Why The Latex Minimal Class Should Be Avoided For Real Documents

The LaTeX minimal document class, while useful for demonstrating basic LaTeX syntax and structure, lacks many essential features required for real-world documents. This article explores the limitations of the minimal class and recommends more robust LaTeX classes for papers, reports, books, and other professional documents.

Inadequate Features for Real Documents

The minimal document class in LaTeX only includes bare-bones functionality for sectioning, formatting text, and creating basic tables and figures. For any real paper, report, or book, authors need deeper layout and formatting options that the minimal class lacks.

Lack of Essential Packages for Formatting, References, etc.

The minimal class does not load key LaTeX packages including:

  • geometry - For page margins and text block layouts
  • graphicx - For including images and graphics
  • booktabs - For professional quality tables
  • hyperref - For cross-references and links
  • cite and biblatex - For citations and bibliographies

Without these packages, authors spend significant time building custom solutions for things like cross-references, figures, and bibliographies that robust classes handle automatically.

Difficulty Customizing Layouts and Designs

The minimal class provides no easy hooks to customize page headers, footers, paragraphs, fonts, and other design elements. Creating specialized layouts for journals or branding documents with new style guidelines is tedious and complex without using a class tailored for the job.

Limited Options for Sectioning and Document Structure

Sections in the minimal LaTeX class only go three levels deep - section, subsection and subsubsection. Real documents often require deeper nesting with customized numbering and formatting. The class also lacks common elements like part and chapter divisions, appendices, an index, or a bibliography.

Improper Handling of Cross-References

Cross-referencing sections, equations, tables and figures using LaTeX's \ref and \label commands generates unreliable links when using the minimal class instead of more robust alternatives.

No hyperref Package for Links Between Sections

The hyperref package builds internal hyperlinks for section references, footnotes, citations, and other elements marked with \label. Without loading hyperref, references do not link articles together into an integrated whole. Authors lose clarity and readers understanding.

Manual Work Needed for Tables of Contents and Figures

Custom tables of contents, lists of figures/tables, and similar guides require manual edits and tweaks when using the minimal class instead of LaTeX's automated processes for generating them.

Challenges with Bibliographies and Citations

Academic and professional documents require robust handling of bibliographies, citations, and references. The minimal LaTeX class ignores this key requirement.

No Built-in Citation or Bibliography Support

The minimal document class provides no tools for adding bibliographies or formatting citations. Authors must build these elements from scratch instead of leveraging standardized solutions. This causes inconsistent styling and time wasted reinventing the wheel.

Tedious Setup of BibTeX Databases

BibTeX offers data-driven management of bibliography entries separate from the LaTeX document. But the minimal class does not import or interface with BibTeX in any way. Getting BibTeX working requires non-trivial setup when starting from the minimal class.

Recommendations for Better Classes

Rather than the limited minimal class, authors should leverage one of LaTeX's many robust document classes tuned for real papers, reports, books, and other professional publications.

Article: More Features than Minimal, Ideal for Journal Papers

The LaTeX article class imports essential packages like graphics and hyperref by default. It also enables deeper sectioning, table of contents generation, and figure/table lists for serious papers and submissions.

Report: Provides Chapters, Better for Longer Documents

For theses, dissertations, and technical publications, the report class structures documents into chapters with customized numbering and formatting options lacking in the minimal class.

Book: Includes Chapters, Indexing, Glossaries - Perfect for Book Projects

Full-length books require LaTeX's book class, the most advanced and configurable document structure. Books can incorporate parts, chapters, indexes, glossaries, and front/back matter sections with independent page numbering and layouts.

Example Document Class Code

The code samples below demonstrate initializing key LaTeX document classes recommended over the minimal option:

Article Document Class Example


Report Document Class Example


Book Document Class Example


Conclusion: Use Feature-Rich Classes for Real LaTeX Documents

Avoid frustrations and limitations by eschewing the LaTeX minimal class for anything beyond trivial examples. Leverage robust alternatives like the article, report, and book classes instead. These provide critical packages, structure, customization, cross-referencing, citations and other functionality vital for professional papers, books, and publications.

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