Latex FAQ

This document is meant for current IPS students at The Ohio State University to get them started with working in LaTeX. Rohit Aggarwal and Rahul Srivastava compiled this list.

What is LaTeX

LaTeX is a document preparation system for high-quality typesetting. It is most often used for medium-to-large technical or scientific documents but it can be used for almost any form of publishing (articles, conference papers, journal papers, letters, presentations etc.). It is developed by an open-source group called LaTeX-project.

Installing LaTex

LaTeX comes along with most Linux systems (Ubuntu, Red Hat, Debian, etc.). However, if you wish to install from scratch, we recommend Tex Live.

To install LaTeX on PCs running Microsoft OS we recommend the proTeXt system. This allows you to install a full TeX system, including LaTeX, while reading about the basics of the installation. This is a self-extracting and self-installing package. proTeXt installs:

  • MiKTeX: implementation of TeX and related programs for Windows.
  • TeXnicCenter: free open source IDE for the LaTeX typesetting language. It allows the user to type documents in LaTeX and to compile them in PDF, DVI or PS.
  • Ghostscript and GSView: for viewing PS and PDF files.

Writing documents in LaTeX

The best way to learn LaTeX is by editing an existing template. Some examples are provided by the Duke University Department of Mathematics computing pages here.

The next step is using LaTeX tutorials for more advanced editing. There are plenty of internet resources available. The most most famous of these is called "The Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX". Other resources are:

  • Emory University LaTeX help: LaTeX reference site for various commands.
  • L. Kocbach's list of Math Symbols.
  • Indian TEX Users Group Tutorial: a simple tutorial to start with LaTeX.
  • LaTeX Wikibook: a more detailed resource.
  • Dr. David Wilkins Latex Primer: quick reference for typesetting mathematics.
  • Prof. Norm Matloff's Tutorial for the Beamer and Prosper packages: tutorial on the Beamer and Prosper packages for slide making in LaTeX.

Compiling LaTeX Files

Latex files have the extension .tex. A file called code.tex can be compiled in Linux by using the following commands:

  1. Create a .dvi file:
    • latex code.tex
    • bibtex code
    • latex code.tex
    • latex code.tex
  2. dvips -tletter -Pamz -Pcmz -o code.ps code.dvi - creates a postscript file.
  3. ps2pdf code.ps - converts postscript file to a pdf file.

For machines running Windows, TeXnicCenter provides an IDE for compiling and converting the LaTeX files.

Creating .fig Files on PCs

jfig is a free graphics and diagram editor based on the FIG file format. The user-interface of jfig is based on xfig, a popular graphics editor for the X11 window system. The jfig software is written in the Java programming language and can be used on notebooks, PCs, and workstations running Windows 2000/XP, Mac OS X, OS/2, and most versions of Linux and Unix.

Converting Different Graphic Formats to .fig Files

The GNU Image Manipulation Program is a free image manipulation software for GNU/Linux and UNIX in general. It is a raster editor, which means that it performs operations directly on the pixels that make up the image, and not a vector editor. Other raster editors include Adobe Photoshop, Jasc Paintshop Pro and Microsoft Paint. Amongst other uses, GIMP can be used to convert jpeg or gif files to .fig format.

Reference Manager for LaTeX

JabRef is an open source bibliography reference manager. The native file format used by JabRef is BibTeX, the standard LaTeX bibliography format. JabRef runs on the Java VM (version 1.5 or newer), and should work equally well on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

GUI for LaTeX

LyX is an open source graphical interface, nearly WYSIWYG, to the LaTeX word processing package. One can use it either to import/export LaTeX files (.tex) files, or else just remain in the LyX domain (.lyx files). In the latter case, the processing is still done by LaTeX, but transparently to the user. LyX combines the power and flexibility of TeX/LaTeX with the ease of use of a graphical interface.

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