Hi Morten,

<< Since this discussion is turning to matters of taste, what do you think about the font choices? The default font is obviously dated, if elegant. What do you people use? >>

Take care with calling Computer Modern dated. I personally don't like it, but a lot of people do. I'd use stronger language -- such as calling it rigid, pompous or and ghastly -- but that got me in trouble last time. So I'll refrain. There's no reason to start forest unnecessary forest fires.) It works very nicely for mathematics and it has a cult following.

Beside, fonts never really become "dated". Look at Helvetica, or Gill Sans. They've been around for 60 and 80 years, respectively, and are not going anywhere. Helvetica is everywhere and Gill Sans is (more or less) the default Sans Serif for Mac computers. Not bad for old timers.

As far as my personal preferences go, I'm a big fan of Minion and Myriad Pro fonts. I use Minion for body text and Myriad as a sans serif. I haven't quite found a mono spaced font that I like. Yet. Courier Std works in a pinch. (If anyone has any other ideas, I would love to hear them.) I leave Latin Modern for math. Customizing math fonts in xelatex is a pain that no one should suffer willingly, so I don't bother.

Regarding files, I use the OpenType variants available with xelatex. There is also a MinionPro package that can be used with other tex variants (http://www.ctan.org/tex-archive/fonts/minionpro/MinionPro.pdf). It will even customize the math fonts for you.

Re: Palatino. I absolutely love Palatino and second Liviu's recommendations.

The letter forms of Palatino may be the most refined ever created. But, I've never really been able to find a sans-serif and mono-spaced font that matches well. (At least not per my aesthetic taste.) For that reason, I don't use it often. A good designer friend says that Univers (or if you really need to go there, Helvetica) are appropriate pairings. I think he consumed too many magic mushrooms in his youth. (I actually agree with the Univers pairing. It offers good typographical contrast and the final effect really is quite nice, just not for really long texts.)

Re: Margins and Details

If you're using Minion, be sure to set appropriate margins. Minion is slightly narrower than Palatino and related fonts, and your margins should be adjusted accordingly.

Re: General Advice

However ... I'd worry about fonts and appearance until the end. The choice of font should complement the subject of your thesis, and it is usually impossible to choose before it has been written. Book design follows the writing of the book, not before.

(I'm speaking from experience, rather than trying to be preachy. I've been working on a book about Open Source writing and I've wasted inordinate amounts of time fretting about fonts, margins, and headings. This is why authors should also not be their own book designers.)

With the disclaimer, I would start looking at every book you see. Spend time in the bookstore browsing titles that are similar to your thesis and look at how they lay things out. In the frontmatter, it will usually say who designed the book and what typefaces were used. If you find a pairing that you really like, by all means, steal it. There is no reason to re-invent wheels if you don't have to. Also, note how wide the margins are and whether they use fully justified text, or ragged right. (These things really do matter, a lot. Designer types have done lots of research about these things.)

With all that said, the default package pairings in LaTeX are really quite good. Consider using one of those. The LaTeX companion has an overview and I would highly recommend you take a look.

Just wait until you are finished, though, and know what type of effect you want to achieve. It will save you hours of tinkering. For working drafts, use Latin Modern.

Cheers,

Rob

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