF fonts but there were also some surprisingly large VF files).
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  • mirror.kku.ac.th/CTAN/macros/latex/contrib/glossaries/… Documented Code @ 632 pages. Not sure if this counts. If class documentations are also included then Koma-Script english doc is @ 567 pages.
    – Krosin
    Apr 14, 2022 at 6:55
  • Both just under the top ten documents in terms of length. The largest by size, incidentally is generic/pst-geo/pst-geo-doc.pdf at 124K
    – Don Hosek
    Apr 14, 2022 at 15:03
  • Source2e would be much shorter if they threw out all the useless pseudocode. Apr 14, 2022 at 15:05
  • 1
    Some of us still use that useless pseudocode as a roadmap to following the macro definitions.
    – Don Hosek
    Apr 14, 2022 at 16:22

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