Questions tagged [best-practices]

A "best practice" is a technique or approach that TeXnicians recognize as giving better results than other approaches.

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211
votes
2answers
96k views

Should \tikzset or \tikzstyle be used to define TikZ styles?

The PGF/TikZ manual states in section 12.4 Using Graphic Options, page 120 (v2.10), that TikZ styles can be set using: \tikzset{my style/.style={<tikz options>},...} However, in several places ...
100
votes
2answers
13k views

Why should the minimal class be avoided?

In a comment to my answer to Drawing a rectangle along the border of a circle, Peter Grill said that he read that the minimal class should not be used for a Minimal Working Example. I wonder why, and ...
56
votes
1answer
58k views

How should one maintain and update a MiKTeX installation?

Every once in a while after updating MiKTeX, the installation gets into an inconsistent state. This might be a problem with the packages (an example is described in this question), but sometimes ...
115
votes
5answers
45k views

Does it matter if I use \textit or \it, \bfseries or \bf, etc

I typically use \textit{Some italicized text} while some of my colleagues use {\it Some other text} Should I bother changing one or the other, or does it matter? Related: Is there any reason ...
346
votes
9answers
67k views

Are \( and \) preferable to dollar signs for math mode?

Along the lines of Why is \[ ... \] preferable to $$ ... $$?, what reasons are there (if any) to favor \( ... \) over $ ... $?
221
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2answers
150k views

When to use \par and when \\, \newline, or blank lines

What is the difference between \par, \newline, \\ and blank lines? When should I use which one?
126
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4answers
53k views

When not to use \ensuremath for math macro?

I have gotten into the habit of using \ensuremath around math components in every macro that I define, so that I can use the same macro inside and outside of math mode. But egreg's comments in \...
443
votes
3answers
950k views

"Correct" way to bold/italicize text?

Is either of these considered better/more readable/more "proper"/more conventional than the other for making text bold? If so, what is the reason? I like my text \textbf{bold} versus: I like my ...
109
votes
6answers
9k views

How to keep up with packages and know which ones are obsolete?

I'm an on and off user of LaTeX so I'm not familiar with every package out there. Having said that, whenever I use LaTeX and need to accomplish a certain goal (i.e. generate a list of appendices), I ...
204
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2answers
352k views

How to write conditional equations with one-sided curly brackets [duplicate]

I want to write a conditional expression such as the following. What is the best way to express such conditional expressions in Latex?
215
votes
6answers
211k views

utf8x vs. utf8 (inputenc)

I normally use \usepackage[utf8]{inputenc} for my latex document but on this site i saw a lot of code with \usepackage[utf8x]{inputenc}. What are the differences between the 2 options ? Is there one ...
127
votes
4answers
234k views

"(" or "\left(" parentheses?

What is the difference between ( and \left( in LaTeX? Sometimes, when the content is small, it does not seem to matter which pair I use. What is the best practice when it comes to which parentheses ...
63
votes
8answers
6k views

Why should you avoid using (complex) templates?

This question is intended to be something reference-like to point users of complex templates they do not fully understand to. After having read What is a template? it should be clear what a template ...
34
votes
2answers
8k views

Best choice between using \\ or leaving space after each paragraph to end the paragraph

Here is the thing, I have always used a blank space between paragraphs in order to tell latex that there is a new paragraph. But there is someone I work with very often that keeps using \\ to break a ...
76
votes
9answers
70k views

Footnotes in tables?

I would like to have footnotes in tables, but the \footnote command does not work inside a table environment. Googling one finds that this is a frequently asked question, at least in the UK. That ...
158
votes
3answers
45k views

Which measurement units should one use in LaTeX?

There are various measurement units that one can use (such as pt, mm, in, em, ex etc.) for specifying lengths and heights. For font-based units (em and ex) the actual spacing will vary slightly ...
35
votes
3answers
13k views

What is the preferable setup for MiKTeX to keep all packages up-to-date easily?

By default, MiKTeX is set up for all users to the folder C:\Program Files\MiKTeX 2.9 However, packages added on-the-fly go to the folder C:\Users\CurrentUser\AppData\Roaming\MiKTeX\2.9 (in case of ...
188
votes
46answers
21k views

What are the most common mistakes that beginners of (La)TeX and Friends make?

I want to collect the most common mistakes, misconceptions, pitfalls, etc that (La)TeX and Friends users make. Please one answer for each mistake, misconception, pitfall, etc. I am only interested in ...
134
votes
3answers
47k views

What is the difference of \mathop, \operatorname and \DeclareMathOperator?

One sees all kind of versions in source files for defining something like a limit etc. So my question is which one serves what purpose. Is there any "best practice" in chosing one over the other?
77
votes
6answers
3k views

How bad for TeX is omitting braces {}, even if the result is the same?

Sometimes writing braces and omitting them produces the same result: \tilde{\psi} \mathrm{e}^{\mathrm{i} \pi} vs \tilde \psi \mathrm e^{\mathrm i \pi} Or (taken from Werner's comment below) \...
36
votes
2answers
62k views

Fractions with large elements

What is best practice for typesetting fractions with large objects in the numerator and denominator? For example, fractions with limits, integrals, summations, etc... cause the expressions to look ...
132
votes
5answers
39k views

Is there a preference of when to use \text and \mathrm?

I'm unsure of when it is preferable to use \text versus \mathrm, is there some unwritten rule about the use of these? For example, I saw the following code in a math post: \frac{\mathrm{lcm}(m,n)}{\...
95
votes
3answers
17k views

Theorem packages: which to use, which conflict?

As far as I know, one can create theorem environments using any of amsthm, ntheorem, thmtools and probably more. How should I define my theorem environments? Is one package clearly superior? Which ...
42
votes
1answer
37k views

Typesetting Chemical Formulas

What is the 'best' package for typesetting chemical formulas? (I don't need anything but the chemical formulas.) Assume I want to typeset The dissociation of a AgBr molecure requires an energy of $...
146
votes
5answers
14k views

Best practice on organising your preamble

I am putting together a large document and my preamble is unwieldly and disorganised. What order does it make sense to load packages. Obviously, hyperref goes last, apart from things that have to go ...
111
votes
6answers
53k views

When should I use non-breaking space?

DEK gained a reputation of painting red the draft dissertations of his students, taking particular note of incidents when they omitted a non-breaking space that should have been included. I have this ...
82
votes
1answer
56k views

Is there any advantage to using \addbibresource over \bibliography?

I've always used \bibliography to tell BibTeX where my bibliography is, and when I moved to biblatex, I didn't change. I see a lot of biblatex answers use \addbibresource instead. What is the ...
35
votes
2answers
53k views

\flushbottom vs \raggedbottom

I use \documentclass{book}. If I use \flushbottom, I get messages of the sort Underfull \vbox (badness 10000) has occurred while \output is active []. See question. These messages disappear when I ...
91
votes
4answers
19k views

What is the proper use of \@ (i.e., backslash-at)?

In this answer, \@ is used after a period and before an \xspace, presumably to indicate that the preceding period (in "etc.") was not sentence-final. In these tips, \@ is used before a period and ...
89
votes
13answers
28k views

What are the advantages of using version control (git, etc.) in LaTeX documents

Why would I need to use version control with my LaTeX documents? I know people who do it, and I've seen questions about it on here and on SO, but I haven't understood what value there is to doing it......
71
votes
3answers
2k views

Advantages and disadvantages of fully expandable macros

As I currently understand them, fully-expandable macros are analogous to pure/effect-free functions in functional programming. Correspondingly, things that are not expandable, such as \def, are ...
120
votes
3answers
21k views

Are there any coding style guidelines for LaTeX?

I have been using LaTeX for a long time now, but still all my document files look a bit messy. Now I want to get rid of this bad habit and get some order into my code. That is why I am wondering ...
133
votes
2answers
44k views

When should one use \begingroup instead of \bgroup?

Is there ever a case when the use of \begingroup is preferred to \bgroup? Obviously, \bgroup is necessary in cases where you need to have balanced braces and thus cannot use {, but when is it ...
57
votes
1answer
9k views

Which command should I use for textual subscripts in math mode?

Textual subscripts like in W_{total} should be typeset in an upright text font (so that code isn't good practice), as has been discussed in various questions here. Now there are several ways to ...
197
votes
2answers
164k views

\emph or \textit

In the comments section of Does it matter if I use \textit or \it, \bfseries or \bf, etc, I asked for a clarification of these points. The clarification has mostly been made, but it was requested that ...
76
votes
1answer
18k views

Difference between ref, varioref and cleveref. Decision for a thesis

How can one make a quick decision what the best "ref" for a thesis in pdflatex with hyperref is? After a few hours reading I do not know more than ref is used by everyone who does not know about the ...
56
votes
3answers
48k views

Why not use vertical lines ('|') in a tabular?

My question is a follow-up to the answer to a follow-up question, to be found here. ;) I'd like to know why one would advise against using vertical lines (via |) in a tabular (i.e. in \begin{tabular}{...
45
votes
4answers
6k views

Naming LaTeX files: best practice?

What's the best practice for naming LaTeX files? I know R, Matlab, and Java all differ in their use of ., _, -, camel case, capitalization, etc. What do people generally use for naming LaTeX files? ...
29
votes
5answers
34k views

"Evaluated at" bar for derivatives: \Bigr, \biggr, or \left...\right?

I'm trying to determine if there is a best practice for typesetting the "evaluated at" bar for derivatives. The three possibilities I'm thinking of are shown in the code excerpt below: \begin{gather*}...
49
votes
3answers
30k views

Is there a difference between \textit and \itshape?

I have only ever used \textit (and \emph for emphasized text), but have noticed that in some TeX examples, \itshape is used instead of \textit. Is there a difference between \textit and \itshape? If ...
63
votes
3answers
20k views

What is the difference between unicode-math and mathspec?

I'm currently typesetting my lecture notes for classical electrodynamics using the tufte-book class and XeLaTeX. This is my first time using XeLaTeX and so I stumbled upon the two packages unicode-...
73
votes
6answers
29k views

Which figure type to use: pdf or eps?

Both are vector graphics (typically) and both can be imported painlessly into a pdflatex document (so let's say we ignore dvi for this question). What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? ...
32
votes
3answers
18k views

Splitting a large document into several files

Why is it recommended to split a large document into several parts and include them with \include? Is it only a relic of the past times when computers and LaTeX compilers were slower, or is it still ...
58
votes
8answers
11k views

Writing readable LaTeX

Lets say I have the following LaTeX code \subsection{Convex sets} A set \( \mathcal{S} \) in \( \mathbb{R}^n \) is said to be convex if \[ \mathbf{x}_1, \mathbf{x}_2 \in \mathcal{S} \implies \lambda ...
34
votes
1answer
44k views

How to properly code a TeX file, or at least avoid `badness 10000`

I'm coding a TeX file and although the .pdf is correctly rendered, I'm using "stone age" tools to code it. As some examples, I use \\ to leave a line space between two paragraphs, or \noindent in ...
26
votes
3answers
6k views

Modifying .sty files?

Yesterday I did some changes in the layout of my TeX document. I couldn't accomplish the changes until I opened the .sty files and modified some of their code. I am sure this is not the best idea. For ...
82
votes
5answers
30k views

Good practice on spacing

In various places, in passing, I've seen mention of various good practices regarding well-behaved spacing in LaTeX. For example, Dr. Who should really be written Dr.\ Who or Dr.~Who to get the right ...
126
votes
6answers
88k views

Should I \mathrm the d in my integrals?

When writing an integral, it seems like something should be done to separate the "d", as in \int f(x) dx, so as not to confuse it with a variable. I've seen it left as-is, bolded, and straightened. ...
84
votes
1answer
9k views

On the basics of writing to & reading from auxiliary files (.aux, .toc, etc.)

Some actions (such as generating the Table of Contents) require two passes of the TeX compiler: during the first pass, some data get written to an auxiliary file, only to be retrieved during the ...
132
votes
6answers
125k views

What is the advantage of using $f^\prime$ instead of $f'$?

Although the two outputs look quite similar, what is the advantage of using $f^\prime$ instead of $f'$? By the way, here is my code: \documentclass‎{article‎}‎ \begin{document}‎‎‎ \[‎ ‎f^‎\prime ‎(x)=...

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