# What are your favorite LaTeX macros?

I have quite a few collaborative writing projects going on in parallel now. One side-benefit of collaborating is that you learn neat LaTeX macros that your co-authors have developed that end up saving lots of time (or making the TeX equations more readable). Some people invent a whole set of macros for each paper (so that the macros stand for semantic concepts like “input variable”), but I do that mainly for small stuff, like different epsilons. What I do have are macros for are

• font types and weights : using \mathrm{}, \mathcal{}, etc. is for the birds
• functions : KL-divergence, mutual information, conditional mutual information etc. I get in trouble sometimes because I use the $I(X \wedge Y)$ instead of $I(X; Y)$ for mutual information, but we can change that in the macro!
• norms, inner products : these are just functions anyway
• epsilons : this helps keep different epsilons clearer, actually, and makes debugging proofs a little simpler.

I somehow never get around to making macros like \cX for \mathcal{X}, but maybe that would make my life easier. The nice thing about macros for functions is you can put in auto-sizing delimiters in the macro, saving some \left and \right‘s. What are your favorite things to make into macros?

## 9 thoughts on “What are your favorite LaTeX macros?”

1. ~a says:

heh. usually it’s just two things:
\noindent
\texttt

2. Lalitha says:

2 words: Scientific Workplace.

For the most part WYSIWYG and inserting math in so easy but I am sure die-hard latex editing types will never like it :).

Lazily yours,
L.

3. Roy says:

To suck all the extra space out of an itemized list:

\def\listOPT{
\topsep=0mm\partopsep=0mm
\itemsep=0mm\parsep=0mm\parskip=0mm
} %% END \def\listOPT

Usage:
\begin{itemize}\listOPT
\item First item
\end{itemize}

Its very useful if your NeTS proposal is due in two days and 15 pages is problematic.

I also use a newcommand for PDFs and CDFs, PMFs etc. Something like

\newcommand{\pdf}[2]{f_{#1}\paren{#2}}
\newcommand{\ipdf}[1]{\pdf{\uppercase{#1}}{\lowercase{#1}}}

I admit I am sometimes disconcerted that $\ipdf{X}$ and $\ipdf{x}$ produce the same output.

Lalitha: I think we’ve already debated the merits of Scientific Workplace. Once again, you have ignored my gentle advice 🙂

4. Pulkit says:

Expectation is my favorite! You get to use \left[ and \right], and the \mathbb{E} is so pretty!

\newcommand{\expect}[1]{\mathbb{E}\left[{#1}\right]}

makes iterated expectations so darn nice as well.

The indicator function is a must-have. And I also have different macros for log_2 and ln (with \left and \right of course, and that makes fractions in logs easy as well):

\newcommand{\lo}[1]{\log_2\left(#1\right)}
\newcommand{\lon}[1]{\ln\left(#1\right)}

• I just shorten it to \expe. Those two extra letters are too much!

• Roy says:

I use \E but I dohave to hold the shift key for that. In some cases of inline math like $\E{\tilde{X}}$, the \left and \right cause the brackets to be too big and the line gets additional unattractive vertical whitespace.

• Baba says:

Ken Thompson was once asked what he would do differently if he were redesigning the UNIX system. His reply: “I’d spell creat with an e.”

* Kernighan, Brian W.; Pike, Rob (1984). The UNIX programming environment. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0139376992. OCLC 10269821. , p. 20

A macro for the commutative diagram of a double vector bundle is essential for me.

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