The Living Thing / Notebooks :


...and ΤΕΧ, and ConTeXt and XeTeX and TeXleMeElmo, and other ways of peacocking legacy media

Beautiful typesetting with LaTeX

See also citation management, text editors, diagrams.


The least worst mathematical typesetting system. A crunchy chunk in the academic writing workflow. De facto standard for mathematicians, especially those who are not so impertinent as to insist in writing in non-English languages, or are so shallow as to not not take simple delight in the painstaking and noble handicraft of manually setting line breaks, or have grad students who will deal with the corner cases for free. That is, a tool that meets the needs of the Tenured Academic admirably, and that the rest of us live with.

Other alternatives include

  1. using MS Word, and
  2. stabbing your eyeballs with a pencil

… each of which I regard as similarly undesirable, and, to be clear, both marginally less desirable than LaTeX itself, despite my qualms.

Addendum: Yes, I am aware there are differences between ConTeXT and LaTeX and TeX, and that they are all refreshingly different in their choices of pain-points in formatting, interoperation, character set handling, compatibility, and community support. However, standards lock-in being what it is, I believe I can avoid arranging the deckchairs on this sinking boat. I will discretely wait over here, near the HTML lifeboats, for some amped-up scholarly version of Markdown to come save me.


Eddie Smith, From boiling lead and black art: An essay on the history of mathematical typography.

Documentation I frequently need to find

Death-or-macro definition

Death-or-macro that force macro definition redefinition even if there is no definition to be redefined - handy if you are rendering latex from some tricky source such as jupyter or where you don’t have much control over the document, but don’t care because latex is just and obstacle in your path and hasn’t earned your regard.

\renewcommand{\foo}[1]{bar: #1}


Confusing profusion of options.

tl;dr: use algorithmicx inside an algorithm float.

Minimalist TeX

MacTeX wastes your hard disk space if you install the whole gigantic thing. 5Gb for a 1980s typesetting system is cheeky, especially from people who delight in claiming that Microsoft Word is over-engineered, and that they are keeping it real with their svelte little elegant alternative. That’s not “serious typesetting”, any more than driving a Panzer to work is “serious commuting”. It might be hand-made, but that ain’t artisinal type crafting, that’s tin hat survivalist type prepping.

However! You can install what you need via the package manager tlmgr using the minimal version, basictex. Then you install the things you need.

For example, to render jupyter notebooks, you’ll need:

tlmgr install \
    adjustbox \
    collectbox \
    collection-fontsrecommended \
    enumitem \
    logreq \
    ucs \

To handle fancier jupyter notebook via ipypublish, we also need

tlmgr install \
  latexmk \

To handle biblatex:

tlmgr install biblatex

To handle modern referencing:

tlmgr install placeins \
    todonotes \
    chngcntr \
    doi \
    mdframed \
    needspace \

To handle pandoc:

tlmgr install biblatex \
    biber \
    xstring \

To handle Anki flashcard rendering:

tlmgr install bbm-macros \

You keep it up to date in a similar way:

tlmgr update --self
tlmgr update --all


How to include SVG in LaTeX.

See also general diagrams.