Formatting Latex Documents For Future Maintainability

Establishing Consistent Document Structure

Using standardized document classes like article, book, or report for consistency across documents establishes a consistent baseline structure and formatting that any LaTeX user will immediately recognize. Defining custom commands and environments for common document elements enables reuse across documents while maintaining consistency.

Using standardized document classes for consistency

The LaTeX document class controls the overall appearance and structure of the document. Standard classes like article, book, and report should be used as a starting point. This builds on existing reader familiarity and understanding developed from experience with other LaTeX documents using those classes. Some advantages include:

  • Standard sectioning commands have consistent rendering of headings and numbering
  • Common environments like figure, table, equation are available
  • Reader expectations shaped by previous class usage are met

Defining custom commands and environments for reuse

Custom commands and environments tailor LaTeX to specific document needs while encouraging consistency and reuse. For example, a custom theorem environment can define the rendering style for all theorems. Some advantages include:

  • Common document elements can be formatted consistently
  • Changes only need to be made in one place
  • Code is simplified by using descriptive custom commands

Example document class and custom command definition



\newenvironment{proof}[1][Proof]{\noindent\textbf{#1.} }{\ \rule{0.5em}{0.5em}}  

Formatting Text and Equations Readably

Applying consistent spacing around equations and text establishes common patterns, making it easier to focus on content. Setting appropriate font sizes for textual elements like headings and body text enables optimal reading comprehension. Together, attention can be focused on the ideas communicated rather than deciphering formatting choices.

Applying consistent spacing around equations and text

Using consistent spacing around equations and text chunks information logically rather than forcing abrupt transitions potentially disruptive to reading flow. Some guidelines include:

  • Separate paragraphs with 1 blank line
  • Add 1 blank line before and after displayed equations
  • Use quad or qquad around simple equation terms for grouping

Setting appropriate font sizes for headings and body text

Font size establishes the typographic hierarchy visually. Headers draw attention as points of focus, while body text receives sufficient real estate for comprehension without dominating. Some guidelines include:

  • Article text should be 11-12pt for readability
  • Section headings 14-18pt, subsection 12-14pt depending on depth
  • Use relative sizes so changes scale entire structure

Example equation spacing and text formatting

Consider the equation for a straight line:

    y = mx + b

Where \textit{m} is the slope and \textit{b} is the y-intercept. Note 
that spacing has been added before and after the centered equation.

Creating Intuitive File Organization

Organizing content into logical files by chapter, section, or other structure separates concerns and creates readable order even before rendering. A consistent naming scheme for files enables easy correlation based on name alone. Together, this simplifies maintenance and authoring by allocating concepts cleanly.

Organizing content into logical files by chapter/section

Breaking documents into separate files by chapter, major sections, and concepts allows working with related content in one place. Some guidelines include:

  • Separate chapters into independent files
  • Use files for major sections within chapters
  • Include preamble/configuration in main or separate file

Developing a consistent file naming scheme

A file naming scheme correlates names to content for easy maintenance even outside rendered output. Some guidelines include:

  • Format file names consistently (e.g. chap1.tex)
  • Include chapter/section numbers for ordering
  • Use lowercase with separators for readability

Example file organization breakdown


Building a Template for Team Usage

Defining common preamble content in a separate file from the main document content allows reusing just the preamble to control rendering. Creating a skeleton document enabled use as a template for new documents ensures consistent structure. Together these improve maintainability collaborate and adherence to team standards.

Defining common preamble content in a separate file

The preamble customizes document rendering by setting document class, fonts, styles, packages, and more. Defining in a separate file supports reuse across documents while keeping updates centralized. Some guidelines:

  • Include all font, style, macro definitions in preamble file
  • \input or \include the preamble from main file
  • Store preamble file(s) in common repo for team access

Creating a skeleton document for easy reuse

A skeleton document with file list, sections, structure comments, and placeholders enables use as a starting point for new documents. Some guidelines for skeleton documents:

  • Outline major structural divisions with % section comments
  • Include common macros, custom commands as examples
  • Use as template for new documents to start structured

Example template preamble and document

// preamble.tex

// main.tex  

\title{Template Document}  
\author{Authoring Team}
% insert section 1 content here	


Enabling Easy Future Updates

Commenting parts of the document explaining context aids future authors in understanding choices and updating appropriately. Keeping formatting directives explicit rather than abbreviated reminds authors of available options upon review. Together, verbosely commenting and formatting lower barriers to modifications.

Commenting parts of the document for context

Adding comments explaining the purpose and context around components helps future authors understand the motivation and implement updates safely. Some example contexts to comment on include:

  • Module purpose explanations
  • Author/contact info for questions
  • Change considerations before refactoring

Keeping formatting choices explicit

Fully spelling out formatting options instead of relying on abbreviations documents options directly in the document. Some guidelines include:

  • Use \textit{text} instead of {$\mathit{text}$}
  • Use \textbf{text} rather than {\bf text}
  • Helps authors learn commands reading code

Example formatted sections with abundant comments

%% The theorem example shows custom environment format

  This is a theorem statement.  
%% A sample proof for the earlier theorem statement  	
\begin{proof}[Proof of Theorem \ref{thrm:sample}]
   Here is the proof of the theorem.

Testing Documentation Appearance

Validating rendering across LaTeX engines checks for reliance on specific packages or conventions unsupported elsewhere. Confirming consistent formatting display across different devices like desktop, tablet, and mobile reveals responsive issues needing attention. Together testing reduces unexpected surprises for readers.

Validating rendering across LaTeX engines

Testing compilation across LaTeX distributions like MiKTeX (Windows), TeX Live (Linux), and MacTeX (macOS) ensures portability beyond a single LaTeX version. Some guidelines:

  • Check builds on at least 2 distributions
  • Watch for warnings/errors on missing packages
  • Adjust usage to widely compatible packages

Confirming formatting on different devices

Viewing formatted output across devices with different display sizes reveals formatting issues needing fixes like text reflow or element positioning. Some guidelines:

  • Review desktop, tablet and mobile rendered views
  • Check text width scaling, overflow issues
  • Set image widths proportional if problems

Example test cases to run

  1. Compile document on MiKTeX and TeX Live distributions
  2. Review formatted PDF on 15" laptop display
  3. Check rendered chapters on tablet portrait/landscape
  4. Scroll document sections on a mobile browser

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