nLab total complex



Homological algebra

homological algebra

(also nonabelian homological algebra)



Basic definitions

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diagram chasing

Schanuel's lemma

Homology theories




For C ,C_{\bullet, \bullet} a double complex (in some abelian category 𝒜\mathcal{A}), its total complex Tot(C) Tot(C)_\bullet is an ordinary complex which in degree kk is the direct sum of all components of total degree kk.


Let 𝒜\mathcal{A} be an abelian category with arbitrary direct sums.

Write Ch (𝒜)Ch_\bullet(\mathcal{A}) for the category of chain complexes in 𝒜\mathcal{A} and C ,Ch (Ch (𝒜))C_{\bullet, \bullet} \in Ch_\bullet(Ch_\bullet(\mathcal{A})) for the category of double complexes. (Hence we use the convention that in a double complex the vertical and horizontal differential commute with each other.)


For C ,Ch (Ch (𝒜))C_{\bullet, \bullet} \in Ch_\bullet(Ch_\bullet(\mathcal{A})) a double complex, its associated total complex Tot(C) Ch (𝒜)Tot(C)_\bullet \in Ch_\bullet(\mathcal{A}) is the chain complex whose components are the direct sums, direct products or a mixture of those

The sum total complex

Tot (C) n= k+l=nC k,l Tot^{\oplus}(C)_n = \bigoplus_{k+l = n} C_{k,l}

the product total complex

Tot π(C) n= k+l=nC k,l Tot^{\pi}(C)_n = \prod_{k+l = n} C_{k,l}

the product-sum total complex

Tot π(C) n= k+l=n,k<0C k,l k+l=n,k0C k,l Tot^{\pi\oplus}(C)_n = \prod_{k+l = n, k \lt 0} C_{k,l}\oplus\bigoplus_{k+l = n, k\geq 0} C_{k,l}

and the sum-product total complex

Tot π(C) n= k+l=n,k<0C k,l k+l=n,k0C k,l Tot^{\oplus\pi}(C)_n = \bigoplus_{k+l = n, k \lt 0} C_{k,l}\oplus\prod_{k+l = n, k\geq 0} C_{k,l}

and whose differentials are given by the linear combination

Tot vert C+(1) verticaldegree hor C. \partial^{Tot} \coloneqq \partial^C_{vert} + (-1)^{vertical\;degree} \partial^C_{hor} \,.

Using the four different types of total complexes gives the flexibility to make more nuanced exactness statements for the total complex under various assumptions on the double complex.


Total homology and spectral sequences


The chain homology of the total complex Tot(C) Tot(C)_\bullet is sometimes called the total homology of the double complex C ,C_{\bullet, \bullet}.


A tool for computing the homology of a total complex, hence for computing the total homology of a double complex, is the spectral sequence of a double complex. See there for more details.



First let CC be a double complex in any abelian category

  • If C ,C_{\bullet,\bullet} is bounded and has exact rows or columns then also Tot(C) Tot(C)_\bullet is exact.

Now let CC be a double complex of abelian groups.

  • If C ,C_{\bullet,\bullet} has exact rows then the product-sum total complex is exact.
  • If C ,C_{\bullet,\bullet} has exact rows and kernels (or equivalently) images between row complexes are exact, then the sum and product total complexes are exact
  • If C ,C_{\bullet,\bullet} has exact rows and for each ii taking H iH_i of the columns gives an exact complex, then the sum-product total complex is exact.

Use the acyclic assembly lemma.

Relation to total simplicial sets and homotopy colimits

The total chain complex is, under the Dold-Kan correspondence, equivalent to the diagonal of a bisimplicial set – see Eilenberg-Zilber theorem. As discussed at bisimplicial set, this is weakly homotopy equivalent to the total simplicial set of a bisimplicial set.


For instance:

Last revised on December 21, 2023 at 14:23:52. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.