Beamer Manual

Creating Supporting Material

21 Creating Handouts and Lecture Notes

During a presentation it is very much desirable that the audience has a handout or even lecture notes available to it. A handout allows everyone in the audience to individually go back to things he or she has not understood.

Always provide handouts as early as possible, preferably weeks before the talk. Do not retain the handout till the end of the talk.

The beamer package offers two different ways of creating special versions of your talk; they are discussed in the following. The first, easy, way is to create a handout version by adding the handout option, which will cause the document to be typeset in handout mode. It will “look like” a presentation, but it can be printed more easily (the overlays are “flattened”). The second, more complicated and more powerful way is to create an independent “article” version of your presentation. This version coexists in your main file.

21.1 Creating Handouts Using the Handout Mode

The easiest way of creating a handout for your audience (though not the most desirable one) is to use the handout option. This option works exactly like the trans option.


Create a version that uses the handout overlay specifications.

You might wish to choose a different color and/or presentation theme for the handout.

When printing a handout created this way, you will typically wish to print at least two and possibly four slides on each page. The easiest way of doing so is presumably to use pgfpages as follows:

\pgfpagesuselayout{2 on 1}[a4paper,border shrink=5mm]

Instead of 2 on 1 you can use 4 on 1 (but then you have to add landscape to the list of options) and you can use, say, letterpaper instead of a4paper.

21.2 Creating Handouts Using the Article Mode

In the following, the “article version” of your presentation refers to a normal text typeset using, for example, the document class article or perhaps llncs or a similar document class. This version of the presentation will typically follow different typesetting rules and may even have a different structure. Nevertheless, you may wish to have this version coexist with your presentation in one file and you may wish to share some part of it (like a figure or a formula) with your presentation.

In general, the article version of a talk is better suited as a handout than a handout created using the simple handout mode since it is more economic and can include more in-depth information.

21.2.1 Starting the Article Mode

The article mode of a presentation is created by specifying article or book or some other class as the document class instead of beamer and by then loading the package beamerarticle.

The package beamerarticle defines virtually all of beamer’s commands in a way that is sensible for the article mode. Also, overlay specifications can be given to commands like \textbf or \item once beamerarticle has been loaded. Note that, except for \item, these overlay specifications also work: by writing \section<presentation>{Name} you will suppress this section command in the article version. For the exact effects overlay specifications have in article mode, please see the descriptions of the commands to which you wish to apply them.


Makes most beamer commands available for another document class.

The following options may be given:

  • activeospeccharacters will leave the character code of the pointed brackets as specified by other packages. Normally, beamer will turn off the special behavior of the two characters < and >. Using this option, you can reinstall the original behavior at the price of possible problems when using overlay specifications in the article mode.

  • noamssymb will suppress the automatic loading of the amssymb package. Normally, beamer will load this package since many themes use AMS symbols. This option allows you to opt-out from this behavior in article mode, thus preventing clashes with some classes and font packages that conflict with amssymb. Note that, if you use this option, you will have to care for yourself that amssymb or an alternative package is loaded if you use respective symbols.

  • noamsthm will suppress the loading of the amsthm package. No theorems will be defined.

  • nokeywords will suppress the creation of a \keywords command.

  • notheorems will suppress the definition of standard environments like theorem, but amsthm is still loaded and the \newtheorem command still makes the defined environments overlay-specification-aware. Using this option allows you to define the standard environments in whatever way you like while retaining the power of the extensions to amsthm.

  • envcountsect causes theorem, definitions and the like to be numbered with each section. Thus instead of Theorem 1 you get Theorem 1.1. We recommend using this option.

  • noxcolor will suppress the loading of the xcolor package. No colors will be defined.


  \frametitle{A frame title}
\item<1-> You can use overlay specifications.
\item<2-> This is useful.

There is one remaining problem: While the article version can easily the whole file, even in the presence of commands like \frame<2>, we do not want the special article text to be inserted into our original beamer presentation. That means, we would like all text between frames to be suppressed. More precisely, we want all text except for commands like \section and so on to be suppressed. This behavior can be enforced by specifying the option ignorenonframetext in the presentation version.


Cause beamer to ignore (almost) all texts and commands outside frames in the presentation mode. The option will insert a \mode* at the beginning of your presentation.

Note: When using \include or \input commands, conversions of modes must be controlled manually. See Section 21.3 for details.

The following example shows a simple usage of the article mode:



%% everyone:




This is the introduction text. This text is not shown in the
presentation, but will be part of the article.

   % In the article, this is a floating figure,
   % In the presentation, this figure is shown in the first frame

This text is once more not shown in the presentation.

\section{Main Part}

While this text is not shown in the presentation, the section command
also applies to the presentation.

We can add a subsection that is only part of the article like this:

\subsection<article>{Article-Only Section}

With some more text.

 This text is part both of the article and of the presentation.
\item This stuff is also shown in both version.
\item This too.
 \only<article>{\item This particular item is only part
     of the article version.}
\item<presentation:only@0> This text is also only part of the article.

There is one command whose behavior is a bit special in article mode: The line break command \\. Inside frames, this command has no effect in article mode, except if an overlay specification is present. Then it has the normal effect dictated by the specification. The reason for this behavior is that you will typically inserts lots of \\ commands in a presentation in order to get control over all line breaks. These line breaks are mostly superfluous in article mode. If you really want a line break to apply in all versions, say \\<all>. Note that the command \\ is often redefined by certain environments, so it may not always be overlay-specification-aware. In such a case you have to write something like \only<presentation>{\\}.

21.2.2 Workflow

The following workflow steps are optional, but they can simplify the creation of the article version.

  • • In the main file main.tex, delete the first line, which sets the document class.

  • • Create a file named, say, main.beamer.tex with the following content:

  • • Create an extra file named, say, main.article.tex with the following content:

  • • You can now run pdflatex or latex on the two files main.beamer.tex and main.article.tex.

The command \setjobnamebeamerversion tells the article version where to find the presentation version. This is necessary if you wish to include slides from the presentation version in an article as figures.

\setjobnamebeamerversion{filename without extension}

Tells the beamer class where to find the presentation version of the current file.

21.2.3 Including Slides from the Presentation Version in the Article Version

If you use the package beamerarticle, the \frame command becomes available in article mode. By adjusting the frame template, you can “mimic” the appearance of frames typeset by beamer in your articles. However, sometimes you may wish to insert “the real thing” into the article version, that is, a precise “screenshot” of a slide from the presentation. The commands introduced in the following help you do exactly this.

In order to include a slide from your presentation in your article version, you must do two things: First, you must place a normal label on the slide using the \label command. Since this command is overlay-specification-aware, you can also select specific slides of a frame. Also, by adding the option label=name to a frame, a label name<slide number> is automatically added to each slide of the frame.

Once you have labeled a slide, you can use the following command in your article version to insert the slide into it:

\includeslide[options]{label name}

This command calls \pgfimage with the given options for the file specified by


Furthermore, the option page=page of label name is passed to \pgfimage, where the page of label name is read internally from the file filename.snm.


    \caption{The first slide (height 5cm). Note the partly covered second item.}
    \caption{The second slide (original size). Now the second item is also shown.}

The exact effect of passing the option page=page of label name to the command \pgfimage is explained in the documentation of pgf. In essence, the following happens:

  • • For old versions of pdflatex and for any version of latex together with dvips, the pgf package will look for a file named

    filename.pagepage of label name.extension

    For each page of your .pdf or .ps file that is to be included in this way, you must create such a file by hand. For example, if the PostScript file of your presentation version is named and you wish to include the slides with page numbers 2 and 3, you must create (single page) files and “by hand” (or using some script). If these files cannot be found, pgf will complain.

  • • For new versions of pdflatex, pdflatex also looks for the files according to the above naming scheme. However, if it fails to find them (because you have not produced them), it uses a special mechanism to directly extract the desired page from the presentation file main.beamer.pdf.

21.3 Details on Modes

This subsection describes how modes work exactly and how you can use the \mode command to control what part of your text belongs to which mode.

When beamer typesets your text, it is always in one of the following five modes:

  • beamer is the default mode.

  • second is the mode used when a slide for an optional second screen is being typeset.

  • handout is the mode for creating handouts.

  • trans is the mode for creating transparencies.

  • article is the mode when control has been transferred to another class, like article.cls. Note that the mode is also article if control is transferred to, say, book.cls.

In addition to these modes, beamer recognizes the following names for modes sets:

  • all refers to all modes.

  • presentation refers to the first four modes, that is, to all modes except for the article mode.

(-tikz- diagram)

Depending on the current mode, you may wish to have certain text inserted only in that mode. For example, you might wish a certain frame or a certain table to be left out of your article version. In some situations, you can use the \only command for this purpose. However, the command \mode, which is described in the following, is much more powerful than \only.

The command actually comes in three “flavors,” which only slightly differ in syntax. The first, and simplest, is the version that takes one argument. It behaves essentially the same way as \only.

\mode<mode specification>{text}

Causes the text to be inserted only for the specified modes. Recall that a mode specification is just an overlay specification in which no slides are mentioned.

The text should not do anything fancy that involves mode switches or including other files. In particular, you should not put an \include command inside text. Use the argument-free form below, instead.


\mode<article>{Extra detail mentioned only in the article version.}

\mode<beamer| trans>{

The second flavor of the \mode command takes no argument. “No argument” means that it is not followed by an opening brace, but any other symbol.

\mode<mode specification>

In the specified mode, this command actually has no effect. The interesting part is the effect in the non-specified modes: In these modes, the command causes to enter a kind of “gobbling” state. It will now ignore all following lines until the next line that has a sole occurrence of one of the following commands: \mode, \mode*, \begin{document}, \end{document}. Even a comment on this line will make skip it. Note that the line with the special commands that make stop gobbling may not directly follow the line where the gobbling is started. Rather, there must either be one non-empty line before the special command or at least two empty lines.

When encounters a single \mode command, it will execute this command. If the command is \mode command of the first flavor, will resume its “gobbling” state after having inserted (or not inserted) the argument of the \mode command. If the \mode command is of the second flavor, it takes over.

Using this second flavor of \mode is less convenient than the first, but there are different reasons why you might need to use it:

  • • The line-wise gobbling is much faster than the gobble of the third flavor, explained below.

  • • The first flavor reads its argument completely. This means, it cannot contain any verbatim text that contains unbalanced braces.

  • • The first flavor cannot cope with arguments that contain \include.

  • • If the text mainly belongs to one mode with only small amounts of text from another mode inserted, this second flavor is nice to use.

Note: When searching line-wise for a \mode command to shake it out of its gobbling state, will not recognize a \mode command if a mode specification follows on the same line. Thus, such a specification must be given on the next line.

Note: When a file ends, must not be in the gobbling state. Switch this state off using \mode on one line and <all> on the next.

Note: The behavior of \mode command is different inside a frame: instead of line-wise gobbling, it puts every subsequent tokens inside a “comment box” until another \mode command is encountered. Some commands may cause errors in this situation, including the assignment of global variables and \mode of the first flavor, since they are not actually “gobbled”. Please use \mode command of any flavor outside frames.



This text is typeset only in |article| mode.
\verb!verbatim text is ok {!

\mode<presentation>{% this text is inserted only in presentation mode

Here we are back to article mode stuff. This text
is not inserted in presentation mode


This text is only inserted in presentation mode.

The last flavor of the mode command behaves quite differently.


The effect of this mode is to ignore all text outside frames in the presentation modes. In article mode it has no effect.

This mode should only be entered outside of frames. Once entered, if the current mode is a presentation mode, will enter a gobbling state similar to the gobbling state of the second “flavor” of the \mode command. The difference is that the text is now read token-wise, not line-wise. The text is gobbled token by token until one of the following tokens is found: \mode, \frame, \againframe, \part, \section, \subsection, \appendix, \note, \begin{frame}, and \end{document} (the last two are not really tokens, but they are recognized anyway).

Once one of these commands is encountered, the gobbling stops and the command is executed. However, all of these commands restore the mode that was in effect when they started. Thus, once the command is finished, returns to its gobbling.

Normally, \mode* is exactly what you want to do outside of frames: ignore everything except for the above-mentioned commands outside frames in presentation mode. However, there are cases in which you have to use the second flavor of the \mode command instead: If you have verbatim text that contains one of the commands, if you have very long text outside frames, or if you wish some text outside a frame (like a definition) to be executed also in presentation mode.

The class option ignorenonframetext will switch on \mode* at the beginning of the document.



This text is not shown in the presentation.

 This text is shown both in article and presentation mode.

this text is not shown in the presentation again.

\section{This command also has effect in presentation mode}

Back to article stuff again.

{ this frame is shown only in the presentation. }

Example: The following example shows how you can include other files in a main file. The contents of a main.tex:

This is star mode stuff.

Let's include files:

Back to star mode

And a.tex (and likewise b.tex):

\section{First section}
Extra text in article version.
 Some text.