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Ask Nelly:
      How do I create footnotes to tables without developing an ulcer in the process?
      What is a good way to create subfigures within one float?
      How do I typeset a critical edition?

The Editors


Ask Nelly is a question and answer column. Nelly is the quiet person who sits at the back corner desk, who knows a lot, and when asked any question is always ready with a patient answer. If Nelly doesn't know the answer, Nelly will know an expert who has the answer. Feel free to Ask Nelly about any aspect of LaTeX, TeX, Context, etc.


Q: Dear Nelly: When I use one of LaTeX's standard tabular environments, I find it exceedingly messy to add footnotes in that table. Since I want the footnotes directly under the table (of course), I have to deal with redefining footnote-related commands, setting up minipages, experimenting to figure out the correct widths for each of these minipages, and when everything finally looks ok, and I decide to add or delete a column, I need to redesign the minipage! Do you know a better way to achieve what I want?

A: I completely understand your frustration. Having to deal with these issues is tedious and ought to be unnecessary. Luckily TeX guru Donald Arseneau thought the same, and he create the threeparttable.sty style file. If you do not have it installed yet, you can find it in CTAN directory


Just include it with a


And then you can easily create tables consisting of three parts (the caption, the table itself, and the table notes) like this:

         \caption{Wild animals of {\TeX}land\tnote{1}} 
           Diminutive & Gnat\tnote{2}\\ 
                      & Foobug\\ 
           Fair-sized\tnote{3} & Armadillo\\
                               & Wumpus\tnote{4}\\ 
                               & Borogove\\ 
           Huge & Gnu\tnote{5}\\ 
                & Jabberwock\\ 
           Unknown & Grue\tnote{6}\\ 
            \item[1] {\TeX}land is usually travelled by the famous 
                   explorer \emph{Dave Walden};
            \item[2] First discovered and described by the zoologist 
               Leslie Lamport in 1985;
            \item[3] Fair-sized means not smaller than a mouse (the 
                     animal, not the pointing device) and not larger 
                    than a donkey; 
            \item[4] Beware of the Wumpus: it is both elusive and 
            \item[5] First discovered and described by the zoologist 
                Richard Stallman in 1984; 
            \item[6] Grues are exceedingly dangerous, they only occur 
                in the dark, and no one who encountered them lived 
                 to tell the tale.

As you can see, we can use a normal LaTeX table environment for the float, as well as a normal tabular, tabular*, tabularx or any of the array environments. The table notes are all marked with \tnote{}, so there is no need for awkward redefinitions. The notes are typeset using one or more tablenotes environments, each of which can take an optional argument (para in this case, other options are flushleft, online or the default normal) that determines how the notes are being typeset.

The one disadvantage that I can think of is that there is no automatic numbering of notes (yet).

The above question was answered by Yuri Robbers, a member of the editorial board of this journal. He can be reached at


Q: Dear Nelly: In my thesis I have many floats that contain two, three or even four graphs. I've used minipage environments for each graph within one float, and I have labelled those visually so that I can refer to each graph in the caption. My problem is, however, that every time I change one of the figures, I need to re-align all these minipages, and things get messy. Do you know how I can life easier for myself?

A: Yes, I do. Your life will be a lot easier with the subfig package by Steven Cochran. This package may already be installed on your system, but if need be it can be downloaded from CTAN in the

directory. Include it with a
Then you can use the \subfloat{} command within your floats to include each graph. They will automatically be numbered using alphanumeric labels within parentheses. You can use an optional argument to extend these labels with a subcaption. An example:
       \subfloat[Annual rainfall in {\TeX}land, 1977--2007]{
       \subfloat[Number of sunny days \emph{per annum} in {\TeX}land, 
       \caption{The pleasant climate of {\TeX}land illustrated.}
There are many options to this package, which are explained in detail in the accompanying documentation.

The above question was answered by Yuri Robbers, a member of the editorial board of this journal. He can be reached at


Q: Dear Nelly: I have been wanting to get around to this for a while but haven't had the time. I wish to use (or make) a class that can be used for bilingual texts, that is I wish to have every second page print the translated language. Obviously the main concern is having the translated page in sync with the original language, so there is an issue about the grouping of the text into parts. Do you know of any classes or can you think of a way to do this?

A: There are several packages able to do typeset critical editions, including parallel texts in two languages, complicated line numbering and multiple sets of footnotes as well as multiple sets of endnotes available. The three that are — to my knowledge — most often used are Edmac, Ednotes and Ledmac, all avaiilable for LaTeX (although edmac is technically a TeX package that can be run under LaTeX by using an additional package):


They differ a bit in capabilities, so it's best to skim the documentation of all three before deciding which one to use. There is also Ledpar, a package that requires ledmac,and offers parallel typesetting, which is ueful for, for example, bilingual critical editions. It can be found in the Ledmac directory on CTAN.
Good luck!

The above question was answered by Yuri Robbers, a member of the editorial board of this journal. He can be reached at


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