The Yossi Gil Guide for Graduate Students

What is it? LaTeX by Leslie 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 or vi. 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 explanation.

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:

  1. One page or less: hand write a memo, and than have it printed by a secretary.
  2. Up to two pages: do it yourself using MS-Word (for example, this document was written with MS-Word).
  3. 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. )
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.

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. After checking out all the above, you probably want to copy this file:

cp /home/yogi/TeX/howto.tex ~/

to serve as a boilerplate for your documents.

Tiny examples, to see how it works.

  1. Producing a simple document: A tiny example.
  2. A silly skeleton LaTeX file
  3. An Introduction to LaTeX: A tiny example and its output.
  4. An example document and the its output, which comes as part 1 and part 2.
  5. The PricewaterhouseCoopers Lectures: Latex for Beginners

On line tutorials (spend some time studying those):

  1. Advanced LaTeX
  2. 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.
  3. LaTeX: 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):

  1. Essential LaTeX by Jon Warbrick (17 pages dvi)
  2. Essential Mathematical LaTeX by David Carlisle (6 pages dvi)
  3. LaTeX command summary (14 pages PostScript)

References better used on line:

  1. LaTeX2e Help file A useful summary of the most important LaTeX2e commands.
  2. Help on LaTeX commands
  3. FAQ
  4. Math Symbols in LaTeX
  5. The LaTeX Encycolpedia
  6. LaTeX Tips & Tricks
  7. Guide to LaTeX (University of Alberta): a short list of most useful commands

Tutorials worth printing (to serve as text books for poor graduate students):

  1. Getting Started with LaTeX by D. R. Wilkins (42 Pages dvi)
  2. Document Preparation With LaTeX edited by D.Budgen and S.Nelson (46 pages dvi)
  3. The (Not So) Short Introduction to LaTeX2e: probably the best and most comprehensive tutorial available on line. (101 pages dvi)
  4. Simplified Introduction to LaTeX yet another long tutorial available on line. (141 pages postscript)

Beyond the pedestrian text: Math, Graphics, and Hebrew

  1. LATEX maths and graphics
  2. Math into LaTeX
  3. Using Imported Graphics in LaTeX2e by Keith Reckdahl (86 pages PostScript)
  4. 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 !$ & '

Old, but useful material

  1. Introducing LaTeX an old but readable tutorial dedicated to LaTeX
  2. Introduction to TeX and Friends by Gavid Malby, November 1992, (80 pages dvi)
  3. Gentle introduction to TeX by Michael Doob, (96 pages dvi)
  4. Document Preparation With LaTeX edited by D.Budgen and S.Nelson, (46 pages.640K PostScript)

AMSLaTeX

  1. Users Guide to AMSFonts
  2. Ams-LaTeX Version 1.2 User's Guide (49 pages dvi)
  3. Using Imported Graphics in LaTeX2e Documents (15 pages dvi)
  4. Math into LaTeX (102 pages dvi)

Running LaTeX at home.

  1. MikTeX: A LaTeX distribution that runs on windows 95/98/NT/2000
  2. WinEdt editor: An editor to go with MikTeX.
  3. 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. emTeXGI is a graphical user interface around emTeX which makes using it a snap.

Useful links

  1. TeX FAQ
  2. TeX Meta-FAQ
  3. CTAN 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!
  4. The TeX Catalog Online
  5. TeX Users Group Home Page
  6. lATEX chAT

The Classic Books:

Other books:

GUI Tools:

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).