Printing a diameter symbol with TexLive
13 May 2012

Sometimes the old ways of doing things are the best. Take TeX. God knows how many years on and there’s still nothing that produces comparable documents. I love it, even when it frustrates and baffles me (which it frequently does) because nothing that it does is for no reason. It’s deeply logical and consistent, and if something isn’t working right, you know it’s your fault. There’s not a lot of software like that.

I use TeX for all kinds of things. What little paper correspondance I do now is always in TeX, and I even typeset my wedding invitations with it. I use it in my artwork too, which I was doing today. I needed to print a diameter symbol, and all my documentation told me that


was all I needed, but I kept getting the dreaded

! Undefined control sequence.
<recently read> \diameter

l.15 $\diameter
               7.24 -0/+0.09mm$

error. What that means is, “I don’t know what \diameter is”. I’m sure I’ve used \diameter in the past, but I’ve recently moved to TexLive from teTex, and I haven’t quite got used to it yet. After a bit of digging I found a fix, which involved using the MnSymbol package. It’s a part of TeXLive, so all you have to do is put


in your preamble and you’ve got \diameter. (And probably a whole load of other stuff too.)

I couldn’t be bothered to properly typeset TeX, but someone else has put a lot of effort into doing so. Check it out.

In case you’re wondering, 7.24 -0/+0.09mm is the diameter and tolerence for the hole in the middle of a record according to the BS1928-1965 standard.