The LaTeX Companions

By Frank Mittelbach
The LaTeX Companions

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Review

Rating: 9

Simply put, this book is the bible of LaTeX. It describes (sometimes in quasi-painful detail) how to accomplish every bit of typographical trickery I’ve ever heard of, and a great many other things.

If you wish to have a 3-column index instead of a two-column index, this book tells you how to to do that. If you want to have fancy scrollwork in your titles, or use ornamental lettering, or dictate sophisticated rules for variable spacing, or rename “Bibliography” to “References”; you will find the answers to those questions here.

If you are a casual (or even not so casual) user of a LaTeX, this is a book that should be on your bookshelf. It is the definitive guide to LaTeX.

Book Summary (Amazon.com)

LaTeX is a generic typesetting system that uses TeX as its formatting engine. This companion is a detailed guide through the visible and not-so-visible beauties of LaTeX. As such, it is a comprehensive treatise of those points not fully discussed in Leslie Lamport’s LaTeX: A Document Preparation System (henceforth referred to as the LaTeX book) 49. Extensions to basic LaTeX, as described in that book, are discussed, so that the LaTeX book, together with this companion, provide a ready reference to the full functionality of the LaTeX system.

Due to its flexibility, ease of use, and professional typographic quality, LaTeX is presently used in almost all areas of science and the humanities. Unlike many word processors, LaTeX (and its underlying formatting engine TeX) comes free of charge and is not linked to any particular computer architecture or operating system. Since LaTeX source files are plain text files, it is possible to ship them, and the packages referenced, from any computer to any other computer in the world (over electronic networks or via normal mail). The recipient will be able to obtain a final output copy identical to the one generated at the sender’s site, independently of the hardware used. Thus members of groups, geographically spread over several sites in different countries, or even on different continents, can now work together in composing complex documents where different parts can be dealt with by different individuals, and then brought together without problems. Moreover, the use of electronic manuscripts has the potential to speed up the publication of papers by publishers.

LaTeX is not difficult to learn and a beginner can benefit from the system after reading through the first few chapters of LamportLeslie Lamport’s LaTeX book, the basic reference on LaTeX. After some experience, you will probably have to solve some more advanced problems whose solution cannot be found directly in that book. If you are one of those users who would like to know how LaTeX can be extended to create the nicest documents possible without becoming a (La)TeX guru , then this book is for you.

You will be guided, step by step, through the various important areas of LaTeX and be shown the links that exist between them. The structure of a LaTeX document, the basic formatting tools, and the layout of the page are all dealt with in great detail. A sufficient library of packages in the area of floats, graphics, tables, PostScript, and multi-language support are presented in a convenient way. This book is the first volume to include all of the important LaTeX tools, such as: up-to-date descriptions of version 2 of the New Font Selection Scheme (NFSS2), the AMSLaTeX mathematics extensions, the epic and eepic extensions to LaTeX’s picture environment, and the MakeIndex and BibTeX programs for producing and controlling the generation of indices and bibliographic references. Finally, an overview of ways to define new commands and environments, lengths, boxes, general lists, etc., as well as ways of facilitating the handling of these objects, complete the picture.

All three of us have been involved for several years in the support and development of LaTeX applications in various professional environments and countries. We have taught the secrets of LaTeX to many different audiences, and have been listening to the user community by following the discussions in the text processing related news groups and at TeX conferences. This has allowed us to gather a coherent view of a vast collection of subjects, which, we think, you might need one day if you want to fully exploit the richness and strengths of the LaTeX system. Note, however, that this book is not a replacement for, but a companion to, the LaTeX book. You are assumed to have read the first part of that book, and in any case, it should be considered a reference for precise and full description of the LaTeX commands.

To make the presented information even more complete and useful, our readers are kindly invited to send their comments, suggestions, or remarks to any one of the authors. We shall be glad to correct any remaining mistakes or oversights in a future edition, and are open to suggestions for improvements or the inclusion of important developments that we may have overlooked.