Introduction to LATEX

Introduction to LATEX

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0237-3.ch013
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Professionals and students in scientific fields need to write technical manuscripts such as white papers, technical reports, journal articles, conference papers, dissertations, and theses. LATEX (pronounced “lay-tech,” “lay-TEX,” or “lah-tech”) is a state-of-the-art typesetting system that is ideal for preparing such documents (Lamport, 1994). Note that LATEX is usually typeset with special positioning of the letters “A” and “E,” but throughout this work we write it as LATEX because in the fonts used in this book writing all capital letters looks better than trying to write LATEX the way that it is supposed to be written, and similarly, for TEX which is usually written with a special positioning of the letter “E.”
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LATEX is based on the TEX-typesetting system developed by Donald Knuth (Knuth, 1984). The output from LATEX’s math and display math modes is superior to other formatters for mathematical expressions, equations, and formulas. LATEX includes resources for properly producing mathematical statements such as equations and theorems. This complete typesetting system affords the user superb output and total control of the appearance of the output. LATEX has many advantages such as

  • Produces excellent quality output

  • Is ideal for typesetting all forms of mathematics

  • Is a publishing industry standard

  • Allows for maximum flexibility and user control

  • Was designed with quality in mind

  • Is easy-to-use and customize

  • Has many extensions to provide typesetting for nearly all situations (Goossens, 1999)

LATEX is also available on nearly all computing systems. The reader may need to consult with a “local guru” to learn the mechanics of using a specific system.

Becoming an expert with LATEX takes time because of the wealth of features this typesetting system supports. But, it is more satisfying for the novice to see some output quickly rather than to spend too much time studying the numerous features. In the next few sections we show the user how to get started in producing LATEX documents. We include several common features to familiarize the user with LATEX code. Later sections will handle specific items such as the following:

  • LATEX environments

  • Style files

  • Labeling items, and

  • Referencing

Typesetting other items such as figures and tables will be presented later. For a good general reference we recommend Lamport’s LATEX: A Document Preparation System (Lamport, 1994). To learn about the many extensions to LATEX, the reader is referred to The LATEX Companion (Goossens, 1999). This chapter contains a basic introduction to LATEX, but the reader may find these references helpful, as they are quite comprehensive.


Essential Concepts

Command-Syntax Overview

Commands in LATEX are case sensitive and begin with the backslash character, \. The commands usually have descriptive names. Because the backslash is a special LATEX character, a LATEX command is required in order to display backslash properly in the output. Be careful, the escape character in LATEX is not the backslash. Using two successive backslash characters, \\, forces a newline. To produce the backslash character in the output one uses the command


or in math mode one uses the


command. We discuss math mode in the section on environments.

Some commands require parameters, which must be specified inside of curly braces, { }. Many commands allow for optional parameters, which are enclosed in square brackets, [ ], and follow the command name. The documentclass command is an example of a command that has optional parameters, for example, the general syntax for this command is as follows:


Options for commands are comma separated. Here style refers to a specific document style, and this concept is discussed in more depth in the section titled Basic-Document Structure.

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