Working With Two Column Layouts in LaTeX

One of the important parameters that can be setup in a LaTeX document is the number of columns. Traditionally, documents can be typeset in one main column (like in most books), or in two columns, like in magazines. In general, however, technical documents can be typeset in as many columns as the space available on the page. An example of such complex layouts are newspapers, which can have as many as five columns of text and images.

Unlike traditional editors, LaTeX provides great flexibility in determining how the page will look like. What is even more important, it provides that while maintaining content independence. For example, as we will see bellow, only one keyword is necessary to convert between a single column document and a two page document.

Creating two column documents

The instructions outlined bellow work in the most common case for LaTeX documents, which is using the default "article" class. Similar ideas work for other document classes, but the exact usage may differ slightly.

When using the document class article, the solution is to add the "twocolumn" option. As with other LaTeX commands, the \documentclass command accepts optional parameters. For example, the 11pt parameter is optional and can be used to change the default font size to 11 points.

In the case of a two column format, this would look like this:


which will tell LaTeX that we are requesting the two column format in the article class. After that command is used, the TeX engine will be informed and the default formatting will be changed to accommodate two columns of text in each document page.

The twocolumn option is standard in LaTeX, and no plugin of style file is necessary for it to be activated. The option works in many of the default document classes distributed with LaTeX, such as "article", "report", and "book". Many of the non-standard document classes also honor the two column format, although it is up to the class developers to decide if it makes sense for that particular use. For example, a few journals may not support the "twocolumn" parameter in their style files simple because the journal will not publish articles in that particular page arrangement.

Tags: latex, columns
Article created on 2012-09-05 14:55:34

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