An Introduction to TeX

This page is meant to be a simple introduction to students interested in learning more about TeX. The links and advice below are collected by Scripps seniors who have been there and done that, and is not endorsed by the Scripps Math Department.

What is TeX?

TeX (pronounced “tech”) is a typesetting program that scientists and mathematicians use for writing dissertations or medium-sized papers, though it can be useful for many other things as well. At Scripps we use TeX for writing homework sets, senior thesis, handouts—even humanities papers, for the die-hard!

Unlike Microsoft Word or OpenOffice, TeX is not a “what you see is what you get” program—it is a mark-up language (though a fairly intuitive one) that compiles and outputs to DVI or PDF format, and then goes to print. This is because TeX was designed with the idea that authors need to concentrate on simply writing, whereas document design should be left for designers. TeX is freeware currently supported by the LaTeX3 Project.

Students can use TeX on the Scripps computers. To use it, open up PCTeX and begin your document. You can also install TeX on your computer.

Need more information?

Here are some good books introducing and explaining LaTeX:

  • Math Into LaTeX, third ed. George Gratzer, Birkhauser. 0817641319. 2000. 520 pp.
  • A Guide to LaTeX: Document Preparation for Beginners and Advanced Users, third edition. Helmut Kopka & Patrick W. Daly. Addison-Wesley. 0201398257. 1999. 600 pp.

You can find these books and others at the Claremont libraries.

Online Support

Going online is probably the best way to go for learning TeX. The following links are useful for installation and online documentation:

  • The Comprehensive LaTeX Symbols List: This is “the one document every LaTeX user should have.” The latest version is always available at this link.
  • A Hitchiker’s Guide to LaTex: a useful primer on TeX and LaTex and gets you started with the basics.
  • Using BIBTeX to Create a Bibliography: a very short introduction to using BIBTeX.
  • Google: Laugh now, but “Google knows TeX!” Usually if you just type in what you’re looking for, it should be within the first few results.
  • The TeX Help Center. If you go to “help” in PCTeX or any TeX compiler, there is much online documentation and support on getting started with TeX as well as advanced information. Especially if you make use of the Index and Search engines in these documents.
  • TeXnic Center: Windows users, this is a very useful TeX compiler for beginners and advanced users! The installation is very easy — just be sure to install the recommended MiKTeX. Should you still be having trouble installing, did you try doing this?
  • TeXShop: This is a wonderful compiler for Mac users, also with a simple installation and whatnot. Enjoy!