In my previous blog post, I talked about how LaTeX is a fantastic tool and I concluded with some generators that could be interesting. I had to write some documents with LaTeX and I wanted to improve my work flow. I will share with you some tips & tricks I discovered.

Title page

Create a title page with LaTeX could scare you but I realized that with the awesome LaTeX documentation, it was really easy to customize the title page. Just check this wiki page and it should explain everything to you.

White spaces!

An ugly and compact document with a lot of text
An ugly and compact document with a lot of text

I don’t like reading documents with a lot of text and no spaces. By default, paragraphs in LaTeX don’t have margins, so I’ve got into the habit of adding \\ after every paragraph to add a new line. I didn’t know but this practice was the reason of all my LaTeX warning, complaining about Underfull \hbox (badness 10000) in paragraph at lines 11–51. I knew it wasn’t the best solution but I didn’t take the time to look deeper.

After just a few searches, I found the solution. And it’s really straight forward, just add in your main file:

The main drawback of this solution is that the table of content is using paragraph to print the titles. I ended up with big skip after every line in my table of content. For my use case it was really cool and the result is in fact nicer (because I don’t have a lot of chapters and I think it’s clearer) but for the majority, it’s gonna be awful. I’m sorry I don’t have a solution right now but as soon as I need to write another document, I will check a solution for this problem.

A document with a lot of text but more white spaces. Better!
A document with a lot of text but more white spaces. Better!

Automatic compilation work flow

This was my previous work flow. Not optimized at all, so I looked for some file watcher tool and I found the most basic one: inotify-tools. With Arch Linux it’s just:

And then I wrote a simple bash script I named watch.sh watching recursively for changes in my current folder and running the make command each time a file was saved.

And here is my new work flow:

Much better!

GitLab CI

I’m a big fan of GitLab, did you know that you can have as many private repositories as you want in GitLab.com?

GitLab is an open-source alternative to Github, the interface and the features are awesome! GitLab comes with a Continuous Integration tool called GitLab CI. As with Travis, you can write a .gitlab-ci.yml and run the tests of your project after each git push. What’s the point for LaTeX documents? I don’t have tests. But I have an artifact. An artifact is a compiled file you want to access after your build (a binary to run your software, a documentation to deploy or a PDF document for example). Here is my .gitlab-ci.yml file:

After your first build, you should see a new button in the GitLab UI.

Access your artifacts right from GitLab
Access your artifacts right from GitLab

And browse all the files.

Your PDF file should be listed here
Your PDF file should be listed here

Of course, to use GitLab CI you need to deploy a GitLab CI runner with LaTeX installed. But it’s really with Ansible :-)

A few more tips

Use \graphicspath{{images/}} to set the root folder of all your graphics.

If you use a french keyboard like me and manually write all you non-breakable spaces, insert this \DeclareUnicodeCharacter{00A0}{~}

If you want a font size bigger than 12pt, \usepackage{extsizes} and define your document as a \documentclass[14pt,a4paper]{extreport}.

And if you want two words to always be one (no hyphenation breaks), define \hyphenation{Quantic Telecom}.