The last few weeks I have been using LaTex a lot, to write the final report for my master's course. During that period I found a couple of LaTeX goodies that might be interesting to share: the memoir class, gnuplot integration, and some stuff to help preparing cover pages.

The memoir class is a kind of all-in-one package. It is meant to be used in place of the book and report classes, but it can also replace simpler environments, such as article. It provides many ready-to-use templates, and loads of commands to easily customize them. It seems to be specially tailored for dead-tree publication, dedicating an entire chapter in the manual to page layout.

It also aims at removing the usual cruft you have to add into any medium sized project, it is macro-compatible with: abstract, appendix, array, booktabs, ccaption, chngcntr, chngpage, dcolumn, delarray, enumerate, epigraph, framed, ifmtarg, ifpdf, index, makeidx, moreverb, needspace, newfile, nextpage, parskip, patchcmd, setspace, shortvrb, showidx, tabularx, titleref , titling, tocbibind, tocloft, verbatim, and verse. Furthermore, it provides functionality equivalent to the following packages: crop, fancyhdr, geometry, sidecap, subfigure, titlesec. In the end, you have a project that only needs a couple of packages, and a few customisation commands, which is nice and also eases distribution.

Other nice thing I have found is that there is not one, but many ways of merging gnuplot graphs into your text while having LaTeX typeset all the labels. There is some LaTeX packages aimed at this, but I have more success using a special gnuplot terminal. Again, there is more than one option: eepic, epslatex, latex, lua, mp, pslatex, pstex, pstricks, texdraw, and tpic. While I could not try them all, I tried a few and the easiest and prettiest was epslatex. This terminal creates two files: a EPS file, as would have been created with the usual postscript terminal, except that it does not contain any text; and a LaTeX snippet meant to be included with \input{foo}. Finally, I could generate graphs that match the rest of the document!

To end this post, a couple of things about creating the dreaded cover page. First, a suggestion: don't fret too much about finding a ready-made template, once you understood the basics of how to insert arbitrary spaces around text, it is quite easy to roll your own cover! Having said that, the memoir manual has some sample cover pages that can be useful to use as a base, and there is another really useful resource I have found: titlepages.pdf, a collection of 40 sample title pages with source code for you to choose.