Improving Figure And Text Flow In Latex Documents

Positioning Figures in LaTeX

LaTeX offers several commands to embed images and graphs within documents. The basic structure to insert a figure in LaTeX involves wrapping the image inclusion code within the \begin{figure} and \end{figure} tags. Here is an example code snippet:

  \caption{An example image}

The placement of the figure can be controlled by adding positional parameters within the square brackets of the \begin{figure} tag. The various options include:

  • h: Places the figure approximately where it occurs in the text (here)
  • t: Places the figure at the top of the page
  • b: Places the figure at the bottom of the page
  • p: Places the figure on a separate page just for figures

Multiple positional parameters can be combined, for example [htbp] will attempt to place the figure here first, then the top, then bottom, and finally on a separate page. The \centering tag centers the figure on the page horizontally.

The \caption and \label tags provide a descriptive caption and label for referring to the figure in the text. Here is an example code to place a figure in a centered position:

  \caption{A centered figure example} 

Avoiding Widows and Orphans

Widows and orphans refer to lines of a new paragraph that appear isolated from the rest of the paragraph or text block. In LaTeX typesetting, a widow refers to the last line of a paragraph appearing isolated at the top of a page or column. An orphan refers to the first line of a paragraph appearing isolated at the bottom of a page or column.

To prevent widows and orphans, LaTeX provides penalties that can discourage these behaviors when formatting pages. The commands are:

  • \widowpenalty [number]: Sets penalty for widow lines
  • \clubpenalty [number]: Sets penalty for orphan lines

The penalty number typically ranges from 100 to 10000, with higher numbers applying greater penalties. Here is an example of settings that prevent widows and orphans:

\widowpenalty 10000 
\clubpenalty 10000

This strongly discourages widow or orphan lines from being set, improving paragraph flow visually.

Optimizing Page Breaks Around Figures

When including figures in LaTeX documents, attention should be given to page break placement to prevent figures from being fragmented across pages or separated too far from their textual references. LaTeX provides commands that can control where pages breaks occur:

  • \clearpage: Ends the current page and starts a new one
  • \pagebreak: Encourages a page break at the insertion point
  • \nopagebreak: Discourages a page break at the insertion point

A strategy to optimize page breaks around figures involves:

  1. Inserting \clearpage before the paragraph where a key figure is first referenced to move the reference to the next page
  2. Inserting \nopagebreak after the figure to discourage separating it from the referencing text
  3. Allowing page breaks before resource-intensive plots and diagrams through \pagebreak to improve rendering performance

Balancing text explanations with accompanying figures is key. The tools above help enforce keeping related content together.

Maintaining Readability and Flow

As figures and images complement textual explanations, care should be taken to ensure readability and logical flow between concepts. Techniques that can improve integration of text and figures include:

  • Binding figure widths to \linewidth to match text block widths
  • Placing figures immediately after their first reference in text for proximity
  • Using captions effectively to bridge textual descriptions and graphical depictions

Here is an example that demonstrates improved flow through positioning a figure near the paragraph where it is initially referenced:

Dolphins have evolved powerful tails that drive locomotion. 
As seen in the anatomy diagram below in Figure \ref{fig:dolphin-anatomy},
the dolphin tail has horizontal flukes and vertical fins 
positioned to provide forward propulsion.

  \caption{Anatomy of a dolphin tail}

The flukes oscillate up and down to generate lift forces,  
while the fins improve maneuverability and stability.

Strategic figure positioning coupled with sizing and captioning considerations can greatly improve overall document flow and readability.

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