Need to Know

Contents: LaTeX | BibTeX | How to Write Mathematics | Beamer | Poster | Advice | Version Control | Emacs | MATLAB | Computing | Refereeing | News Sources | Societies| Dropbox | Personal Web Site | Travel Support | CV | Eduroam | Misc


  • TeX Live is an excellent and comprehensive TeX system for Linux, Mac and Windows. A new version is produced each year.
  • Top Tips for New LaTeX Users (PDF)—or see Blog post version.
  • Fine-Tuning Spacing in LaTeX Equations
  • How To Typeset an Ellipsis in a Mathematical Expression
  • Detexify: draw a symbol and find the LaTeX equivalent: Web App (there are also smartphone apps).
  • Horrors in LaTeX: An article describing some of the many ways in which authors write bad LaTeX that infuriates copy editors. It is OK to \def\a{\alpha}, though!
  • TeX tips Twitter feed.
  • Some specific suggestions.
    • In your editor use hard line wrapping (which inserts carriage returns at the end of each line) rather than soft line wrapping (in which new lines are displayed on screen but not stored in the file, so are not reproducible in a different editor).
    • Use a line width of at most 80 characters: 72 is a good choice.
    • Start each sentence or phrase on a new line. This makes the source easier to read and also easier to edit, as many edits will simply involve moving a line from one place to another or deleting it (make sure you know how to move or delete a line with a small number of keystrokes in your editor). </li>
    • Use this template (LaTeX source, PDF form) for producing notes in LaTeX. It is important to put your name and the date on everything you write. Use this version of a4.sty, which gives better margins than the default.
    • Although eqnarray is the standard LaTeX environment for producing multi-line displayed equations, it doesn’t produce as good results as some of the amsmath environments such as align and gather, nor is it as versatile. See the article Avoid Eqnarray.
    • If you’d like to use version control on your LaTeX files then the VC bundle is very good; use it in conjunction with a version control system such as Git. See also Version Control below.
    • To include MATLAB listings in your document use the \verbatiminput command from verbatim.sty or the \Verbatiminput command from fancyvrb.sty


Bibliographies for your LaTeX files should be generated with BibTeX. Create your own bib file of all the papers you’ve read and may want to cite. For examples (and you may want to simply include these in your \bibliography command):

For compatibility within the group, please use keys of the form used in njhigham.bib. Thus a 2010 paper by Smith and Jones has key smjo10, a 1974 book by Aho, Hopcroft and Ullman has key ahu74, while a 1990 book by Smith has key smit90.

How to Write Mathematics

Here are five short videos by Nick Higham on mathematical writing, prepared for graduate students in the mathematics department.


  • Turn off never-used navigation symbols at bottom right of slide with \setbeamertemplate{navigation symbols}{}
  • If you include extra slides at the end of your talk, you can stop them affecting the page count as follows: \usepackage{appendixnumberbeamer} then put \appendix just before the extra slides.
  • Use this Beamer example (zip file containing example with nagroup Beamer style) as a template for your own Beamer presentations.
  • Beamer by Example article.
  • Chapter on Beamer in Gratzer’s More Math Into LaTeX book.


There are various poster formats available for LaTeX. Here are two posters prepared by Nick Higham and co-authors in the past, which you can use as starting points: example 1 (note this lacks the UoM logo, which should be added), example 2.

For how to print your poster see this email. A0 on fabric is how we usually print our posters.


Version Control

It is essential to use version control for your codes and documents, except possibly for a one-shot document/code. In the group we use Git, and we make our repositories available on GitHub (e.g., Fran, Nick) or GitLab.


Emacs is an excellent choice of editor for programming, LaTeX, and general text editing. It runs on linux, Mac and Windows. For the Mac, this version is recommended.


  • Don’t use tabs (obtainable using a package). It’s much better to use appropriate buffer switching commands.
  • Use Ido mode for buffer switching and loading files. See the settings in Nick’s .emacs.
  • Use Undo Tree for navigating the Emacs undo history.
  • Use AucTeX, which is indispensable for LaTeXing and BibTeXing in Emacs.

Useful links

Org mode


  • You can download MATLAB (and other software) from the University’s Electronic Software Delivery System.
  • Download the NAG Toolbox for MATLAB from the NAG website. You will need to get a license code from IT support.
  • Let me know if you would like the Advanpix Multiprecision Computing Toolbox. I have a license for this for the group.
  • Format MATLAB functions as follows:
    function [x,y] = testfun(a,b,c)
    %TESTFUN   Test function to illustrate form of a function.
    %    [x,y] = testfun(a,b,c) computes ...
    %    ...

    Note that comment line 3 onwards start in column 5. Always include comments, however short the code.

  • To export PDF figures from MATLAB use, e.g.,
    set(gcf, 'Color', 'w'), export_fig myfig.pdf
    where export_fig is a MATLAB function available from MATLAB Central.
  • See Nick’s What’s New in MATLAB? posts.


Software carpentry project: tutorials, with videos, teaching a wide variety of computing skills.


News Sources

  • NA Digest is the main source of information about conferences, jobs, books, questions, numerical analysis. Subscribe to receive the weekly email.


  • SIAM is the global organization for applied and industrial mathematics. Postgraduate students at the University should sign up for free student membership (as the University is an Academic Member of SIAM) and join the Manchester SIAM Student Chapter (again free).
  • The IMA (Institute of Mathematics and its Applications) has a free e-student membership.
  • ILAS (International Linear Algebra Society) offers free membership for students. As well as organizing conferences, ILAS produces IMAGE magazine several times per year.


Dropbox is a great way to backup files and share them between different machines (desktop and laptop), as well as share selected files with co-workers. Create a dropbox subdirectory of your home directory and keep (e.g.) your .emacs file there.

Personal Web Site

Various possibilities exist for setting up your own website. Chat to other members of the group for advice.

Travel Support

The School provides support for postgraduates to attend conferences, particularly if a presentation is to be given. A “Maths PG Travel” application form available at this page must be completed. Please discuss this with your advisor. If you are funded from one of our grants it may not necessary to complete the form.


Here is an example CV: LaTeX source, pdf. It illustrates the layout and content for an academic CV. The formatting is quite basic. A good example is Yisong Yue’s, created using res_yy.sty. A CV for industry might need to be quite different.


Eduroam (education roaming) is the secure, world-wide roaming access service developed for the international research and education community. Many universities across Europe (less so north America) support it. It allows you to log on to wireless networks using your Manchester username and password. For instructions on how to set it up see the IT services eduroam page. Note: you must be on the Manchester campus in order to set up eduroam, so make sure to set it up before you go travelling.


Numerical Analysis group logo in five versions.