Getting the right paper geometry from (La)TeX
If your output is the wrong size, and you've checked that it's not due to the ministrations of Adobe ''Reader'', the problem is probably that your (La)TeX system is producing output that specifies the wrong paper size. Paper sizes can be a pain: they're a forgotten backwater — Knuth seems not to have considered paper size as something the TeX engine needs to know about. As a result, there is no DVI command to specify the paper on which the document should be printed, which has led a dichotomy where macros shape the text according to the needs of the author's chosen paper size, and device drivers“ choice happens independently of the macros” ideas.
In practice, one usually finds that macro packages (such as Plain TeX and LaTeX) assume American “letter” paper size, by default; and since most distributions nowadays originate in Europe, the drivers usually default to ISO “A4” paper size.
This is (of course) pretty unsatisfactory. Users may select a
different paper size for their document (current LaTeX offers a
range of sizes as options in the standard classes), pretty easily.
Nevertheless, the user also has to be sure that each time
dvips (or whatever) runs, it uses the
paper size the document was designed for.
The default paper size for DVI drivers may be changed by a
distribution management command (
texconfig for TeX Live,
Options application for MiKTeX), but this still
doesn't provide for people using the “wrong” sort of paper for some
A different issue arises for users of pdfTeX — the
PDF format does have the means of expressing paper size
and pdfTeX has system variables
\pdfpageheight, that are written into the output PDF file.
Unfortunately, most of the core software predates pdfTeX, so not even
pdfLaTeX sets the correct values into those variables, to match the
paper size specified in a
The DVI drivers
dvipdfm and its
\special commands for the document to specify its own paper size;
so in those cases, as when pdfTeX is being used, the
paper size can be programmed by the document. Users who wish to, may
of course consult the manuals of the various programs to write the
The geometry and zwpagelayout packages (whose main
business includes defining
typeset page areas), also takes notice the size of the paper that the
document is going to be printed on, and can issue the commands
necessary to ensure the correct size of paper is used. If
geometry is used when a document is being processed by
pdfLaTeX, it can set the necessary dimensions “in the output”.
If the document is being processed by LaTeX on a TeX or -TeX
engine, there are package options which instruct geometry
\special commands to use. (Note that the options are
ignored if you are using pdfLaTeX.)
So, one resolution of the problem, when you are using LaTeX, is to add
processor-option tells the package what will produce
your (PostScript or PDF output — geometry knows about
serves for the extension
If you're using pdfLaTeX or XeTeX, load with
The alternative, zwpagelayout requires a
(permissible <values> are
dvips; the default value is
The typearea package is the Koma-script
distribution's way of providing page layout functionality. Load it
pagesize option and it will ensure the correct
paper is selected, for PDF output from pdfLaTeX, and for
PostScript output from LaTeX via
Memoir has the standard classes' paper-size selections
letterpaper and so on), but also
permits the user to choose an arbitrary paper size, by setting the
\stockwidth. The commands
\fixdvipslayout (for LaTeX processing), and
(for pdfLaTeX processing) then instruct the processor to produce
output that specifies the necessary paper size.