Installing (La)TeX for Free

If you're starting from scratch, the basic setup is this:

  1. Download and install Ghostscript (and Ghostview if you want it) first. This is OPTIONAL, but suggested. You don't need this if you just use pdflatex, but get it to keep your options open.
  2. Then download and install MikTeX ... this can take awhile.
  3. Then download and install an editor. This too is OPTIONAL because the MikTeX distribution includes a simple editor and previewer. I listed some additional full featured editors below. There are many free editors and you should try a few before you settle on one.

For Linux, you want to use Tex Live. I also like Kile as an editor. If you flew in here on a Mac, go to the MacTeX page.


Get MikTeX and install it. MikTeX is simple to install - just go to the MikTeX Homepage and download a (basic system or complete system) setup wizard. The basic system is a quick set-up that automatically pulls packages off the internet as you need them. This should be fine for most users.

Is there an alternative to MikTeX? Yes- it's called TeX Live.

NOTE: The MiKTeX installation now includes TeXworks, which is an editor and a pdf reader/previewer. So basically, all you need to start pdflaTeXing is MiKTeX. If you're just starting out, then this should be fine ... for awhile. However, my suggestion is to get one of the TexMakers and SumatraPDF-TeX instead of using TeXworks.

After paying hundreds of dollars for TeX, Buckwheat finds out
it's all free.
Follow these instructions and you'll be free TeXing in no time.


NOTE: Most TeX editors do NOT make automatic backups (for some reason I can't think of), so I suggest you manually backup a file before you start to edit it. If you don't, then chances are you will learn to do it the HARD way. I think TexMaker can be configured to make backups... hopefully other editors will follow. TexMaker and TexMakerX come with a built-in previewer (called Okular) that is pretty good, but it doesn't render graphics very well. A better option is to get SumatraPDF. It is small and you can use it as general pdf reader instead of acrobat. You can easily configure many editors to use it; see this page for Configuring editors with SumatraPDF. Some editors allow inverse search, but it is specific to the editor... an internet search on "inverse search [name of my editor]" will do the trick.


more ...

A NOTE ON FONTS: Most of these editors use fixed width or monospace fonts, and while the monospace fonts that come with Windows are better than they used to be, I still use Bitstream Vera Sans Mono in all my editors. It is very good in that it is easy on the eyes and it's easy to distinguish between similar looking characters such as "l" , "1" , "i" and "o" , "0" , "O".

If you came down here looking for additional LaTeX fonts, you can find information about them at The LaTeX Font Catalogue.



I recommend that you get Ghostscript. You can decide if you want Ghostview, see below for details.

On Ghostview (technically, the windows version is called GSview), there's a nag for money every time you start it up. Just click OK and it will work fine or register with 22646674 - 22347. The bottom line here is you don't NEED GSview. In the previous century, dvi previewers didn't display graphics, so you had to use Ghostview if you wanted to view your entire document, graphics and text. But now, dvi previewers display everything or you can compile directly to a pdf file using pdftex. So, if you want to be able to get a quick view of a postscript (.ps or .eps) file, then get GSview and get nagged (some pdf readers will open .eps files).


Spell check for TeX:

This is an old topic... most 21st century editors check spelling. Aspell is still around (but old), and if you need additional dictionaries, you can use the ones from Open Office:
TeXnicCenter and TexMaker (and perhaps others) use the spelling engine of OpenOffice and you can download dictionaries for it, if necessary. The dictionary files are archives with an .oxt extension. If you have something like 7-zip (free), you can expand it. If not, just change .oxt to .zip and use the archiver that comes with Windoze. You'll need 2 files, the .dic AND the .aff file. Put them in a convenient location and then configure the editor so it knows where those files live.


Using LaTeX in Presentations

Use BEAMER and forget the other stuff, especially powerpoint. How do you get started?

First, go here BEAMER CLASS EXAMPLES and download the first example,example-1.tex. Compile the file and MikTeX will automatically download everything it needs to compile the file if it is not there already (assuming you let MikTeX install what it needs on the fly - this is set in the MikTeX Options). Play around with the file... make some minor changes and compile it again until you feel comfortable with what you're doing.

Then go back to website and download each of the other example-x.tex files, play with them ... add or change some things ... and compile them. By the time you're done, you'll have a pretty good idea of how to work the beamer machine. If you still need help, google "beamer" and you'll find all sorts of examples. Other good sources are the User Guide and some useful examples, both of which are pdf files.

BUT, if you MUST use PowerPoint (you'll need Ghostscript for these) ...

Then use Iguana Tex. I've tried it and it works like a charm.

Here's another free alternative: MyTeXPoint.

If you want to BUY something like Iguana Tex or MyTeXPoint, which are free, then check out TeXPoint using an internet search. TeXPoint was abandoned in 2010, although the site is still up and I guess you can still buy it. Better yet, use a free alternative and donate to the maintainer of MikTeX. I have some old versions of TeXPoint from when it was free:

For office XP or 2002, get TP2002-203.msi and for office 2003 get TP2003-203.msi. In case these don't do it for you, a very old version (1.5.4) that supposedly works for all versions of ppt: TP154.msi.
:::::::::::::::::::::::: BE COOL - USE BEAMER ::::::::::::::::::::::::::


Providing CODE in Your Documents

After trying various methods, I think the best way to include code in a document is to use the package called Listings. I might provide more info on this eventually, but for now, the Wiki LaTeX Book has a nice page on using the package. MikTeX will install it, if necessary, when you put \usepackage{listings} in the preamble.

Math, TeX and HTML

Javascript method: MathJax:

Here's what you can do. Inline math is kewl, \(X_t = \int_{-\pi}^\pi e^{i\omega t}dZ(\omega)\). Even blackboard bold works: Let \(\{X_t;\, t\in \mathbb Z \}\) be stationary. Then some display: \[ \int_0^\infty \frac{x^3}{e^x-1}\,dx = \frac{\pi^4}{15} \] This is easy to use- just a line in your head (of your web page) does the trick. Try it, your friends will be amazed. If you want to see the code for this stuff, right click on an expression and choose "Show Math As"

For long and complicated math, I think using a pdf file is the best way to go. If you don't want to use javascript, then using html tables, you can do some complicated expressions ... the problem is that different browsers will display the expressions differently (see web math). Simple expressions such as X(t) = ∫ eiωt dZ(ω) are easy to do with HTML 4.


You say you suck at LaTeX

... and you want to learn more.
The key to getting started with LaTeX, as with most things, is to start small; do something that you can throw away. And use the internet to search on things like "latex union" to figure out how to get the symbol ... you'll pull up a couple of million sites with useful info and probably some porn.



Here are some other links to great TeX sites ...
latex lion ... find out what is up with the TeX lion and contemplate why it's wearing lipstick and has a perm and wears glasses, and why someone would associate a lion with TeX in the first place, and why the hell that damn thing is still used.