I want to start writing on an article that is probably going to be published in one of the IOP journals. There is a template for their publications, but it lacks some (for me) essential packages. Since I've never submitted an article myself, I want to be sure the editing process goes as smooth as possible by eliminating problems early. So here's the question:

Can I add all the packages I like to the template without pissing off the editor? I talk about things like inputenc, fontenc, biblatex, microtype, etc. Nothing fancy, but very basic LaTeX stuff. I also prefer to have a separate .bib file for my bibliography, since I have them already organized that way and do not want to manually copy the info into the bibliography as suggested in the template.

I already read the guidelines for authors and there was no mention of modifying the template, only that its use is highly appreciated.

If anyone could provide any (preferrably inside info) on how editors work with submitted LaTeX files, that would help a lot! Thanks.

  • You can add packages, but you should maintain their template. You can also read various papers in the journal to see the presentation style. However, what is more important is the content of the paper itself, with less emphasis on the presentation.
    – Nikey Mike
    Jul 20, 2016 at 15:30
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    I have never met (or heard of) an editor that cares about the Latex journal templates. Or guidelines for authors. At least in my field, I would say that you can safely ignore them. Just give them a pdf, and it's fine. If there is anything that may have an impact, it's packages that may alter the page limit (if there is one). But definitely not inputenc, fontenc, biblatex. Jul 20, 2016 at 21:57
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    fontenc and mircotype are essential? They just alter the output (and will probably removed for the final publication anway…).
    – Dirk
    Jul 21, 2016 at 6:16
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    @FedericoPoloni Yes, with my first papers, I tried to follow the submission guidelines exactly including bibliography style, and then I discovered for the initial submission (almost?) no one cares (at least in math).
    – Kimball
    Jul 21, 2016 at 11:19
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    In mathematics, this is only relevant AFTER acceptance, not before.
    – Tom Church
    Jul 21, 2016 at 11:49

4 Answers 4


Unless explicitly forbidden, adding packages is usually ok and fully expected - e.g. in order to add support for listings, tables, symbols, encodings, operational utilities (extended macro/logic support), or specific features thereof. This should, however, never mean a general change in the appearance of the paper. Therefore, packages that globally alter fonts or font sizes are usually not allowed.

As for using a separate .bib file, you can usually work with that and (if explicitly requested by the guidelines - this varies a lot by publisher) copy the formatted information into the .tex file as late as for the camera-ready version (when nothing changes any more).

  • As for the last point: No need to copy something - just hand in the automatically generated .bbl-file together with the other documents of the paper.
    – Dirk
    Jul 21, 2016 at 6:09
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    @Dirk: Ah, probably true for IOP. I have come across some other publishers who insisted to have the bibliography right in the .tex file (and also some who were ok with getting a .bib file). I'll clarify this is publisher-dependent. Jul 21, 2016 at 6:57
  • I've seen some specifications about the bibliography like you mention and restrictions about certain packages, but out of curiosity, do you know of any journals that don't allow any packages? (or any besides a small explicit subset?)
    – Kimball
    Jul 21, 2016 at 11:17
  • That said, add packages only when your paper requiers it. I have seen too many papers loading 20+ packages when all they needed was amsmath, which was loaded by the document class. A lot of package do thing in the backstage and can make the class not do what it should, like enumerate and enumitem (which change the typography of all counters in {enumerate}) or inputenc and fontenc (which can render the paper unreadable if you're not using the same setting as the journal and write in other language than english).
    – Luris
    Sep 6, 2018 at 8:19

I usually publish in IOP journals and I can confirm O. R. Mapper's remarks.

As an example, these are the packages included in a recent paper of mine:


Notice that for what concerns mathematics, there are a few idiosyncrasies related to the iopart class: e.g., this class is incompatible with the amsmath package, and it is suggested to use the eqnarray environment, which is otherwise deprecated. I thus suggest a careful reading of the IOP LaTeX guidelines, which can be found here.

A few notes on the example above:

  • The package iopams is an extension for amssymb to provide predefined names for bold greek letters (thanks to Barbara Beeton for pointing out this and Canageek for reporting it here).
  • The package subfigure is obsolete but the the newer subfig package seems to be incompatible with iopart because it includes the caption package.
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    Correction from the TeX stack exchange, via Barbara Beeton (The expert on AMS packages): chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/31170810#31170810 "there's an inaccuracy in one of the answers. iopams is stated to be an iop adaptation of amsmath. it is not. what it is, is an extension for amssymb to provide predefined names for bold greek letters. amsmath is not used at all; iop has an entirely different style for math displays."
    – Canageek
    Jul 20, 2016 at 19:47
  • subfigure is obsolete, by the way.
    – cfr
    Jul 21, 2016 at 2:31
  • Thanks for your answer! Do you happen to know which font exactly IOP usually uses? I want to use the same font in my plots. The guidelines say one should stick to Helvetica, Arial and such, but I think the CM font family is more appropiate.
    – Ian
    Jul 21, 2016 at 6:58
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    @cfr I know, but the newer subfig package seems to be incompatible with the iopart class because it includes the caption package. Thus, we used the obsolete subfigure. Jul 21, 2016 at 8:20
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    @tomasz Probably they are used to it. For a publisher, it may be easier to deal with awfulness you are familiar with than new non-awfulness.
    – cfr
    Jul 21, 2016 at 12:18

As someone who moonlights as a type-setter for a mathematical journal let me tell you something about bibliography.

Bibliography styles are different from one journal to another. There is nothing more terrible than having to reformat 60 entries by hand, and there aren't many things worse than having to reconstruct the .bib file in order to use the journal bibliography style more easily.

Sending the .bib file to the publisher is not a bad idea. If they can handle LaTeX, they can handle bibtex as well. I never worked with biblatex personally, so I can't quite tell you about that. But I do recommend that you submit you .bib file separately, and save the hassle to the type-setter.

Of course, this assumes that your .bib file wasn't hand-made. When you add an entry by hand, it has a high percentage of chance not being up to standards. Always use MathSciNet, if not then ZBMath, and if not, then Google Scholar as a last resort.

  • Thanks for the tip! My citations are all automatically generated/scraped, so they should be fine.
    – Ian
    Jul 21, 2016 at 10:03
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    Always use MathSciNet, if not then ZBMath, and if not, then Google Scholar as a last resort. — ...but assume that the MathSciNet / ZBMath / Google Scholar .bib entries have errors, double-check everything against the primary sources, and fix the errors. Especially Google Scholar.
    – JeffE
    Jul 21, 2016 at 18:29
  • Not in math, but the same holds for acm bibtex entries. Some publishers provide their own bibtex entries for their papers (but even then verify) Jul 26, 2016 at 19:47

If these packages do not interfere with the paper layout than it is completely OK. However you should follow the instructions for authors style guidelines. For instance, if the template uses a specific package for generating tables, then you shouldn't change it. Regarding the bibliography I think that it is allowed to use bibtex and derivatives as long as the paper references style is preserved.

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