You are familiar with word processing software: you type something, and the software prints it as it is on screen. In contrast, LaTeX, as typesetting software, receives instructions and text from you, and then creates the output. It produces high-quality output based on sophisticated algorithms for justification, text alignment, whitespace balancing, figure placement, and more, such as predefined formatting styles for headings and general page layout, which you can customize.
Are you ready to leave those "what you see is what you get" word processors behind and to enter the world of accurate, reliable, and high-quality typesetting? Yes? Then let's go together!
It's great that you decided to learn LaTeX. This book will guide you along the way to help you get the most out of it. Let's speak briefly about LaTeX's benefits and the challenges, and then we shall prepare our tools.
In this chapter, we will get to...
We will focus on the Windows operating system here, but you can also install LaTeX on Mac OS X, Linux, and other systems.
A complete installation takes about 8 GB of disk space.
If you have an internet connection, you don't have to install LaTeX. You can use online LaTeX software, such as Overleaf. We will look at Overleaf at the end of this chapter.
All code examples of this book are available on GitHub at https://github.com/PacktPublishing/LaTeX-Beginner-s-Guide.
What is LaTeX?
It was initially written by Leslie Lamport and is based on the TeX typesetting engine by Donald Knuth. People often refer to it as just TeX, meaning LaTeX. It has a long history; you can read about it at https://tug.org/whatis.html.
For now, let's continue by looking at how we can make the most of LaTeX.
Benefits of LaTeX
LaTeX is especially well suited for scientific and technical documents. LaTeX's superior typesetting of mathematical formulas is legendary. Suppose you are a student or a scientist. In that case, LaTeX is by far the best choice, and even if you don't need its scientific capabilities, there are other uses—it produces very high-quality output and is incredibly stable. It handles complex documents easily, no matter how large they...
Installing and using LaTeX
Let's start with the installation of the LaTeX distribution, TeX Live. This distribution is available for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X (MacTeX), and other Unix-like operating systems. TeX Live is well maintained, and it is actively developed.
Alternative LaTeX distribution
Another excellent and user-friendly LaTeX distribution for Windows is MiKTeX. It's easy to install, like any other Windows application. You can download it from https://miktex.org. Visit https://latexguide.org/distributions for a detailed, up-to-date comparison.
You can install TeX Live for a single user (that's you) or as a shared installation for all users on a computer. The latter is called admin mode. It requires running the installation as an administrator: either log in with an administrator account or right-click on the install program and choose Run as administrator.
First, we will visit the TeX Live homepage...
Working with LaTeX online using Overleaf
How about simply using LaTeX in your internet browser? Here comes Overleaf. It's a pure online LaTeX service that mathematicians enthusiastic about TeX started in 2011. You can access it through this link: https://www.overleaf.com.
In this section about Overleaf, we will do the following:
- Check the Overleaf requirements
- Look at the benefits of Overleaf
- Evaluate possible caveats
- Use the Overleaf editor
- Try out Writefull
Let's go online now.
What Overleaf requires and delivers
- Any internet browser, such as Firefox, Chrome, Opera, or Edge.
- You don't need any other local software such as a LaTeX compiler, editor, or PDF viewer.
It is free for basic usage, and that covers a lot. It provides a complete TeX...
There are many hundreds of LaTeX classes and packages available. No book could ever explain all its features on its own. But most of those packages offer good documentation that you can easily open and read. If you work your way through this book and supplement it with the documentation of the packages mentioned, you're on the right track to becoming a LaTeX power user.
In the following chapters, you will learn about many LaTeX packages that provide additional capabilities. To be prepared, you should just know how to access package documentation.
You can open a package manual directly on your computer after you have installed LaTeX:
- On Windows computer: In the Start menu, choose the TeX Live folder, and click TeX Live command-line. Alternatively, just run the Windows cmd app.
- On a Mac or any Linux computer: Start a Terminal app.
Then, just type
texdoc packagename and press Enter. For example, typing
texdoc geometry opens a PDF document...
We learned in this chapter about the benefits of LaTeX; soon, it will be our turn to use the virtues of LaTeX to achieve the best possible results. Furthermore, we covered installing, editing, and using LaTeX, both locally on your computer and online in the cloud.
Now that we've got a functional and tested LaTeX system, we're ready to write our own LaTeX documents. In the next chapter, we will talk about formatting text in detail.