The Yossi Gil Guide
for Graduate Students
What is it? LaTeX
Lamport is a document preparation system used for writing scientific
papers and theses. LaTeX is the de-facto standard tool of scientific writing
in many disciplines. Most importantly, it is the standard of writing in
almost all fields of computer science. Almost all journals and conferences
in the field provide standardized templates for LaTeX submissions, and
many of them support no other typesetting system.
LaTeX is implemented as a macro package on top of TeX.
TeX is the creation of Professor Donald
E. Knuth in the Department of computer Science at Stanford
University. Knuth wrote TeX when he could not bring himself to terms
with the state of the art in publishing of mathematical texts which was
used for his The Art of Computer Programming book series.
LaTeX is not a word processor like (God forbid) Microsoft
Word, nor is it a text editor like Emacs
It is rather a kind of a formal language by which you describe what your
document should look like. Thus, you write your text, which includes formatting
commands (this is the formal language bit), using vi, Emacs, or your favorite
text editor (even Pico,
or even Notepad if you are on a Windows NT/95/98/2000 system). Then you
run LaTeX on your text file to produce output that looks better than that
of Microsoft Word. It is easier to run LaTeX on UNIX, but you can also
run it on Windows.
If you still do not understand what LaTeX is, try this alternative
Why use LaTeX? Getting better output is not the only reason to
use LaTeX. People have learned the hard way that Microsoft Word
and other WYSIWYG systems which are great for writing short business letters
are useless for the preparation of scientific papers. I lived to
regret every paper I tried writing in MS-Word, and I tried several.
Issues like consistent style, mathematical equations, scientific citations,
cross-references, diagrams and other such embellishments are difficult
to do in such systems and the results are often visually unpleasing. Moreover,
Word has a nasty habit of crashing on complicated documents, being incompatible
across systems etc. The rest of the WYSIWYG is not much better in these
respects. Even the new kid in town: style sheets of Word, are no
match for what you get from LaTeX.
In comparison, LaTeX never crashes! Never, ever, you heard me right!
It will never erase your document. No task is too big for it (well, almost
no task- it is extremely rare to see LaTeX complaining that its
limits were reached, and it almost always possible to make minute changes
to your input to circumvent these problems).
My graduate students invariably complain when I make them use LaTeX.
Then, after a couple of weeks of using it, they become avid converts.
See what others have to say about the philosophy
of LaTeX and why
you should use LaTeX over WYSIWYG systems.
My rules of thumb for using WYSIWYG systems:
The rationale is of course that the longer the document is, the more
likely it is to change, and the more time you spend in modifications.
One page or less: hand write a memo, and than have it printed by a secretary.
Up to two pages: do it yourself using MS-Word (for example, this
document was written with MS-Word).
More than two pages: do it yourself LaTeX. (If it is Hebrew, I usually despair, but I hear that there is
remedy with this package which works with MikTeX. )
What LaTeX versions are out there?
Quick Start for Mr. Smart: If all you quick to learn by example,
and all you want to do is figure out how to run LaTeX at the Technion,
a good starting point is my howto.tex file, which gives both sample
input and lots of tips on how to run LaTeX, proof read it, and also a bit
of advise on scientific writing.
LaTeX 2.09: The original and by now obsolete version, developed
by Leslie Lamport. Still used by many.
current version. This is the version you should be using. There
are small and
few, but quite important differences that make the transition from
the older version worth
new generation of LaTeX. Still under development and not available yet.
This is a PostScript file, ready for printing, which you should start by
reading. It was generated from the howto.tex file, but you would
be better off in reading the output of LaTeX before you set eyes on the
After checking out all the above, you probably want to copy this file:
This is the same output file as above, only in a different format, which
might be easier for some to read or view inline.
This is yet another version of the output file as above. In truth, all
that LaTeX produces is a .dvi file. It took two extra steps to
generate howto.pdf from howto.dvi.
Fortunately, these extra steps can be automated. Take a look in the file
to learn how to do this.
This is the input sample file. Take a look in it as well, since the
body includes lots and lots of tips and ideas.
cp /home/yogi/TeX/howto.tex ~/
to serve as a boilerplate for your documents.
Tiny examples, to see how it works.
a simple document: A tiny example.
silly skeleton LaTeX file
to LaTeX: A tiny example and its output.
example document and the its output, which comes as part
1 and part
PricewaterhouseCoopers Lectures: Latex for Beginners
On line tutorials (spend some time studying those):
How to LaTeX? A guide that I wrote to help graudate students, including
some local hints, and tips on how to make your documents look more professional.
from quick and dirty to style and finesse
Reference sheets (print these out and keep them handy, but you would have
to know what .dvi is first):
LaTeX by Jon Warbrick (17 pages dvi)
Mathematical LaTeX by David Carlisle (6 pages dvi)
command summary (14 pages PostScript)
References better used on line:
Help file A useful summary of the most important LaTeX2e
on LaTeX commands
Symbols in LaTeX
Tips & Tricks
to LaTeX (University of Alberta): a short list of most useful
Tutorials worth printing (to serve as text books for poor graduate students):
Started with LaTeX by D. R. Wilkins (42 Pages dvi)
Preparation With LaTeX edited by D.Budgen and S.Nelson (46
(Not So) Short Introduction to LaTeX2e: probably the best
and most comprehensive tutorial available on line. (101 pages dvi)
Introduction to LaTeX yet another long tutorial available
on line. (141 pages postscript)
Beyond the pedestrian text: Math, Graphics, and Hebrew
maths and graphics
Imported Graphics in LaTeX2e by Keith Reckdahl (86 pages
Hebrew: In general, I am not sure Hebrew support for LaTeX is mature
enough, but here are a few links which might turn useful for those of you
who must use it.
alias he 'xterm -bg black -fn "heb8x13" -fg white
-geometry 80x40 -e ~marce/bin/he.new !$ & '
Hebrew package for MikTeX, due to the efforts of
Babel A package
done at the Technion which uses the babel system of LaTeX2e.
a Hebrew editor for LaTeX by Tomer
he standing for Hebrew Editor,written
by Arie Tal, that is quite comfortable for editing Hebrew LaXeT files.
Use the following alias to activate it from Marcelo
Old, but useful material
LaTeX an old but readable tutorial dedicated to LaTeX
to TeX and Friends by Gavid Malby, November 1992, (80 pages
introduction to TeX by Michael Doob, (96 pages dvi)
Preparation With LaTeX edited by D.Budgen and S.Nelson,
(46 pages.640K PostScript)
Guide to AMSFonts
Version 1.2 User's Guide (49 pages dvi)
Imported Graphics in LaTeX2e Documents (15 pages dvi)
into LaTeX (102 pages dvi)
Running LaTeX at home.
LaTeX distribution that runs on windows 95/98/NT/2000
editor to go with MikTeX.
emTeX: Eberhard Mattes's version of TeX which works great on DOS,
OS/2 and Windows 3.1. You can easily use it on all other version of windows.
is a graphical user interface around emTeX which makes using it a snap.
LaTeX Archive if you are looking for a certain
package mentioned in the LaTeX Companion (or anywhere else), and
it is not installed in our system, this the place to start looking!
TeX Catalog Online
TeX Users Group Home Page
The Classic Books:
Leslie Lauport LaTeX - a Document Preparation System' Addison
Wesley 1975 ISBN 0-201-15790-x
The first LaTeX book, documenting LaTeX209.
Leslie Lamport LaTeX: A Document Preparation System (2nd edition).
Addison-Wesley 1994. ISBN 0-201-52983-1
Minor modifcations to describe LaTeX2e
Donald E. Knuth The TeXbook, Addison Wesley, 1986, ISBN 0-201-13447-0.
Michael Spivak The Joy of TeX (2nd Edition) Addison Wesley,
1990, ISBN 0-8218-2997-1
Describes AMS-TeX which once rivaled LaTeX by now has become a LaTeX
M. Goossens, F. Mittelbach, and A. Samarin, The LaTeX Companion
Addison-Wesley, ISBN 0-201-54199-8
Essential for the serious LaTeX hackers (you can get by without all
the other books, but not without this one!)
Guide to Latex. P., W. Daly and H. Kopka., Addison Wesley
Longman 1999. 0-201-39825-702/99
.L. Botway and C. Biemesderfer, LaTeX Command Summary, published
by the TeX Users Group, Providence, RI is a good companion.
A. Diller, LaTeX Line by Line, published by Wiley.
N. Walsh, Making
TeX Work, published by O'Reilly & Associates, ISBN 1-56592-051-1.
There are several systems that give a GUI wrap to LaTeX. I tried some of
them, and never liked them. They invariably fail for the real sophisticated
stuff, such as maintaining two versions of your manuscript in the same
file (say one for a journal and one for a conference).
LyX - a graphical front-end
to LaTeX supposedly WYSIWYM (what you see is what you meant.
Installed in the department computers. Freeware. Recommended by Tzafrir
Cohen who has been using LyX for the past year (20002001) for writing
the assignments. He says that that it does a good job as a simple front-end
to LaTeX, and is good for simple documents, although it sometimes tends
to get in the way when the need comes for special tricks. It might be good
to sart with LyX, and then export and switch to LaTeX
Java based wrapper for LaTeX. Freeware. Alpha version.
my copy represents the worst waste of $549 in my life.