A UMBCposter tutorial

Author: Rouben Rostamian
Date: April 1, 2010

Table of Contents

  1. What is it?
  2. Getting started
  3. The structure of a UMBCposter LaTeX file
  4. A UMBCposter gallery
  5. Related resources

1. What is it?

UMBCposter is a LaTeX documentclass for making research posters—the kind that one prints on large, glossy paper and displays at meetings, conferences, and such.

UMBCposter builds upon Till Tantau's excellent graphics libraries PGF and TikZ and the associated key management utility, pgfkeys. UMBCposter leaves the TikZ interface exposed, thus giving the user full control of what is drawn on the poster. But a knowledge of TikZ is not a prerequisite for using UMBCposter—the (very minimal) subset of TikZ constructs introduced in this manual should suffice to produce a rich variety of poster designs.

2. Getting started

The first thing you should do is have a look at sample posters in the gallery. There is no point in continuing if those don't interest you.

UMBCposter is a LaTeX template. It goes without saying that you need a fully functioning LaTeX installation and the knowledge of writing and processing LaTeX documents. This is not a LaTeX tutorial, so I am not going the get into that.

Installing UMBCposter

If you are on UMBC's Department of Mathematics and Statistics machines, then you may skip these installation instructions because the necessary software is already in place. For others, you need following:

The UMBCposter distribution
Get the file umbcposter-1.0.tar.gz and unpack it in the directory where you are going to make your poster. Note that this archive unpacks in the current directory, not a subdirectory.

The essential files are , and . If you want to, you may move them to a permanent place in your LaTeX path.

The PGF library
UMBCposter relies on the presence of the PGF library. PGF is under active development. Some LaTeX distributions may have outdated versions of PGF or none at all. If you are getting mysterious error messages when compiling this tutorial's examples, probably it's because you don't have the latest PGF.

As of this writing (March 2010) the “stable” version offered by the official download site is from 2008–02–20. That is certainly not adequate for our purposes. I have developed and tested UMBCposter using the CVS version of PGF from 2009–10–01. That, or any later version should do.

If you don't care to deal with a CVS download, you may obtain a nicely organized and adequately recent release from TeXample.net in the form of a ZIP archive.

The pgfopts package
The pgfopts package, an add-on to the PGF library, is used to parse documentclass options. This is not a part of the PGF library, therefore you will need to get it separately. Unpack the package and put the file in your poster's directory alongside everything else. Alternatively, you may install it in a permanent location in your LaTeX path.

Give it a try

Get sample.tex and compile with pdflatex, as in

   pdflate sample.tex
   pdflate sample.tex

(It is necessary to run pdflatex twice for the first time, and anytime later when you make substantial changes to the LaTeX code.)

If everything goes well, you will end up with a sample.pdf which you may view with your favorite PDF viewer. It should look like the image shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The poster corresponding to sample.tex. Click on the image to view the corresponding PDF. This rather gaudy design is chosen not for its aesthetic quality but to illustrate some of the configurable features in a UMBCposter. The text in each box shows the box's positioning instructions.

3. The structure of a UMBCposter LaTeX file

A LaTeX template for a UMBCposter is shown below. The poster is initialized through the \posterinit command which specifies the configuration options. The boxes that tile the poster's body are made through multiple invocations of the \boxit command whose arguments specify the box's position/geometry, title, and contents.

A box takes its appearane/style from the default configuration parameters specified in \posterinit's config argument. The defaults may be overridden for individual boxes by the box's own (optional) boxconfig argument.

Click on the links to see what each option does.

\usepackage{times}    % use the times fonts (optional)

\posterinit{config}   % initialize poster

\boxit[boxconfig]{geometry}{title}{contents}   % repeat as needed


The TikZ interface (for experts)

If you are familiar with the TikZ graphics library, you may gain complete control on the UMBCposter drawing routines through its TikZ interface.

4. A UMBCposter gallery

In the gallery I have placed an assortment of UMBCposters. In each case, I have included the LaTeX source and the corresponding A4-sized PDF.

If you come up with interesting design ideas, I would be very much interested to see them and will be happy to add your poster to the gallery with due acknowledgment.

5. Related resources

Author: Rouben Rostamian
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