LaTeX is a markup language and document preparation system. A LaTeX file can be created in any text editor, and then parsed by a TeX typesetting system to create an output document. LaTeX is widely used by mathematicians, physicists, engineers, and, in fact, most researchers in academia to prepare scientific reports, papers and books.

You can quickly create LaTeX documents online in a ShareLaTeX account. (By the way, you can optionally use your Google credentials to open such an account which is very convenient!). Personal accounts, with up to one collaborator, are free. This system has everything installed and ready to go, just log in and type away to create a document and compile it into a PDF.

If you use LaTeX on a regular basis then we recommend installing it onto your computer.

  1. First, get a TeX typesetting system (they are free):
    • For Windows try proTeXt. It also installs helpful programs like TeXnic Center editor and Ghostscript.
    • For Mac OS X use MacTeX
    • For Linux/Unix use TeXLive
  2. Pick an editor. Any text editor would do, but some have nice dedicated features such as syntax highlighting, and shortcuts to automatically typeset your documents. Here are some more beginner-friendly ones: Google "LaTeX editors" to learn about other choices.
  3. Keep a reference handy. For instance LateX Wiki, or this LaTeX cheat sheet.

Startup guides

  • Here is an introductory page from TeX Users Group. It has links to many resources and tutorials including Spoken video tutorial on LaTeX
  • Not so short intro to LaTeX is, indeed, not excessively short, but overall very concise and one of the best references available. If you wish to immediately get to basic examples, then start at section 1.3 "Latex Input Files".