LaTeX/Boxes

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LaTeX builds up its pages by pushing around boxes. At first, each letter is a little box, which is then glued to other letters to form words. These are again glued to other words, but with special glue, which is elastic so that a series of words can be squeezed or stretched as to exactly fill a line on the page.

Admittedly, this is a very simplistic description of what really happens, but the point is that TeX operates with glue and boxes. Letters are not the only things that can be boxes. One can put virtually everything into a box, including other boxes. Each box will then be handled by LaTeX as if it were a single letter.

The past chapters have already dealt with some boxes, although they weren't described as such. The tabular environment and the \includegraphics, for example, both produce a box. This means that one can easily arrange two tables or images side by side. You just have to make sure that their combined width is not larger than the \textwidth. A general overview about different box commands can be found here: http://www.personal.ceu.hu/tex/spacebox.htm .

TeX character boxes

TeX characters are stored in boxes like every printed element. Boxes have three dimensional properties:

• The height is the length between the baseline and the top of the box.
• The depth is the length between the baseline and the bottom of the box.
• The width is the width of the box.

makebox and mbox

While \parbox packs up a whole paragraph doing line breaking and everything, there is also a class of boxing commands that operates only on horizontally aligned material. We already know one of them; it’s called \mbox. It simply packs up a series of boxes into another one, and can be used to prevent LaTeX from breaking two words. (See Hyphenation.) As you can put boxes inside boxes, these horizontal box packers give you ultimate flexibility.

 \mbox{text} \makebox[width][pos]{text} 

width defines the width of the resulting box as seen from the outside. This means it can be smaller than the material inside the box. You can even set the width to 0pt so that the text inside the box will be typeset without influencing the surrounding boxes. Besides the length expressions, you can also use \width, \height, \depth and \totalheight in the width parameter. They are set from values obtained by measuring the typeset text.

The pos parameter takes a one letter value: center, flushleft, flushright, or spread the text to fill the box.

 \makebox[0pt]{Some text} over this text \makebox[15ex][s]{Censored text}\hspace{-15ex}\makebox[15ex][s]{X X X X X} Text \makebox[2\width][r]{running away} 

framebox

The command \framebox works exactly the same as \makebox, but it draws a box around the text.

 \fbox{text} \framebox[width][pos]{text} 

The following example shows you some things you could do with the \makebox and \framebox commands:

 \makebox[\textwidth]{c e n t r a l} \par \makebox[\textwidth][s]{s p r e a d} \par \framebox[1.1\width]{Guess I’m framed now!} \par \framebox[0.8\width][r]{Bummer, I am too wide} \par \framebox[1cm][l]{never mind, so am I} Can you read this? 

You can tweak the following frame lengths.

• \fboxsep: the distance between the frame and the content.
• \fboxrule: the thickness of the rule.

This prints a thick and more distant frame:

 \setlength{\fboxsep}{10pt} \setlength{\fboxrule}{5pt} \fbox{A frame.} 

This shows the box frame of a letter.

 \setlength{\fboxsep}{0pt} \fbox{A} 

framed

An alternative to these approaches is the usage of the framed environment (you will need to include the framed package to use it). This provides an easy way to box a paragraph within a document:

 \usepackage{framed} % ... \begin{framed} This is an easy way to box text within a document! \end{framed} 

You can do it manually with a parbox.

raisebox

Now that we control the horizontal, the obvious next step is to go for the vertical. No problem for LaTeX. The

 \raisebox{lift}[height][depth]{text} 

command lets you define the vertical properties of a box. You can use \width, \height, \depth and \totalheight in the first three parameters, in order to act upon the size of the box inside the text argument. The two optional parameters set for the height and depth of the raisebox. For instance you can observe the difference when embedded in a framebox.

 \raisebox{0pt}[0pt][0pt]{\Large% \textbf{Aaaa\raisebox{-0.3ex}{a}% \raisebox{-0.7ex}{aa}% \raisebox{-1.2ex}{r}% \raisebox{-2.2ex}{g}% \raisebox{-4.5ex}{h} } } he shouted but not even the next one in line noticed that something terrible had happened to him. 

minipage and parbox

Most standard LaTeX boxes are not long commands, i.e. they do not support breaks nor paragraphs. However you can pack a paragraph of your choice into a box with either the \parbox[pos][height][contentpos]{width}{text} command or the \begin{minipage}[pos][height][contentpos]{width} text \end{minipage} environment.

The pos parameter can take one of the letters center, top or bottom to control the vertical alignment of the box, relative to the baseline of the surrounding text. The height parameter is the height of the parbox or minipage. The contentpos parameter is the position of the content and can be one of center, top, bottom or spread. width takes a length argument specifying the width of the box. The main difference between a minipage and a \parbox is that you cannot use all commands and environments inside a parbox, while almost anything is possible in a minipage.

 \noindent \fbox{\parbox[b][4em][t]{0.33\textwidth}{Some \\ text} } \fbox{\parbox[c][4em][s]{0.33\textwidth}{Some \vfill text} } \fbox{\parbox[t][4em][c]{0.33\textwidth}{Some \\ text} } 

This should print 3 boxes on the same line. Do not put another linebreak between the \fbox, otherwise you will put the following \fbox in another paragraph on another line.

Paragraphs in all boxes

You can make use of the long capabilities of minipage and parbox to embed paragraphs in non-long boxes. For instance:

 \fbox{ \parbox{\textwidth}{ Some very long text... } } 

You can also use

 \pbox{\textwidth}{my text} 

from the pbox package which will create a box of minimal size around the text. Note that the \pbox command takes an optional argument that specifies the vertical position of the text:

 \pbox[b]{\textwidth}{my text} 

The valid values are b (bottom), t (top), and c (center). If you specify a length in the first (required) argument, the text will be wrapped:

 \pbox[b]{5cm}{This is long text that will be wrapped once it reaches five centimeters.} 

savebox

A \savebox is a reference to a box filled with contents. You can use it as a way to print or manipulate something repeatedly.

 \newsavebox{\boxname} \savebox{\boxname}{some content} \usebox{\boxname} 

The command \newsavebox creates a placeholder for storing a text; the command \savebox stores the specified text in this placeholder, and does not display anything in the document; and \usebox recalls the content of the placeholder into the document.

See Rotations.

colorbox and fcolorbox

See Colors. \fcolorbox can also be tweaked with \fboxsep and \fboxrule.

resizebox and scalebox

The graphicx package features additional boxes.

 \resizebox{10ex}{2\baselineskip}{Dunhill style} \scalebox{10}{Giant} 

fancybox

the fancybox package provides additional boxes.

• \doublebox
• \ovalbox
• \shadowbox