Archive for the ‘TeX/LaTeX’ Category

Are LaTeX Users Script Kiddies?

Monday, January 8th, 2018

NO! Despite most LaTeX users not writing their own LaTeX engines or many of the packages they use, they are not script kiddies.

LaTeX users are experts in mathematics, statistics and probability, physics, computer science, astronomy and astrophysics, (François Brischoux and Pierre Legagneux 2009), as well as being skilled LaTeX authors.

There’s no shame in using LaTeX, despite not implementing a LaTeX engine. LaTeX makes high quality typesetting available to hundreds of thousands of users around the globe.

Contrast that view of LaTeX with making use of cyber vulnerabilities more widely available, which is dismissed as empowering “script kiddies.”

Every cyber vulnerability is a step towards transparency. Government and corporations fear cyber vulnerabilities, fearing their use will uncover evidence of their crimes and favoritism.

Fearing public exposure, it’s no surprise that governments prohibit the use of cyber vulnerabilities. Governments that also finance and support rape, torture, murder, etc., in pursuit of national policy.

The question for you is:

Do you want to assist such governments and corporations to continue hiding their secrets?

Your answer to that question should determine your position on the discovery, use and spread of cyber vulnerabilities.

Critical: Draw Coffee Cup In TeX/LaTeX

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

How to draw a coffee cup.

I’m sure everyone who has ever seen a post, article, book on TeX/LaTeX has lost sleep over how to draw a coffee cup.

Thanks to a tweet from @TeXtip, we can all rest easier. Or at least be bothered by other problems.

@TeXtip points to answers to vexing questions such as how to draw a coffee cup and acts as a reminder to use a little TeX/LaTeX everyday.


Designing a Business Card in LaTeX (For Your New Alt-Identities)

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Designing a Business Card in LaTeX by Olivier Pieters

From the post:

In 2017, I will graduate from Ghent University. This means starting a professional career, either in academia or in industry. One of the first things that came to mind was that I needed a good curriculum vitæ, and a business card. I already have the former, but I still needed a business card. Consequently, I looked a bit online and was not all that impressed by the tools people used to design them. I did not want to change some template everybody’s using, but do my own thing. And suddenly, I realised: what better tool than LaTeX to make it!

I know, I already hear some saying “why not use the online tools?” or “Photoshop?”. I picked LaTeX because I want to have a platform independent implementation and because why not? I really like making LaTeX documents, so this seemed like something other than creating long documents.

So, how are we going to create it? First, we’ll make a template for the front and back sides. Then, we will modify this to our needs and have a perfectly formatted and aligned business card.

One of the few fun tasks in the creation of an alternative identity should be the creation of a new business card.

Olivier’s post gets you started on the LaTeX side, although an eye-catching design is on you.

It’s too late for some of us to establish convincing alternative identities.

On the other hand, alternative identities should be established for children before they are twelve or so. Complete interlocking financial, social, digital, etc. for each one.

It doesn’t make you a bad parent if you haven’t done so but a verifiable and alternative identity could be priceless in an uncertain world.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it….

Friday, August 26th, 2016

You may (may not) remember the TV show, Mission Impossible. It had a cast of regulars who formed a spy team to undertake “impossible” tasks that could not be traced back to the U.S. government.

Stories like: BAE Systems Sells Internet Surveillance Gear to United Arab Emirates make me wish for a non-nationalistic, modern equivalent of the Mission Impossible team.

You may recall the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were behind the attempted hack of Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent human rights activist.

So much for the UAE needing spyware for legitimate purposes.

From the article:

In a written statement, BAE Systems said, “It is against our policy to comment on contracts with specific countries or customers. BAE Systems works for a number of organizations around the world, within the regulatory frameworks of all relevant countries and within our own responsible trading principles.”

The Danish Business Authority told Andersen it found no issue approving the export license to the Ministry of the Interior of the United Arab Emirates after consulting with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, despite regulations put in place by the European Commission in October 2014 to control exports of spyware and internet surveillance equipment out of concern for human rights. The ministry told Andersen in an email it made a thorough assessment of all relevant concerns and saw no reason to deny the application.

It doesn’t sound like any sovereign government is going to restrain BAE Systems and/or the UAE.

Consequences for their mis-deeds will have to come from other quarters.

Like the TV show started every week:

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it….

The Comprehensive LaTeX Symbol List

Friday, August 5th, 2016

The Comprehensive LaTeX Symbol List by Scott Pakin.


This document lists 14032 symbols and the corresponding LATEX commands that produce them. Some of these symbols are guaranteed to be available in every LATEX 2 system; others require fonts and packages that may not accompany a given distribution and that therefore need to be installed. All of the fonts and packages used to prepare this document—as well as this document itself—are freely available from the Comprehensive TEX Archive Network (

For unfortunates who print to A4 paper:

Perhaps not as challenging as giving Unicode character names for random representative glyphs but at 14032 symbols, certainly enough material to keep you busy for several long afternoons!


Free & Interactive Online Introduction to LaTeX

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Free & Interactive Online Introduction to LaTeX by John Lees-Miller.

From the webpage:

Part 1: The Basics

Welcome to the first part of our free online course to help you learn LaTeX. If you have never used LaTeX before, or if it has been a while and you would like a refresher, this is the place to start. This course will get you writing LaTeX right away with interactive exercises that can be completed online, so you don’t have to download and install LaTeX on your own computer.

In this part of the course, we’ll take you through the basics of how LaTeX works, explain how to get started, and go through lots of examples. Core LaTeX concepts, such as commands, environments, and packages, are introduced as they arise. In particular, we’ll cover:

  • Setting up a LaTeX Document
  • Typesetting Text
  • Handling LaTeX Errors
  • Typesetting Equations
  • Using LaTeX Packages

In part two and part three, we’ll build up to writing beautiful structured documents with figures, tables and automatic bibliographies, and then show you how to apply the same skills to make professional presentations with beamer and advanced drawings with TikZ. Let’s get started!

Since I mentioned fonts earlier today, Learning a Manifold of Fonts, it seems only fair to post about the only typesetting language that can take full advantage of any font you care to use.

TeX was released in 1978 and it has yet to be equaled by any non-TeX/LaTeX system.

It’s almost forty (40) years old, widely used and still sui generis.

Donald Knuth: Literate Programming on Channel 9

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Donald Knuth: Literate Programming on Channel 9.


The speaker will discuss what he considers to be the most important outcome of his work developing TeX in the 1980s, namely the accidental discovery of a new approach to programming — which caused a radical change in his own coding style. Ever since then, he has aimed to write programs for human beings (not computers) to read. The result is that the programs have fewer mistakes, they are easier to modify and maintain, and they can indeed be understood by human beings. This facilitates reproducible research, among other things.

Presentation at the R User Conference 2016.

Increase your book budget before watching this video!

TUGBoat – The Complete Set

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Norm Walsh tweeted an offer of circa 1990 issues of TUGBoat for free to a good home today (30 June 2016).

On the off chance that you, like me, have only a partial set, consider the full set, TUGBoat Contents, 1980 1:1 to date.

From the TUGBoat homepage:

The TUGboat journal is a unique benefit of joining TUG. It is currently published three times a year and distributed to all TUG members (for that year). Anyone can also buy copies from the TUG store.

We post articles online after about one year for the benefit of the entire TeX community, but TUGboat is funded by member support. So please consider joining TUG if you find TUGboat useful.

TUGboat publishes the proceedings of the TUG Annual Meetings, and sometimes other conferences. A list of other publications by TUG, and by other user groups is available.

This is an opportunity to support the TeX Users Group (TUG) without looking for a future home for your printed copies of TUGBoat. Donate to TUG and read online!


Tufte-inspired LaTeX (handouts, papers, and books)

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Tufte-LaTeX – A Tufte-inspired LaTeX class for producing handouts, papers, and books.

From the webpage:

As discussed in the Book Design thread of Edward Tufte’s Ask E.T Forum, this site is home to LaTeX classes for producing handouts and books according to the style of Edward R. Tufte and Richard Feynman.

Download the latest release, browse the source, join the mailing list, and/or submit patches. Contributors are welcome to help polish these classes!

Some examples of the Tufte-LaTeX classes in action:

  • Some papers by Jason Catena using the handout class
  • A handout for a math club lecture on volumes of n-dimensional spheres by Marty Weissman
  • A draft copy of a book written by Marty Weissman using the new Tufte-book class
  • An example handout (source) using XeLaTeX with the bidi class option for the ancient Hebrew by Kirk Lowery

Caution: A Tufte-inspired LaTeX class is no substitute for professional design advice and assistance. It will help you do “better,” for some definition of “better,” but professional design is in a class of its own.

If you are interested in TeX/LaTeX tips, follow: TexTips. One of several excellent Twitter feeds by John D. Cook.

Valentine’s Day Hearts

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

If you have an appropriate other to send Valentine’s cards, greetings, etc., consider:

Can we make a love heart with LaTeX?

A few of the images you can customize:




For searches like “valentines day hearts TeX” and “valentines day hearts LaTeX,” you really wish that Google was less “helpful.”

As you know, TeX “corrects” to text and LaTeX, well, you know how that is corrected. 😉

Even if you convince Google that you really meant “TeX,” the returns remain mostly garbage.

Here a search that returns 74 “hits” that Google dedupes down to 18 (most of which are dupes):

valentine heart

But 18 “hits” are manageable:

drawing water droplets with tikz mentions Example: Valentine heart at

Then you will find 13 “hits” that include this sentence:

We have questions about Christmas trees and Hearts for Valentines but we have no questions that specialize in Halloween or Dia de los Muertos art.

Why Google doesn’t dedupe those isn’t known.

I tried several of the better known TeX/LaTeX sites with “valentine” and the site name. Not anything like a comprehensive survey but there were several zero search results.

Is it the case that the TeX/LaTeX communities don’t have much interest in Valentine heart drawing? 😉

You will fare even worse if you search for heart limited to the domain

On the other hand, SVG and valentine “searches” fairly well.

Here’s one from Wiki Commons:


Credit your sources (discretely) on any artwork you reproduce.


PS: Now all I have to do is corral an old inkjet color printer into working as a local printer, pray the color cartridge hasn’t dried up, etc. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Unicode to LaTeX

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

Unicode to LaTeX by John D. Cook.

From the post:

I’ve run across a couple web sites that let you enter a LaTeX symbol and get back its Unicode value. But I didn’t find a site that does the reverse, going from Unicode to LaTeX, so I wrote my own.

Unicode / LaTeX Conversion

If you enter Unicode, it will return LaTeX. If you enter LaTeX, it will return Unicode. It interprets a string starting with “U+” as a Unicode code point, and a string starting with a backslash as a LaTeX command.

I am having trouble visualizing when I would need to go from Unicode to LaTeX but on the off-chance that I find myself in that situation, I wanted to note John’s conversion page.

Knowing my luck, just after this post is pushed off the front page of the blog I will have need of it. 😉

todonotes – Marking things to do in a LATEX document

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

todonotes – Marking things to do in a LATEX document

From the webpage:

The pack­age lets the user mark things to do later, in a sim­ple and vi­su­ally ap­peal­ing way. The pack­age takes sev­eral op­tions to en­able cus­tomiza­tion/fine­tun­ing of the vi­sual ap­pear­ance.

The feature of this package that grabbed my attention was the ability to easily create a list of todos “…like a table of content or a list of figures.”

In any document longer than a couple of pages, that is going to be very handy.

TeX Live 2015

Friday, June 12th, 2015

TeX Live 2015 availability

From the webpage:

TeX Live 2015 is available for download now. It is also available on DVD from TUG and other user groups.

You can acquire TeX Live in many ways. For typical use, we recommend the first two:

Enjoyable weekend update task!

The Beauty of LATEX

Monday, May 25th, 2015

The Beauty of LATEX

From the post:

There are several reasons why one should prefer LaTeX to a WYSIWYG word processor like Microsoft Word: portability, lightness, security are just a few of them (not to mention that LaTeX is free). There is still a further reason that definitely convinced me to abandon MS Word when I wrote my dissertation: you will never be able to produce professionally typeset and well-structured documents using most WYSIWYG word processors. LaTeX is a free typesetting system that allows you to focus on content without bothering about the layout: the software takes care of the actual typesetting, structuring and page formatting, producing documents of astonishing elegance. The software I use to write in LaTeX on a Mac compiles documents in PDF format (but exporting to other formats such as RTF or HTML is also possible). It supports unicode and all the advanced typographic features of OpenType and AAT fonts, like Adobe Garamond Pro and Hoefler Text. It allows fine-tuned control on a number of typesetting options, although just using the default configuration results in documents with high typographic quality. In what follows I review some examples, comparing how fonts are rendered in MS Word and in LaTeX.

I thought about mentioning LATEX in my post about MS Office, but that would hardly be fair. LATEX is professional grade publishing software. Any professional grade software package takes user investment to become proficient at its use.

MS Office, on the other hand, is within the reach of anyone who can start a computer. The results may be ugly but the learning curve looks like a long tail. A very long tail.


Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

TIkZ & PGF by Till Tantau.


From the introduction:

Welcome to the documentation of TikZ and the underlying pgf system. What began as a small LaTEX style for creating the graphics in my (Till Tantau’s) PhD thesis directly with pdfLATEX has now grown to become a full-flung graphics language with a manual of over a thousand pages. The wealth of options offered by TikZ is often daunting to beginners; but fortunately this documentation comes with a number slowly-paced tutorials that will teach you almost all you should know about TikZ without your having to read the rest….

The examples will make you want to install the package just to see if you can duplicate them. Some of the graphics I am unlikely to ever use. On the other hand, going over this manual in detail will enable you to recognize what is possible, graphically speaking.

This is truly going to be a lot of fun!


Biblatex – Bibliographies in LATEX using BibTEX for sorting only

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

Biblatex – Bibliographies in LATEX using BibTEX for sorting only

From the webpage:

Biblatex is a complete reimplementation of the bibliographic facilities provided by LATEX in conjunction with BibTEX. It redesigns the way in which LATEX interacts with BibTEX at a fairly fundamental level. With biblatex, BibTEX is only used (if it is used at all) to sort the bibliography and to generate labels. Formatting of the bibliography is entirely controlled by TEX macros (the BibTEX-based mechanism embeds some parts of formatting in the BibTEX style file. Good working knowledge in LATEX should be sufficient to design new bibliography and citation styles; nothing related to BibTEX’s language is needed.

While looking for better ways to manage the bibliography I mentioned in Deep Learning in Neural Networks: An Overview I ran across The biblatex Package
Programmable Bibliographies and Citations
by Philipp Lehman. The manual runs over two (200) hundred pages so quite naturally I had to find the package at CTAN.

Biblatex is new to me so I thought it was worth noting both the manual and the package location. Very promising in terms of printed bibliography production. And as documentation for extraction of information from bibliographies created using Biblatex.

LaTeX (Wikibooks)

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

LaTeX (Wikibooks)

I mention LaTeX because it is a featured book on Wikibooks, no mean feat, and I am going to be consulting it on several writing projects. I have several other LaTeX references, but it never hurts to have one more.

BTW, if your interests run in that direction, consider contributing to LaTeX on some of the more advanced topics.



Tuesday, September 16th, 2014


From the webpage:

  • Fast: KaTeX renders its math synchronously and doesn’t need to reflow the page.
  • Print quality: KaTeX’s layout is based on Donald Knuth’s TeX, the gold standard for math typesetting.
  • Self contained: KaTeX has no dependencies and can easily be bundled with your website resources.
  • Server side rendering: KaTeX produces the same output regardless of browser or environment, so you can pre-render expressions using Node.js and send them as plain HTML.

Is it just a matter of time before someone implements TeX in JS and we have a typographic solution for the Web?

I first saw this in a tweet by John Resig.


Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014


From the webpage:

  • integrated LaTeX environment for Windows
  • powerful LaTeX editor with auto completion
  • full UTF-8 support
  • document navigator for easy navigation and referencing
  • tight viewer integration with forward and inverse search
  • quick setup wizard for MiKTeX
  • trusted by millions of users around the world
  • free and open source (GPL)

I need to install this so I can run it in a VM on Ubuntu. 😉

Seriously, this looks really cool.

Let me know what you think. This could make a great recommendation for Windows users.

I first saw this in a tweet by TeX tips.

Publication Quality Graphs With LaTeX

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

The question was asked on the Tex-LaTex Stack Exchange: How to draw graphs in LaTeX?

If you want professional quality graphs, see the answer and resources cited.


TeX Live 2014 released…

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

TeX Live 2014 released – what’s new by Stefan Kottwitz.

Just enough to get you interested:

  • TeX and MetaFont updates
  • pdfTeX with “fake spaces”
  • LuaTeX, engine that can reside in CPU cache
  • numerous other changes and improvements

Stefan covers these and more, while pointing you to the documentation for more details.

Has anyone calculated how many decades TeX/LaTeX are ahead of the average word processor?

Just curious.


Thursday, May 22nd, 2014


From the about page:

My intention is to provide valuable tips and tricks for your daily LaTeX editing. In addition, I’ll try to give answers to questions which are not easily found on the web.

If you have a topic you think I should write an article about, any question on LaTex or if there are errors/bad links in my blog, please let me know.

I get quite a few questions/problems which I try to answer/solve in order to help with your editing. Quite often, however, the answer to your question can be found within the previous comments. Please include a minimal example that illustrates your problem if you are posting a comment with a question or problem.

If you are interested in serious typography, this is a blog you need to follow.

Or if you are interested in indexing TeX/LaTeX files.


Tuesday, May 20th, 2014


From the webpage:

Madagascar is an open-source software package for multidimensional data analysis and reproducible computational experiments. Its mission is to provide

  • a convenient and powerful environment
  • a convenient technology transfer tool

for researchers working with digital image and data processing in geophysics and related fields. Technology developed using the Madagascar project management system is transferred in the form of recorded processing histories, which become “computational recipes” to be verified, exchanged, and modified by users of the system.

Interesting tool for “reproducible documents” and data analysis.

The file format, Regularly Sampled Format (RSF) sounds interesting:

For data, Madagascar uses the Regularly Sampled Format (RSF), which is based on the concept of hypercubes (n-D arrays, or regularly sampled functions of several variables), much like the SEPlib (its closest relative), DDS, or the regularly-sampled version of the Javaseis format (SVF). Up to 9 dimensions are supported. For 1D it is conceptually analogous to a time series, for 2D to a raster image, and for 3D to a voxel volume. The format (actually a metaformat) makes use of a ASCII file with metadata (information about the data), including a pointer (in= parameter) to the location of the file with the actual data values. Irregularly sampled data are currently handled as a pair of datasets, one containing data and the second containing the corresponding irregular geometry information. Programs for conversion to and from other formats such as SEG-Y and SU are provided. (From Package Overview)

In case you are interested SEG-Y and SU (Seismic Unix data format) are both formats for geophysical data.

I first saw this in a tweet by Scientific Python.

The LaTeX for Linguists Home Page

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

The LaTeX for Linguists Home Page

From the webpage:

These pages provide information on how to use LaTeX for writing Linguistics papers (articles, books, etc.). In particular, they provide instructions and advice on creating the things Linguists standardly need, like trees, numbered examples, and so on, as well as advice on some things that most people need (like bibliographies), but with an eye to standard Linguistic practice.

Topic maps being a methodology to reconcile divergent uses of language, tools for the study of language seem like a close fit.

Annual update released for TeX Live (2013)

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Annual update released for TeX Live

From the post:

The developers of the TeX Live distribution of LaTeX have released their annual update. However, after 17 years of development, the changes in TeX Live 2013 mostly amount to technical details.

The texmf/ directory, for example, has been merged into texmf-dist/, while the TEXMFMAIN and TEXMFDIST Kpathsea variables now point to texmf-dist. The developers have also merged several language collections for easier installation. Users will find native support for PNG output and floating-point numbers in MetaPost. LuaTeX now uses version 5.2 of Lua and includes a new library (pdfscanner) for processing external PDF data, and xdvi now uses freetype instead of t1lib for rendering.

Several updates have been made to XeTeX: HarfBuzz is now used instead of ICU for font layout and has been combined with Graphite2 to replace SilGraphite for Graphite layout; support has also been improved for OpenType.

TeX Live 2013 is open source software, licensed under a combination of the LaTeX Project Public License (LPPL) and a number of other licences. The software works on all of the major operating systems, although the program no longer runs on AIX systems using PowerPCs. Mac OS X users may want to take a look at MacTeX, which is based on – and has been updated in line with – TeX Live.

No major changes but we should be grateful for the effort that resulted in this release.

Embedding Pubmed, Graphviz and a remote image in #LaTeX

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Embedding Pubmed, Graphviz and a remote image in #LaTeX by Pierre Lindenbaum.

Pierre demonstrates how to use:


to load a remote picture, a graphviz result and retrieving a PubMed record for embedding in a LaTeX document.

From the LaTeX Macro page Pierre cites:

The num argument in square brackets is optional and specifies the number of arguments the new command takes (up to 9 are possible). If missing it defaults to 0, i.e. no argument allowed.

I caught myself wondering about that argument.

The graphviz command looks particularly interesting for topic map illustrations.


Friday, December 14th, 2012

mathURL live equation editing · permanent short links · LaTeX+AMS input


Includes layout, letters and symbols, operators and relations, punctuation and accents, functions, formatting and common forms as selectable items that generate LaTeX code in the editing window.

Interesting to think about use of such a link as a subject identifier.

I first saw this in a tweet from Tex tips.

Integrate data and reporting on the Web with knitr

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Integrate data and reporting on the Web with knitr by Yihui Xie.

From the post:

Hi, this is Yihui Xie, and I’m guest posting on the Revolutions blog to talk about one aspect of the knitr package: how we can integrate data analysis and reporting in R with the Web. This post includes both the work that has been done and the ongoing work. For those who have no idea of knitr, it is an R package to generate reports dynamically from the mixture of computer code and narratives. It is available on CRAN and Github.

Good set of resources on knitr, an R package for dynamic report generation.

You may find yourself using R for exploration as well as delivery of content.

Exploration of data involves delivery of content too. Just a different audience.

TeX Live 2012 released

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

TeX Live 2012 released

From the post:

Today, TeX Live 2012 has been released. TeX Live is a comprehensive TeX and LaTeX system for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and other Unix systems. A special version called MacTeX 2012 is available for Mac OS X.

Changes compared to TeX Live 2011:

  • tlmgr supports updates from multiple network repositories.
  • The parameter \XeTeXdashbreakstate is set to 1 by default. This allows line breaks after em-dashes and en-dashes, which has always been the behavior of other engines and formats such as plain TeX, LaTeX, and LuaTeX. Explicitly set \XeTeXdashbreakstate to 0 for perfect line-break compatibility for existing XeTeX documents.
  • The output files generated by pdftex and dvips, among others, can now exceed 2gb.
  • The 35 standard PostScript fonts are included in the output of dvips by default.
  • In the restricted \write18 execution mode, set by default, mpost is now an allowed program.
  • A texmf.cnf file is also found in ../texmf-local, e.g., /usr/local/texlive/texmf-local/web2c/texmf.cnf, if it exists.
  • The updmap script reads a per-tree updmap.cfg instead of one global config.
  • Platforms: armel-linux and mipsel-linux added; sparc-linux and i386-netbsd are no longer in the main distribution, but are available for installation as custom binaries, along with a variety of other platforms.

Which reminded me, I need to renew my TeX Users Group membership.

Thought you might need a reminder as well.

I saw this mentioned by Kirk Lowery on Facebook of all places.

Graph Theory in LaTeX 2

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Graph Theory in LaTeX 2: Combinatorial graphs drawn using LaTeX

Great examples of the use of the LaTeX graph packages you will find at: Altermundus.

You need to see the examples to appreciate how they would look in a paper or professional publication.