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Tell me about LaTeX

dexterdexter Registered User regular
edited August 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
I'm a math physics major and I've been advised to get familiar with this program LaTeX. Let me say in advance that I am not a "computer person". I googled "LaTeX" and I swear to god I didn't even understand how to download the bloody thing... So I'd be looking to type up lab reports with a whole bunch of math, and further on down the road I'll be writing research papers and an Honors thesis and so on. Looks like I need a whole bunch of stuff and know how to use this LaTeX business.
Please PA, help me, you are my only hope!

EDIT: Seriously, how do I download this thing? WHAT am I downloading even? There are a whole bunch of different types? Thanks, guys!

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dexter on

Posts

  • FuzzywhaleFuzzywhale Registered User regular
    edited August 2011
    I did math and physics in undergrad as well. I would say it's pretty essential to learn latex. It was rough to start, but it pays off in the end.

    If you are on windows, I recommend using the TeXnicCenter frontend http://www.texniccenter.org/. It has buttons to press which I found eased me into learning all of the commands. If you are on a Mac, I use TeXshop http://pages.uoregon.edu/koch/texshop/.

    As a basic sort of reference sheet, I referred to (and still do sometimes) this page that Trinity college in Dublin has: http://www.maths.tcd.ie/~dwilkins/LaTeXPrimer/

    Here are some slides from a postgraduate skills talk I attended. They are kind of helpful. http://www.icms.org.uk/downloads/pgcourses/zachary.pdf

    Good Luck!

    Fuzzywhale on
  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo We are only now beginning to understand the full power and ramifications of sexual intercourse Registered User regular
    Installing LaTeX is the hardest part about using it.

    Download the latest version of MikTeX and then follow one of the many tutorials. You can use a front end like TeXnicCentre is you like, but in my experience, they just make everything more difficult than it needs to be.

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • k-mapsk-maps I wish I could find the Karnaugh map for love. 2^<3Registered User regular
    I'm currently an undergrad and have extensively used LaTeX for my math/physics/cs classes. In my experience LaTeX is easiest to install on Linux. All you have to do is get the texlive package and some editor and then you're pretty much set. And if you're using Linux, I strongly recommend that you use Gummi as an editor. It's not a WYSWYG per se, but instead it gives you instant feedback by showing you the pdf output in a separate window. If you have to use Windows/Mac I would second MikTex and TeXShop respectively. The best way to learn, as is with any programming/markup languages is to just use it a lot while keeping a good reference http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/LaTeX) handy. It will take some time, but it will be well worth the investment when your professors collectively jizz upon seeing your beautifully formatted homework. In the long run, as Mojo_Jojo said, while it is tempting to use a front end with a sophisticated GUI it is generally easier/faster to get what you want if you just learn the raw markup language. Also, http://detexify.kirelabs.org/classify.html will save you hours of googling.

  • mr_michmr_mich Mmmmagic. MDRegistered User regular
    If I remember correctly, I had a Notepad++ plugin that worked wonders in undergrad.

    As mentioned, LaTex will not only make your work prettier, it will make your life easier. Being able to easily in-line greek symbols, subscripts, and exponents is a huge boon. Once you write your first assignment you'll easily grasp the stuff.

  • Akilae729Akilae729 Registered User regular
    If you're on the Mac I'll second that TexShop is the way to go. (That coupled with BibDesk)

    I use ONLY LaTex for scientific publications and it really simplifies things. Most journals and such have their own LaTex templates already made and LaTex also makes it easy to juggle hundreds of references.

    The best way to lear is to just get someone else's paper and play around with it.

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  • dexterdexter Registered User regular
    Thanks a lot, dudes! This is goign reasonably well. Do I need to download any other packages once I have miktex? Is there anything specific I'll need for writing math? I'm still going through a tutorial for now so haven't started writing math yet.

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  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo We are only now beginning to understand the full power and ramifications of sexual intercourse Registered User regular
    The problem with LaTeX for papers is that it's hard to get feedback from your coauthors and if you have to switch journal, you end up rewriting it. That said, Word is hardly better.
    dexter wrote:
    Thanks a lot, dudes! This is goign reasonably well. Do I need to download any other packages once I have miktex? Is there anything specific I'll need for writing math? I'm still going through a tutorial for now so haven't started writing math yet.
    Generally, you'll find yourself wanting to do something and not knowing how. Googling it will reveal the package you need. It will then install itself when you include it. It's simple.

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • SyphyreSyphyre A Dangerous Pastime Registered User regular
    The Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX 2e

    http://tobi.oetiker.ch/lshort/lshort.pdf

    This was recommended to me back in college, and still stands up as a good tutorial today. I'm not certain how far it goes into packages and all that, but it goes heavily into syntax, etc.

  • ecco the dolphinecco the dolphin Registered User regular
    I used LyX as a front end to LaTeX to write my thesis.

    LyX is a nice GUI that generates LaTeX output for you, which will cover most of the cases that you'll likely need. For those cases where it doesn't, you can also manually insert LaTeX straight into your document.

    The other nice thing about it was that it also has a GUI interface for formula insertion - useful for when you've forgotten how to bring up a particular symbol.

    Penny Arcade Developers at PADev.net.
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