Useful LaTeX Packages

(With additional suggestions by Melanie Nentwich)

Recently, I had to file a report about the state of my PhD thesis. Since it was an official document, it was supposed to be “good looking”. For this kind of documents, prefer LateX above anything else because it allows me to fully concentrate on writing while it makes life with references and formatting so much easier.

In the following, I have compiled a list of LaTeX packages, which I found very, very useful when writing scientific documents. I would like to share this list with the community so that others may find something new or inspirational for their documents. It is also worth noting that most of these packages can do much more than the short description I provided suggests. If you think, that an important package is missing, put it into the comment section and I happily incorporate it into the list!
Have fun experimenting with these!

  • natbib: Kind of a standard package when needing a reference list. However, if you would like to use the Acta Crystallographica reference style file without using the Acta Crystallographica layout, you need to add the following line to your LaTeX header to make it function properly:
    \newcommand{\volbf}[1]{\textbf{#1}}

    This makes the volume number appear bold.

  • fancyhdr: My personal favourite. This allows you to create these little pretty texts on top of each page which states the chapter name on the left-hand page and the sub-chapter name on the right-hand side of the page.
  • comment: This is for all those who would like to (out-)comment serval lines at once.
  • amsmath: Got an equation that is longer than a line? Then this is for you! The equation gets reasonable split up into one or more lines.
  • SIunitx (found by Melanie Nentwich): A quite useful package when dealing with a lot of different units and numbers. Also, it changes the space between numbers and units to a shorter distance than the usual distance between two words (these are the little details which make LaTeX so nice!). It also introduce a new column type where numbers can be justified by the decimal point!
  • chemmacros (found by Melanie Nentwich): My eyes popped when I saw this package! I do not know where to start describing this package. You can do all kinds of chemical equations, including numbering and listing, with it. You can draw chemical formulas in LaTeX itself and it also allows to draw this nice little orbital clouds. Look for yourself!
  • section: This one can create barrier for floats (images, tables and so on), meaning that these floats MUST be placed before the barrier is called. Useful, if you have images which you would like to display earlier than LaTeX does.
  • lineno: Gives each line a number, very useful for correcting and editing together with other people.
  • draftwatermark: Creates a watermark behind the text on each page.
  • acro: Allows you to create acronyms, together with explanations, which can also be compiled to a reference and occurrence list.
  • longtable: If you ever have a table which is longer than one page, then this one is your best friend!
  • booktabs (found by Melanie Nentwich): Speeds up and simplifies the formatting of the “typical” tables found in publications.
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