Geoffrey Hunter


LCB 305
(801) 581-6851


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Learn about LaTeX
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LaTeX ("Lay-TEK" or "Lah-TEK") is a typesetting program that allows authors to format documents easily --- including formatting mathematical symbols and equations. I can't begin to tell you how much I love LaTeX. I use LaTeX at least six hours every day for lecture notes, assignments, reports, summary notes, lesson planning, etc. For those of you who are not Mathies, but rather, are from the sciences, languages, arts, etc. you'll still find LaTeX to be a wonderful tool to use. Imagine formatting your documents once (and only once) then forgetting about formatting for the rest of your careers. If you're creative enough you can customize everything. For example, I took a Biology course at one time and we were given very strict guidelines for presenting lab reports (for those of you who are taking labs you'll know what I mean). After I got the requirements for formatting our reports, I went home and spent about 30 min making a package for lab reports and never had to worry about formatting again. Consequently, I never got any marks taken off for formatting (I usually loose marks for small formatting mistakes). The only drawback to learning LaTeX is that you have to learn LaTeX.

For those who don't know what LaTeX is, I encourage you to do a Google search and learn as much about it as you can. Although LaTeX can look a little daunting to learn ("There's too much 'code' ") it's really quite easy to learn. In fact, I've become so accustomed to LaTeX now that I have a hard time using MS Word. To help you learn LaTeX, I recommend reading "A Guide To LaTeX" by: H. Kopka & P.W. Daly (~$50 USD). For the most part it's a great book, however, there are some small things that aren't quite clear and/or are hidden in among the book. Overall, I strongly recommend reading it. For more experienced users, you can read the (sometimes incomplete and absent) documentation that comes with the class and package files. To find these files, you can look on the web, or look for .ps, .pdf, and .dvi files in your hard drive that have the package/class name as the file name (i.e. amsmath.dvi,, article.pdf).

I know some people look at LaTeX documents (the tex files, not the postscript files) and say, "There's too much code!!". I'm a firm believer that there's no good excuse not to do anything, so to help your learning go faster, use Miktex source files (the Windows version of LaTeX) and WinEdt (for Windows systems)--- a very customizable program that you can use to make all kinds of different files, including LaTeX, HTML, txt, etc. WinEdt is fabulous to use in that it colors your text, has a spell checker, and can be customized up the yin-yang for all of your needs. For example, I've made some popup menus that appear with some keyboard combinations, and, in turn, these menu items load files, LaTeX tags, etc. You can do a lot more customization with WinEdt than you can with MS Word.

Now, in the spirit of LaTeX and open source code, I'm including a LaTeX package and template that I use all the time for my work in the links below. The following files are always evolving, so I will try and update them when I can. To install the packages in Windows systems, just download, and extract it to C:\texmf\tex\latex (i.e. where the LaTeX packages are stored). If you're using WinEdt you'll need to go to Accessories -> MikTeX Options -> General Tab and click on the refresh MikTeX packages button. I use geoffMath.tex as a default template for all my tex documents (users of WinEdt can make their own templates so that files like geoffMath.tex load whenever a certain style of document is chosen). Included in "" is my theorem definition file, which needs to be put in the ntheorem directory of your source files (this will overwrite the default file, so you should copy the old file before replacing it).

There are 3 more things that will make your LaTeX life easier. The first two are Ghostscript and Ghostview, both of which can be obtained at Use these programs to look at post script documents and eps pictures. Furthermore, you should have a program that converts your image files (i.e. jpeg files) into eps files. Unix users don't have to worry about this (because they have gif2eps and jpeg2eps built in). Windows users can use a graphics program (i.e. see Adobe and Macromedia software). You can also opt for a cost free program called jpeg2eps, which coverts jpeg files into eps files. Download this program, extract it to a directory of your choosing, and run the program that comes packaged with it.

If you'd like any help/advise setting things up, feel free to ask. The only think I ask is that you don't make me your code monkey ;-)








This page was last updated on: September 8, 2006
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