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Bugs in LaTeX software


LaTeX has been in existence since the mid-eighties. Besides the kernel of LaTeX and some core packages that are all maintained by the LaTeX Project team there are several thousand add-on packages developed and maintained by many different people around the world.

And like every software (especially software that is evolving) LaTeX does have bugs: some obscure ones existing for a long time without being discovered and other freshly appearing because of new or modified code.

The LaTeX Team is very conscious of the fact that stability as well as backwards compatibility are very important assets in the LaTeX ecosystem. For that reason we have kept the kernel and the core packages largely unchanged over the last decade except for fixing bugs. As a result encountering a bug in the core software is a rather rare occurrence and if it happens then usually it is a pretty obscure bug, or it is one occurring in the most recent additions we have added to the LaTeX core.

The situation is somewhat different in the package universe, where far more active development happens and new packages appear regularly. Furthermore, because the development is in the hands of many developers acting independently from each other (and often with different ideas about features, functionality and interfaces) some combination of packages simply do not work together, or only if the packages are loaded in some particular order or with a special set of options. So in that space we do see more bugs or behavior that could be classified as such.

While this is somewhat unfortunate, it is a consequence of fairly active development with an open model where essentially everybody is free to provide add-ons and contribute them to CTAN. But at the same time this model is also one of the reasons why LaTeX is still very popular and why you will find a solution for essentially any typesetting problem in the LaTeX universe. So this is is a bit of a “the glass is half full or half empty” situation.

Policy on layout and interface deficiencies

Upfront we should probably stress that “deficiencies” in the design of of the standard document classes (article, report and book) as well a questionable but long established interface behavior of commands is something that we will normally not change, even if we can all agree that a different behavior or a different layout would have been a better choice. You are, of course, welcome to report issues in these areas, using the procedure explained below, but in all likelihood such reports will get suspended.

The reason is is that the kernel interfaces and the document classes have been used for many years in essentially all documents (even documents using different classes often build them upon the standard classes in the background) and thus such changes would break or as a minimum noticeably change nearly all existing documents. See also the file LaTeX2e News Issue 07 with regard to this policy.

Searching through already reported bugs

The LaTeX Project Team maintains a bugs database for the core LaTeX software (LaTeX kernel + packages maintained by the team). It is possible to search that database to see if a problem has already been reported or perhaps already has a solution or workaround.

How do I report a bug?

If you think you’ve found a new bug in LaTeX software then it is important to report it to the right people so that it can get fixed (this is, of course, also important if you know a workaround that works for you). We realize that it is not easy for most users to figure out to whom to send a bug report to. We have therefore written a small package latexbug.sty that should help in this respect.

Providing a test file showing the issue

To report a bug it is important to provide a short test file that exhibits the issue. The latexbug.sty package should be loaded at the very top of any such test file used to report a bug in LaTeX as follows:

   \RequirePackage{latexbug}    % <- first line
   \documentclass{article}      % or some other class

   ...                          % code showing the problem

If the latexbug.sty package is not part of your distribution you can download it from this site. In that case simply place it in the directory next to your test file (or place it into your local texmf tree so that it will be always found – how to do that depends on the installation you use).

If you run your test file this package will check if there is any code that makes it unlikely that the LaTeX Team can deal with the bug and if it finds such code, e.g., a package maintained by a third party, it will report that fact to you and asks you to remove that package from the test file. If such a package is needed to exhibit the issue, then the problem should be reported to the maintainers of this package. If we know how to reach the maintainer latexbug.sty will tell you how to reach them, otherwise you have to find out by other means (normally the maintenance address is part of the package documentation or the package code).

If you think the bug is in core LaTeX (as maintained by the LaTeX Team) but the files latexbug.sty complains about are needed to demonstrate the problem, then please continue and send the bug report to us but explain this explicitly in your description of bug.

Bug reports sent to us without a \RequirePackage{latexbug} line and/or containing third-party code flagged by the latexbug package are likely to be closed without any comment in our bug tracking system!

A bit of background

There are thousands of packages and the LaTeX Project Team only supports a few dozen core packages beside the kernel code. So if a bug is due to code from a contributed third-party package the LaTeX Project Team is not able to help or fix the code as that is maintained by others. As a result, if such a bug report is sent to us (through this website), everybody will end up being unhappy:

We really appreciate if you take the time to prepare a test file and submit a bug report and we hope that by requiring the use of latexbug helps with getting the bug report to the right audience so that it can be resolved.

Submitting the bug report

If latexbug has indicated that the bug is with core LaTeX and should be looked at by us (i.e., the LaTeX Team) then please submit your test file by going to the bug upload page and upload your test file.

But if your bug involves third-party packages and should be worked on by the maintainers of those package then please send your test files to them and not to us as we will be unable to solve the issue. Thank you for your understanding.

Reporting website bugs

If you think you’ve found a bug on our website you can report it to the website team. If you do submit a report, thanks for taking the time!