David Richeson

Associate Professor of Mathematics  


A Quick Introduction to LaTeX


What is LaTeX?

LaTeX is a mathematics typesetting program that is the standard for most professional mathematical writing. It is based on the typeseting program TeX created by Donald Knuth of Stanford University (his first version appeared in 1978). Leslie Lamport was responsible for creating LaTeX, a more user friendly version of TeX. A team of LaTeX programmers created the current version, LaTeX2e.

How do I pronounce LaTeX?

Usually it is pronounced "LAY teck" or "LAH teck." It is never pronounced "LAY tex" (like the rubber in doctors' gloves).

Can I see an example?

Here is a typical LaTeX file: sample.tex (in order to typeset this file you will also need the file saddle.pdf). The final product is sample.pdf. This file contains many of the typical ingredients in a mathematics paper.

How do I start?

Here's a template you can use. It contains a lot of the basic header info (you should uncomment those pieces that you would like to use) template.tex.

How do find the Latex code for a particular mathematical symbol?

Most LaTeX software has a menu of commmonly used symbols; using this is probably the easiest option. There are many resources online. Use Detexify to draw your symbol and see the code for it. Or use the following applet to generate the LaTeX code for some mathematical expressions.

Where can I find more information?

There are many LaTeX resources (both on the web and in print). Here are a few links to information on the web.

Where do I get LaTeX?

There are freeware, shareware and commercial packages available for various computer platforms. We provide links to a few of them below.

  • TeXShop (recommended)
    Easy to use
    Won the Apple Design award in 2002
    Need to download LaTeX engine separately (MacTeX). Follow instructions on TexShop page.
  • iTeXMac
    OSX only
    TeXShop spin-off, much more customizable
    Need to download LaTeX engine separately
  • OzTeX
    Any Mac OS
    LaTeX engine included
    Needs separate text editor (such as AlphaX or BBEdit)

Other links: TeX on Mac OSX, Mac LaTeX web site

  • TeXnicCenter
    Need to download the LaTeX engine separately (MicTeX - install MicTex first, then TeXnicCenter)

MathType (the people who make Word's equation editor) produce TexAide - (free) software that automatically generates LaTeX code that can be pasted in to a LaTeX document.

  • teTeX - a Tex distribution for Unix compatible systems
  • NTeX - A Tex distribution for Unix
  • TeX Live

LaTeX can be run from the command line or directly from Emacs

For a more complete list of products see the following page on the AMS web site.