Get Started with LaTeX

latex_handoutBy now, you’re convinced that writing your documents using LaTeX is the way to go. Your papers, presentations, and even homework assignments will look publication-ready with its fancy headers, section numbering, and beautifully typeset mathematical equations. You’re ready to make the leap from MS Word, but how do you begin?

First, you have to decide between online versus offline use. There are pros and cons to each, but the major difference is if you plan to have internet access while you’re working on your documents.

Certainly if you don’t want the hassle of downloading the software and choosing an editor, go with one of the web options (all of these allow for collaborative writing as well):

  • writeLaTeX — instant updating of your new content or edits
  • ShareLaTeX — watch your collaborators type (like google docs)
  • Authorea — version control through git

But if you do want your own installation, start with downloading the right software distribution for your operating system here and follow the instructions to install. You should allow for at least 30 minutes for the whole process. Factors to consider: internet speed, size of the software (varies), speed of your computer, etc.

You may notice that your distribution may or may not come with a starter editor, which is your interface to writing. For example, MacTeX comes with TeXShop. You’re not obligated to use it and you are free to choose whatever editor you want. You may already be using an editor to code in other languages; e.g. Vim or Emacs. Check out this table for comparison.

Now you’re ready to make your first document! If you’d like a suggestion, try writing your CV/resume. I will be holding a workshop on formatting tips for your CV/resume in LaTeX on Thursday, October 30 at noon in Kresge Library. Save the date and bring your document!

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