What is LaTeX?

LaTeX is a document markup language (as groff/troff and html languages are) for representing structured documents. LaTeX, initially designed and implemented by Leslie Lamport in 1994, is based on Donald E.Knuth's work The TeXbook, (1984) and is essentially a collection of TeX macros.

TeX is a high quality typesetting program offering extensive desktop publishing features and automation, such as numbering and cross-referencing, tables and figures, detailed page layout, bibliographies, and indexing. Also, TeX/LaTeX is the only VIABLE tool for creating high quality documents that contain mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering notations. Furthermore, TeX/LaTeX documents can be easily converted into output that is ADA/508 compliant (e.g. MathML). Among many other applications, LaTeX can be also used for professional music typesetting. Here is one example of such use. The corresponding source code is in ascii and contains only markup language commands.

In contrast to most word processors, where one sees the document more or less as it will look when printed, LaTeX focuses on the meaning of what is being written without distractions by the visual presentation of the information. Finally, Open Source TeX/LaTeX is a professional typesetting and publishing tool (used by major publishing houses) that is free to use and/or to modify.

Links to LaTeX tutorials

Downloading TeX/LaTeX

There are many ways to download TeX/LaTeX. For example, TeX User Site Group is a good way to start, regardless of a computer platform used. And here is the link to my tutorial LaTeX, MathML, Tex4ht that provides detailed instructions on how to download TeX/LaTeX from the CSUN site.

Mac users can go directly to the section 9 of the above tutorial:
Download and Installation instructions for Mac platform,

while Windows users are directed to section 10:
Download and Installation instructions for Windows platform,

Initially, the additional downloading options in sections 9.1-9.2, as well as in sections 10.1-10.2, of the above tutorial can skipped.

And here are Installation instructions for Linux platform.

Samples of LaTeX source files

Try this sample first. The next one is equally simple. This file contains a bit of mathematics expressions. Finally, the last two samples present more advanced use of LaTeX: Formula gallery and complete mathematics article. Try them! For additional reading materials go to section 6 of my tutorial: First steps with LaTeX, where I also suggest several graphical front-ends for LaTeX. These front-ends simplify greatly the use of LaTeX for the beginners. Section 6 also lists additional links to tutorials and books on LaTeX.