After a few questions about tags, meta-tags, what is valid and what should not, I thought it would be useful to keep all of this information in one place. Eventually this will be also useful to populate our FAQ.

It's a CW so everybody is free to edit. Let's keep the general guidelines in the question, and discuss about issues with specific tags on individual answers.

Recommended Tags

The following kinds of tags are recommended:

The following math related tags are recommended:

  • Use for questions about typesetting the content of math formulas.
  • Use for questions about how to include equations in a document (e.g. the equation, gather, align, etc. environments)
  • Use for queries about how to produce specific symbols. But only if the comprehensive list or the detexify online tool can't answer your question.

Questions such as What is the best book to start learning LaTeX?, where many good answers are expected and none will be the right answer, should take the tag, and should normally be marked Community Wiki.

Discouraged tags

  • Meta-tags, i.e. tags about the kind of question or the person asking the question, but not about the content or topic of the question.

    Examples: , , .

    A special exception is made for the tag, which is a meta-tag.

  • The or tags. Questions are, by default, assumed to be about the LaTeX language/system. Unless your question is specifically about another format (e.g. ) or specifically about a TeX compiler (e.g. ), you don't need to specify you're using LaTeX.

  • The tag. If your question is specifically about TeX primitives or the TeX system (as opposed to LaTeX), use instead. If your question is about using low-level TeX commands to define a macro then use the tag.

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    We should be careful not to flood the front page with old questions where we updated the tags. – Caramdir Aug 9 '10 at 11:52
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    @Caramdir: damn, true. Fortunately, this won’t be a problem once the tag synonyms are automatically applied by the system. – Konrad Rudolph Aug 9 '10 at 12:02
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    @Caramdir, I was also thinking about this. Is there any better way to retag questions, maybe as moderators? Or should we request a feature that retagging doesn't promote questions to the frontpage? – Juan A. Navarro Aug 9 '10 at 12:03
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    Edited to contain exception for [big-list] meta-tag, per meta.tex.stackexchange.com/questions/336/… – Charles Stewart Aug 12 '10 at 13:49
  • Just a note that we should all keep an eye on the synonyms page so that sensible ones get voted for! – Joseph Wright Mod Aug 15 '10 at 8:44
  • What if there's a name clash between different categories of tags? graphics first comes to mind, as it could be either about the package, or about graphics as a topic. I suppose this would pop up with other generically-named packages. How these would be distinguished then? – Martin Tapankov Aug 18 '10 at 20:29
  • @mindcorrosive: For this particular case I think the single tag graphics can be used for both meanings. As questions about one meaning will helpfully be also relevant to the other. – Juan A. Navarro Aug 19 '10 at 8:37
  • @Martin: If necessary, tags like [graphics-package] could be used. – SamB Nov 29 '10 at 21:30

12 Answers 12


What should we do about the [latex] tag?

There was an earlier discussion, but I really think there was no consensus. Moreover, now that the site has been running for a few days we can see how these tags have been used so far.

As of now, the [latex] tag is completely useless. The large majority of questions in the site are about LaTeX anyway, but only a few of them are tagged so. Even worst some questions are only tagged [latex] which is, in my view, completely useless. So I would also suggest in this case to discourage using the [latex] tag, since it is the "default" topic, unless another ([plain-tex], [luatex], [context], etc.) is specified.


  • Since you mentioned [luatex]: Is there a tag for the "default" (i.e., non-pdf) TeX compiler? – Caramdir Aug 9 '10 at 8:28
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    I think you’re right about the [latex] tag, even though it could be useful in questions such as “TeX versus LaTeX”. But I think restricting it to that usage will be a fight against windmills. As for [plain-tex], see my own answer. – Konrad Rudolph Aug 9 '10 at 8:29
  • @Caramdir, I think it should be plain-tex, but I'm still not sure. See Konrad's answer. – Juan A. Navarro Aug 9 '10 at 9:21
  • I've edited my question to contain only the discussion about [latex], and left Konrand's answer for [tex]. Another question here, would there be a way to completely ban this tag and prevent users from using it in the future? – Juan A. Navarro Aug 9 '10 at 11:39
  • Hmm.. I just found that at some point I suggested to add [latex2e] as a synonym of [latex]. I now think both should be discouraged, for precisely the same reasons. – Juan A. Navarro Aug 9 '10 at 12:34
  • @Caramdir: Is there a tag for the "default" (i.e., non-pdf) TeX compiler? - I think [web2c] would work for it (Web2C might be used to mean: a technology for converting Knuth's Web programs to compilable C, the results of applying it to Tex, or the whole of the kpathsea-centric system of programs around it). But it's maybe too cryptic for beginners. – Charles Stewart Aug 11 '10 at 11:50
  • So I still don't get this, but I thought "tex-core" was meant as a tag for the TeX language (with or without "plain"), as well as the "default" tex compiler. In any case, I think that there will be very few questions about "any" of these "sub" cases of what "TeX" (or "tex") means. And for the few people that can tell the difference, a single tag for all of those uses should be more than enough. – Juan A. Navarro Aug 11 '10 at 12:47
  • @Charles @Juan: When I typed that question about the default compiler, I was under the impression that pdflatex and latex invoke two different programs. This is not the case (the both invoke pdfTeX/eTeX), so the question is obsolete. – Caramdir Aug 11 '10 at 14:27
  • Shouldn't we use latex2e for things directly relating to the current kernel? For example, processing package and class options, internal functions such as \@for, etc.? – Joseph Wright Mod Aug 12 '10 at 17:27
  • What I fear is that it would be very hard to make people consistently use this tag, they will just apply it to everything. How about latex-core? – Juan A. Navarro Aug 12 '10 at 19:54
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    Okay, is there an agreement to systematically sort this one out? There are currently ~70 latex tags, and it might be good to deal with them before there are hundreds! – Joseph Wright Mod Aug 15 '10 at 8:31
  • We have the hope that, when we get moderators, they should be able to deal with this. Is there a tag kill-switch? Should we ask for such a feature? – Juan A. Navarro Aug 15 '10 at 13:11
  • latex-core is a good idea. What should we do with questions like "Why should I use LaTeX?"? Without the latex tag I can't think of a tag that applies. – Caramdir Aug 17 '10 at 14:14

Discourage the use of the [tex] tag, use [tex-core] instead.

My suggestion:

since “Plain TeX” seems to denote something else than TeX, let’s have the following tag alias:

tex => tex-core

This should be easy enough to find. I would very much like to set up the synonym while the tex tag is still only scarcely used. Once it’s used more often, setting up the synonym will be impossible, since the tex tag will appear more often than tex-core (and the Stack Exchange app then prevents setting up the synonym).

I’ve introduced the synonym. Please vote for it so that questions will be retagged automatically!

  • I still haven't figured this out completely, could you please explain the difference between tex-core and plain-tex? – Juan A. Navarro Aug 9 '10 at 9:18
  • Should we have [plain-tex] for the "plain" TeX compiler (i.e. the program invoked with tex or latex) and [tex-core] for the language TeX? (NB: in TeX Live tex and latex actually invoke different programs?) – Caramdir Aug 9 '10 at 9:33
  • I would rather have just one tag for the two meanings (there won't be many questions about this anyway, and people interested in one is also probably interested the other). I'm happy with having tex-core for both. – Juan A. Navarro Aug 9 '10 at 9:59
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    @Juan: According to Andrew’s and Charles’ comments, “Plain TeX” is a macro collection on top of TeX (more precisely, initex). But I’m not necessarily against it. It just seemed on the other thread that [tex-core] had a lot of supporters. Anyway, now that the [tex] tag is eradicated, a moderator (as soon as we get one) can change the actual [tex-*] tag to whatever gets the most votes. – Konrad Rudolph Aug 9 '10 at 10:24
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    Just one question: is this overcomplicating matters? If a newcomer wants to search for an answer to his TeX question, will he know/be able to guess which tags to search? We don't have to define some kind of precise and all-encompassing taxonomy with zero ambiguity. We just need to do what we can to ensure that the tags that are used provide added value. If someone is just starting out with TeX, and wants to ask some simple question, they are going to assume that tex-core is different, probably about the "guts" of the system. – jalf Aug 10 '10 at 22:42
  • @jalf: tag synonyms also work in search (I’ve just tried it, I’m surprised myself)! So if a new user searches for [tex] they get the search results for [tex-core]. As for asking questions, new users cannot create new tags – that means if a user tries to use [tex] in their question, this will either be disallowed or retagged (I’m not sure which and I don’t want to try now). – Konrad Rudolph Aug 11 '10 at 8:37

"Concept" vs "command" tags?

According to your list for packages/commands that are named after concepts, we should have two tags: The command name (usually singular) and the concept name (in plural form). E.g. we have the [matrix] tag (for the environment), but questions about matrices (with various commands) should be tagged [matrices]. What should we do about those tags?

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    This is a good question. I think that, generally, the "concept" should win over the "command", specially if there are many different "commands" that could be related to the "concept". Therefore, I would prefer "matrices" since there are many commands (array, matrix, pmatrix, ..) related to the same concept. – Juan A. Navarro Aug 9 '10 at 9:24
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    @Juan: I see that you have retagged questions accordingly. Perhaps you also want to vote for the synonym proposal to get the retagging automated. – Konrad Rudolph Aug 9 '10 at 11:57
  • done! just voted for your proposal – Juan A. Navarro Aug 9 '10 at 12:24

[compiling], [compile] or [compilation] (and similar tags)

By the suggestion in the original post here, we should have [installing], [compiling], [debugging], etc. There are currently the following suggestion of tags synonyms open:

  • [compiling] -> [compilation]
  • [installation] -> [install]
  • [print] -> [printing]

I don't really mind which form we take, but we should at least try to be consistent.

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    I've created the synonym [print] -> [printing] and thought the same. While adding some synonyms (toc, subscript, superscript, table, symbol) I came to compilation to but chose this as the master just because it's been more used. But it may be downvoted and vanish. I agree completely that the tags should sound similar and should be consistent. This makes it easier for a questioner to choose tags or to create reasonable new one. – Stefan Kottwitz Mod Aug 16 '10 at 13:47
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    I agree, we should have [compiling], [installing], [printing], etc., as suggested in the original post. – Jukka Suomela Aug 16 '10 at 16:49
  • Now that we have moderators: Could someone please rename the tags. – Caramdir Aug 17 '10 at 9:47
  • Done for the mentioned tags. – Stefan Kottwitz Mod Aug 17 '10 at 12:35
  • Thank you! (and some additional characters) – Caramdir Aug 17 '10 at 14:14

What about math related tags?

Another question: What is the tag for math mode. E.g. if someone asks about a symbol for use in an equation, there are currently several possible tags to choose from: [math], [mathmode], [equations] and of course no tag i.e. only [symbol] (which btw should be plural?).

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    My suggestion is keep [mathmode] about the content of math formula (and make [math] a synonym). While [equations] is about how to layout equations on a document (e.g. the equation/align/gather wrapper). Then [symbols] should be about individual glyphs ([glyph] should be a synonym), and this questions should anyway be discouraged, pointing users to, e.g. the comprehensive list or detexify. – Juan A. Navarro Aug 9 '10 at 9:35
  • @Juan: on the other hand, there are currently more [math] questions than [mathmode]. At the very least, this means that we cannot create a synonym straight away. Agree about [symbols]. – Konrad Rudolph Aug 9 '10 at 10:27
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    I know, but I prefer [mathmode] because it's more specific. If people here in meta like this idea, and when we get moderators, we can do the switch. – Juan A. Navarro Aug 9 '10 at 10:45
  • The tags are merged into [mathmode]. – Stefan Kottwitz Mod Aug 17 '10 at 22:38

I'd like to suggest "compilation" as a synonym of "compiling", but this doesn't seem to be possible, as "compilation" is more common than "compiling". Now what?

Another example: "template" as a synonym of "templates".

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    We have to wait to get moderators in order to do those. Also we probably should set synonyms only for the most common miss-taggings. Trying to "synonymize" every possible variation of tags would be too tedious and impractical. Probably as a rule of thumb, don't suggest a synonym that has only be used once or twice (it would be far easier simply to retag those) – Juan A. Navarro Aug 9 '10 at 17:40
  • I thought synonyms would be better than retagging as it won't promote the questions to the front page? – Jukka Suomela Aug 9 '10 at 17:56
  • I understand your thought, but there should be a better solution. Maybe just wait until we have moderators who can hopefully do more powerful tag managing. – Juan A. Navarro Aug 9 '10 at 19:52
  • Both tags are done. – Stefan Kottwitz Mod Aug 17 '10 at 22:36
  • as I understand it, synonyms aren't retroactive, so you still end up having to retag somehow. Why is it such a big deal for stuff to end up on the front page? – SamB Nov 29 '10 at 21:38

Should hyphenation be encouraged or discouraged?

In the suggested tag synonyms there is [math-mode] -> [mathmode] but [tableofcontents] -> [table-of-contents]. This feels rather inconsistent, especially considering that the command is named \tableofcontents.

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    Well, we already have list-of-figures and list-of-tables, so I thought table-of-contents would make more sense. – Jukka Suomela Aug 9 '10 at 19:18
  • I tend to like the names with hyphens. But for some reason mathmode is funny, a google search for "mathmode" (with quotes) is about 26K hits, while "math mode" yields 34K hits but this includes the ones for "mathmode" (without the space), so really there are only 8K uses of "math mode". In the (La)TeX world maybe people really use the term "mathmode"? – Juan A. Navarro Aug 9 '10 at 20:09

AMS tags

I'm not sure about the 'ams -> amsmath' suggestion. The AMS has more packages than just 'amsmath', in particular they have their 'amsref' stuff. I would regard the 'ams' tag as ambiguous, and so not as one that is synonymous with another tag. Rather, whenever 'ams' rears its ugly head, it should be retagged to an appropriate tag.

To expand on that, synonymous tags should really be synonymous. I think that the most obvious examples being singular to plural, or no-hyphens to hyphens. Where a tag is ambiguous or just plain useless, the questions should be retagged and the tag effectively dropped.

  • (Note that the ams tag does not exist anymore.) – Caramdir Aug 9 '10 at 20:52
  • Note some such tags might need to be banned, if they are recreated again and again... – SamB Nov 29 '10 at 21:36

Now that we have moderators, could someone also rename [error] -> [errors] and leave [error] as a synonym?


I think I may have invented the [best-practices] tag for Best practices references. Note than in this particular case, [best-practices] was not a meta-tag, since best practices were precisely the topic of the question.

  • I have to say I don't like neither the question nor the tag, but well, what the heck. – Juan A. Navarro Aug 12 '10 at 19:53

Tagging header-footer versus separate header and footer tags?

I see that several questions are tagged header-footer. To me, these feel like two separate tags, although I can also see that they often go together. Is the general feeling that we should always pick header-footer (i.e. discourage header and footer separately)?

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    I think just having the one tag header-footer should be enough. – Juan A. Navarro Aug 15 '10 at 13:09
  • @Juan: That's probably best, considering that most techniques and packages applicable to the one are also applicable to the other. – SamB Nov 29 '10 at 21:40

Could someone with enough rights please remove the beginners tag from https://tex.stackexchange.com/questions/604/ive-just-been-told-i-have-to-write-a-minimal-example-what-is-that-closed

  • The question was closed, but I've done it anyway. – Juan A. Navarro Aug 25 '10 at 15:17
  • I know, because otherwise I would have removed the tag myself. This was just to remove the tag from the system, so that no one is tempted to use it. – Caramdir Aug 25 '10 at 15:27

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