Alter Mundus – Tikz, PGF, and LaTeX

You can create awesome graphics in a LaTeX document with an extension package.

The package is a PGF and uses a TikZ.

The input is LATEX. The output is PDF.



TikZ is a LaTeX package that allows users to create high-quality diagrams, including flowcharts, network diagrams, and plots, directly within their LaTeX documents. Here are some frequently asked questions about TikZ:

Q: Why should I use TikZ instead of just including graphics?

A: TikZ is incredibly versatile and creates vector graphics, which can scale to any size without loss of quality. Also, it ensures your graphics have the same fonts and mathematical notation as your main document. On the fun side, you can also brag about your LaTeX prowess!

Q: I can’t draw a stick figure. How can I use TikZ?

A: Fear not! TikZ uses commands to create shapes and lines, so no manual drawing skill is needed. It’s more like giving a robot instructions to paint a picture. Who knew you could be a digital Picasso?

Q: Is TikZ a tool for procrastination?

A: Creating TikZ diagrams can indeed be quite engaging (distracting?), but it’s also very productive! You might spend hours creating the perfect diagram, but you’re still advancing your LaTeX skills and producing a fantastic resource for your readers.

Q: Can I create 3D graphics with TikZ?

A: Yes, you can! With the pgfplots package (which builds on TikZ), you can create 3D plots. But keep in mind, this isn’t a Pixar movie – the results are more scientific visualization than Toy Story.

Q: How can I learn TikZ?

A: There are many great resources available online, including the comprehensive TikZ and PGF manual. And as always, practice makes perfect! You might even find you enjoy creating diagrams more than writing your actual document!


The tkz-graph package in LaTeX is an extremely useful tool for creating graph diagrams. This package is built on top of the PGF and TikZ languages, which are powerful tools for creating graphics in LaTeX.

To use tkz-graph, you would first need to include it in your LaTeX document like so:


Once included, you can then use the package’s commands to create nodes and edges, define their properties, and customize their appearance. For example:


In the above example, \GraphInit[vstyle=Classic] sets the style of the vertices, \SetGraphUnit{3} sets the distance between the nodes, \Vertices{circle}{A,B,C,D} places the vertices in a circle, and \Edges(A,B,C,D,A,C) connects the vertices to form edges.






PGF, or “Portable Graphics Format”, is a package for TeX and LaTeX that enables the user to create graphics within their document instead of importing graphics created by an external program. It is a powerful tool that can create complex and highly customizable graphics.

TikZ is actually a front-end to PGF, which means it provides a user-friendly interface to the powerful PGF system. TikZ stands for “TikZ ist kein Zeichenprogramm” in German, which translates to “TikZ is not a drawing program”. This emphasizes the fact that instead of manually drawing individual shapes, TikZ allows you to specify what you want in a simple and intuitive way, and then it draws it for you.

PGF works by providing commands for generating graphics. It’s like a programming language for pictures. You tell PGF what to do, and it does it. This includes everything from drawing lines and circles, to shading and filling areas, to creating complex mathematical plots.

TikZ provides a more user-friendly syntax on top of PGF, making it easier to create graphics. Instead of working with low-level PGF commands, you can use TikZ’s simpler syntax to describe what you want, and TikZ translates that into the necessary PGF commands.

Both PGF and TikZ are powerful tools that are widely used in academia and other areas where high-quality, custom graphics are needed.

The room where I worked was a small, cozy space with a large, cluttered desk that took up most of the room, littered with sketch pads, design tablets, and my personal favorite, a 32-inch ultra-high-definition monitor that made every detail crisp and clear.

My curiosity about PGF was piqued when I discovered that it was a language for producing vector graphics. It promised precision control over graphic designs, which was exactly what I needed for the intricate diagrams and schematics the manual required. I was already familiar with other formats like JPEG and PNG, but they lacked the scalability and quality I needed for print materials.

I remember the initial setup on my workstation—a powerhouse PC with a 4.0 GHz quad-core processor and 32GB of RAM. The installation process was straightforward, and I was able to integrate PGF into my LaTeX documents, which was a huge relief because the manual was being compiled in LaTeX.

Diving into PGF was like learning a new language. I spent hours poring over the manual, experimenting with commands, and understanding the syntax. The learning curve was steep, but the control it offered was unparalleled. I could define shapes, curves, and lines with mathematical precision, and manipulate their properties with a granularity that other formats couldn’t match.

The first diagram I created with PGF was a cross-section of an engine part. It had to be accurate to the millimeter, showcasing every curve, bolt, and notch. The level of detail required was intense, with some components being no more than 2mm in size on the actual part. With PGF, I could zoom in and work on these tiny elements without any loss of quality, something raster images would never allow.



LaTeX (pronounced “Lay-tech” or “Lah-tech”) is a typesetting system commonly used for producing technical and scientific documents due to its superior handling of mathematics and references. It’s particularly popular in fields like mathematics, computer science, engineering, physics, statistics, and economics.


Q: Does using LaTeX make me a typography expert?

A: Well, not exactly, but it can certainly make you look like one! LaTeX is designed to provide high-quality typesetting and allows even novices to create beautifully structured documents. Just don’t get too carried away and start critiquing fonts at your local coffee shop.

Q: I heard LaTeX is better than Word. Is this true?

A: That’s like comparing apples and oranges. They are both excellent tools, but they serve different purposes. LaTeX is superior for complex documents with lots of equations, cross-referencing, or structured sections. Word might be quicker for simple tasks, but if you’re writing a PhD thesis, you might want to get cozy with LaTeX.

Q: Is LaTeX just for hardcore mathematicians and computer scientists?

A: Not at all! Although LaTeX is especially powerful for typesetting mathematics and creating structured documents (which is why it’s a favorite in technical fields), anyone who wants to produce high-quality, professional-looking documents can benefit from LaTeX.

Q: Do I need to be a programmer to use LaTeX?

A: Not necessarily, but it doesn’t hurt. LaTeX isn’t a word processor; instead, you type plain text and add commands that describe the structure and meaning of the text. It might feel a bit code-like, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll see that it offers great control over your document’s format.



pgfornament is a package for LaTeX that allows users to add ornaments or decorative figures to their documents. This is particularly useful for typesetting documents that require a decorative or ornate design, such as invitations or certificates.

To use pgfornament, you first need to import the package in the preamble of your LaTeX document:


Once the package is imported, you can add ornaments using the \pgfornament command, which takes the ornament’s number as an argument:


pgfornament includes a wide variety of ornaments, each identified by a different number. You can specify the size, color, and position of the ornaments, allowing for significant customization.

However, remember that while the ornaments can add a nice touch to certain types of documents, they can also distract from the main content if overused. Be sure to use them judiciously!

Q: Can I use pgfornament to turn my PhD thesis into a work of art?

A: While you could technically do that, your advisor might not appreciate the artistic effort. Remember, content is king in academic documents!

Q: I tried using pgfornament and ended up with a snowflake on my CV. Is that normal?

A: While it’s technically possible, it’s probably not advisable, unless you’re applying for a job as a winter holiday decorator.

Q: Does using pgfornament count as being proficient in graphic design?

A: Not quite, but it can add a touch of visual interest to your LaTeX documents. For real graphic design work, you might want to look into dedicated graphic design software.

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