Modern TeX distributions contain a huge array of various sorts of
files, but sooner or later most people need to find something that’s
not in their present system (if nothing else, because they’ve heard
that something has been updated).
But how to find the files?
Modern distributions (TeX Live and MiKTeX, at least) provide the
means to update your system “over the net”. This is the minimum
effort route to getting a new file: ‘simply’ find which of the
distributions ‘packages’ holds the file in question, and ask the
distribution to update it. The mechanisms are different (the two
distributions exhibit the signs of evolutionary divergence in their
different niches), but neither is difficult — see
“using MiKTeX for installing
“using TeX Live for installing
There are packages, though, that aren’t in the distribution you use
(or for which the distribution hasn’t yet been updated to offer the
version you need).
Some sources, such as these FAQ answers, provide links to
files: so if you’ve learnt about a package here, you should be able to
retrieve it without too much fuss.
Otherwise, the CTAN sites provide searching facilities, via the
web: at Dante with http://dante.ctan.org/search.html
Cambridge with http://www.tex.ac.uk/search.html
Two search mechanisms are offered: the simpler search, locating files
by name, simply scans a list of files (FILES.byname
below) and returns a list of matches, arranged neatly as a series of
links to directories and to individual files.
The more sophisticated search looks at the contents of each catalogue
entry, and returns a list of catalogue entries that mention the
keywords you ask for.
An alternative way to scan the catalogue is to use the catalogue’s
“by topic” index
this lists a series of topics, and (La)TeX projects that are worth
considering if you’re working on matters related to the topic.
In fact, Google
, and other search engines, can be useful
tools. Enter your search keywords, and you may pick up a package that
the author hasn’t bothered to submit to CTAN. If you’re using
, you can restrict your search to CTAN by
site:ctan.org tex-archive <search term(s)>
’s “search box”. You can also enforce the
restriction using Google
’s “advanced search” mechanism;
other search engines (presumably) have similar facilities.
Many people avoid the need to go over the network at all, for their
searches, by downloading the file list that the archives’ web
file searches use. This file, FILES.byname
presents a unified listing of the archive (omitting directory names and
cross-links). Its companion FILES.last07days
is also useful, to
keep an eye on the changes on the archive. Since these files are
updated only once a day, a nightly automatic download (perhaps using
) makes good sense.
This is FAQ version 3.26, released on 2013-02-25.