I'm reading journal papers in physics/electrical engineering. What is a suitable document class or package to help with taking notes?

My idea would be having direct quotes on one side and my opinions/ideas aligned horizontally on the other side.

I want Margin 1 and Quote 1 to be aligned horizontally.

alt text


\usepackage[marginpar=3in, left=4in, right=0.5in]{geometry}


Hey! \marginpar{Hello world! The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.}

Quote 1 \marginpar{Margin 1}

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    I typically use a technological marvel called pencil for that (or when I want to get fancy, a fountain pen). Though the graphite color of my e-book reader makes it rather hard to read. ;-)
    – Caramdir
    Jan 15, 2011 at 4:02
  • 2
    +1 @Caramdir: Yes, a pencil should work, too :). But I'm still preparing for graduate school, in a less conducive environment, on the computer most of the time, and having a small desk space. The benefits of producing convenient readable layout make for easier reading later and for sharing notes :).
    – Kit
    Jan 15, 2011 at 5:03
  • Typed noted are indeed easier to work with than handwritten ones. They have better readability, allow copy and paste, can be easily combined together and archived etc. You might want to have a look to non TeX related solution such as emacs org mode. Beware, this could lead you far away (but in rather sunny spots)!
    – M. Toya
    Jun 8, 2012 at 7:27

5 Answers 5


If you are really wedded to the parallel style, you could simply use a big longtable environment, where each quote and comment were just separated by & and each pair is a row. This is maximally simple.

But personally, I think you might find it more useful to use something like the comment package, which, although it wouldn't be parallel texts, would allow you to easily produce versions of your notes with and without the comments. The notes by themselves might be useful to give to others, for example, even though you may not want to distribute your comments. You can also specify the formatting of the comment environments, so you could easily distinguish comments from notes even though they would be inline rather than parallel.


I do not know if I understand you well. Do you have the LaTeX source of the papers you read? If, as it is often my case, you can only have the PDF versions, then what you would need is a tool to annotate those.

I use Jarnal and I am quite satisfied with it. I also use it to grade my student's homework, which they usually turn in in PDF.

  • If you use linux, then the equivalent program is Xournal. I've used it for proofing, marking, etc...
    – Simon
    Jan 15, 2011 at 23:21
  • @ Simon: I use Linux! I have missed Xournal, I will have a look at it. Thank you for pointing this out.
    – F. Tusell
    Jan 16, 2011 at 8:24
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    Now there is also Xournal++ (a fork of Xournal?) which is still better.
    – F. Tusell
    Jun 26, 2020 at 16:17

You might consider using a package for parallel texts like parallel, parcolumns or ledpar instead of using marginal notes, though it isn't exactly clear what your requirements are.

  • It's mostly for personal use, so basically two columns of horizontally aligned matching ideas is what I need.
    – Kit
    Jan 15, 2011 at 3:46
  • These packages can do that.
    – frabjous
    Jan 15, 2011 at 3:48

I'm a fan of the Edward Tufte inspired package, in particular the handout option. By default it has a large margin that footnotes and marginnotes fill; these will be horizontally aligned, though I'm not certain if the footnote/marginnote text would be large enough.

Sounds like you are doing wonderful preparation for grad school.....


You could try the todo note package to have notes on your quotes.

For making notes directly on the pdf, I use Skim.app, I am not sure for windows users. Linux users have an alternative in the other answers.

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