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LaTeX for PartIII Students


Part III essays in LaTeX
What is LaTeX?
TeX and LaTeX
Processing a TeX/LaTeX document
Learning LaTeX
Example file for download

Part III essays in LaTeX

Microsoft Word includes Equation Editor for entering mathematical expressions. Symbols are selected from menus using the mouse or keyboard shortcuts and new users can quickly learn how to produce quite sophisticated expressions.

LaTeX (rhymes with trek) is a computer "language" used for producing very high quality printed output. It is widely used by the research community and is particularly good for producing scientific reports and books containing mathematical formulae. You should consider learning LaTeX if you intend to go on to do research in mathematics,

There is no requirement to use a mathematical typesetting package like LaTeX, although many students do so. If the LaTeX package is used, then usually all that is required are the simple basic features of the package.

What is LaTeX?

LaTeX is a markup language in which formatting is specified using special commands inserted in the text. A LaTeX file can be prepared using any text editor such as emacs or notepad, or even with Word if the file is saved in Text Only format.

Commands are available to select different fonts (e.g bold, italic, enlarged etc.), specify section headings, indents, bulleted lists and much, much more. For example, to use italic font for emphasis, type

    \emph{These words to be emphasised}, but these are not.

The \emph command affects all the words enclosed in the {} braces.

LaTeX provides a large number of environments for producing particular types of formatted output. For example the "tabbing" environment is provided for laying out text in column form. The text to be formatted is typed in between "\begin{tabbing}" and "\end{tabbing}" commands.

TeX and LaTeX

TeX has been available since the early eighties. The author, Donald Knuth, set out to use computers to produce mathematical output as good as any skilled typesetter's. Knuth's book, The TeXbook, is a comprehensive description of the TeX system, but much of the book is incomprehensible to beginners.

LaTeX, written by Leslie Lamport, is a more recent development (1985) which improves on TeX in many ways. It provides numerous commands which specify what type of "object" is to be formatted and takes care of the fine detail of how to format the output. For example, the LaTeX \section command automatically calculates a new section number and formats the section heading using a suitable larger character size. Although it is possible to achieve the same results using TeX, you will need to be a real TeXpert to do so!

LaTeX is supplied with a large number of standard "packages" such as the graphics package which allows you to incorporate in a LaTeX document pictures produced by other software.

Processing a TeX/LaTeX document

There are several steps involved in TeX processing:

  1. Create an "input" file containing the TeX/LaTeX statements. The file should be given a name ending in ".tex" to indicate that it contains TeX or LaTeX statements.

  2. Use the latex program to generate a "DeVice-Independent" DVI file which can be previewed or printed. This file will have the same name as the TeX file, except ".tex" is replaced with ".dvi".

  3. If the tex processor reports serious errors go back to step (1) and make corrections.

  4. Preview the .dvi output on the screen using xdvi (UNIX) or windvi (Windows). If the output is not satisfactory go back to step (1) and make improvements.

  5. Print the file using dvips (UNIX) or windvi (Windows).

The above steps can be carried out using your favourite text editor to create the input file, and then starting the various programs from a command window, for example (using linux):

      vi article.tex
      latex article.tex
      xdvi article.dvi
      dvips -Pcms_b_lj article.dvi

Alternatively you can use a TeX shell: software which integrates the editing and processing phases, to make it easier to carry out the steps described above. On PWF-linux, the emacs editor can be configured to start up latex and xdvi. For Windows see these instructions for using WinEdt.

Learning LaTeX

The University Computing Service runs an introduction to LaTeX course.

The following books are recommended:

LaTeX User's Guide and Reference Manual

        Leslie Lamport.
        Addison Wesley.

Written by the author of LaTeX. Make sure you have the LaTeX 2e 1994 edition.

A Guide to LaTeX 2e

        Kopka and Daly.
        Addison Wesley.

For advanced users (and beginners too).

Math Into LaTeX: an introduction to LaTeX and AMS-LaTeX

        George Gratzer
        Birkhuser, 1996

On-line documentation is available at:

Example file for download

A very simple example of a LaTeX input file, together with a figure and bibliography, and the corresponding .dvi file is available for download:

Please check that the file-name extensions are correct after downloading as some browsers alter extensions silently.