LaTeX tips: Document classes and packages

The article/book and amsart/amsbook document classes

Unless a publisher specifically asks to use in-house style files, it is recommended that for a paper or book you use one of the standard document classes that are part any current TeX installation: article or amsart for papers, and book or amsbook for book-length manuscripts. The main difference between the article/book classes and the amsart/amsbook classes (which are part of the amslatex package) is in the "look" of the document. The non-ams classes set the title matter and section headings in a larger font, which some people find more attractive.

Differences between the article/book classes and the amsart/amsbook classes

To a large degree, the two pairs of classes are interchangeable, so it is easy to switch from one class to another after a paper is finished. The body of the paper does not have to be changed, but some editing in the title matter is usually needed to account for differences in the handling of title items by these classes:

Useful document class options

Options to document classes are placed brackets between the \documentclass command and the name of the document class; multiple options should be placed in a single pair of brackets, separated by commas; for example, \documentclass[leqno,draft]{article}. Here are some useful options that work with all of the mentioned paper and book classes:

The slides document class

The slides document class is one of two standard ways to typeset material in a form that is appropriate for putting on transparencies (the other being foiltex). It causes the document to be substantially magnified (while keeping the overall dimensions of the page), so that it is suitable for copying onto transparencies. In most respects, the slides class works like the article class, but there is one major difference to be aware of: The \pagestyle commands do not work in the slides class; if you want to use customized headers or footers, use the fancyhdr package (see below).

LaTeX packages

LaTeX "packages" serve the same function as libraries for programming languages: a package contains a set of commands that are not built into the core of LaTeX, but useful for special purposes. There exist hundreds of packages; many (including all of those listed below) are part of any standard TeX installation, while others can be downloaded from the CTAN (Comprehensive TeX Archive Network) depository at An excellent overview of common packages is contained in the teTeX documentation. (This link works only for local users.)

To load a package, add a \usepackage{...} instruction after \documentclass, with the name of the package in braces. Multiple packages can be included in a single \usepackage{...} statement, separated by commas; for example: \usepackage{amsmath, amsthm}.

Here are some packages that are commonly used in mathematical writing.

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Last modified: Sat 19 Apr 2003 05:25:48 PM CDT A.J. Hildebrand