LaTeX
September 26, 2014
Mark Senn

LaTeX is a high-quality software system with features designed for the production of technical and scientific documents. It is especially good at typesetting mathematics. It is free and is available for a very wide range of computers and operating systems. LaTeX can print on a wide variety of output devices or make PDF files for letters, articles, proposals, reports, books, etc. LaTeX automatically takes care of margins, fonts, spacing, numbering, hyphenation, cross referencing, citing references, etc. so you can concentrate on the content, instead of the appearance, of your document.

History

Donald Knuth wrote the TeX computer typesetting system because he wasn't happy with the typesetting for his The Art of Computer Programming series of books. The first The TeXbook was published in 1984.

Leslie Lamport wrote LaTeX to make it easier to use TeX. LaTeX is a large collection of TeX command definitions. The first LaTeX: A Document Preparation System book was published in 1986.

Preparing LaTeX Input Files for Any Computer

You need to know what to type in LaTeX input files. This is the same for all computers.

Beginning LaTeX

The Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX 2e is a free 171 page introduction to LaTeX. Latest version information: Version 5.01, April 6, 2011.

LaTeX: A Document Preparation System is a 288 page easy-to-read book. Purdue libraries paper book. Amazon.com paper book. Latest version information: second edition, 1994.

I gave this Beginning LaTeX talk. Ignore any email addresses and web addresses in it, they probably need updating. Latest version information: October 7, 2004.

Intermediate LaTeX

The free Short Math Guide for LaTeX is a free 17 page summary of the essential features in LaTeX for writing math formulas. This is not a listing of everything available but a careful selection of the LaTeX commands that are especially recommended for authors' use. Latest version information: Version 1.09, March 22, 2002.

Advanced LaTeX

The Guide to LaTeX is 624 pages long. Contains complete description of LaTeX fundamentals and describes some important extension packages. It can be used to learn LaTeX, but I suggest you try the web pages first. Purdue Libraries paper book. Amazon.com paper book. Safari Books Online. Latest version information: fourth edition, 2004.

The LaTeX Companion is 1120 pages long. It contains complete description of LaTeX fundamentals and provides in-depth coverage of many extension packages. Purdue Libraries book listing. Amazon.com book listing. Safari Books Online. Latest version information: second edition, 2004.

The User's Guide for the amsmath Package is 40 pages long. The amsmath package is used for typesetting complicated equations and special math symbols. See the FAQ in case of problems. Latest version information: Version 2.0, February 25, 2002.

More Math into LaTeX is 652 pages long. Amazon.com book listing. Latest version information: fourth edition, 2007.

The Comprehensive TeX Archive Network (CTAN) is the authoritative place to find LaTeX-related material for download. If your LaTeX doesn't download missing files automatically, you can search CTAN for any missing files. You can also search CTAN to find LaTeX packages for special purposes.

The LaTeX Graphics Companion is 976 pages of everything you'll ever want to know about how to do graphics in LaTeX. Purdue libraries paper book. Amazon.com paper book listing. Latest version information: second edition, 2008 (was really done in 2007).

Other compatible software

I've been very happy with this LaTeX-compatible software:
NameDescription
MetaPost  an external program that makes PDF-compatible graphics files
Mathematica  an external program that makes PDF-compatible graphics files
PGF/tikz  a sophisticated and complete language to define graphics inside of LaTeX files

Other software should be compatible too. I have either

More Lists of Links

LaTeX documentation
LaTeX Resources

Running LaTeX on a Specific Computer

You need to know how to run LaTeX on the computer you're going to use. The procedure is a little different depending on which computer is used.

Click on the link that describes where you will be using LaTeX:

Resources From Purdue

See How To Request LaTeX Help for information on how to get help.

The free puthesis document class can be used for Purdue theses and dissertations.

Sometimes (nothing is scheduled at the moment) the Engineering Computer Network presents LaTeX-related short courses at Purdue's West Lafayette IN campus. Course schedules and notes are available on the web.

Resources From Outside Purdue

The Comprehensive TeX Archive Network (CTAN) web site is the authoritative collection of materials related to the TeX [and LaTeX] typesetting system.

The LaTeX Community web site is an alternative to several out-dated mailing lists.

The LaTeX Project home page is maintained by the people who work on LaTeX.

On Twitter, follow @TeXtip for simple LaTeX information and @StackTeX for advanced LaTeX information.

Revised: September 26, 2014
Created: May 30, 2003