This page does not tell you how to use LaTeX per se, because there are better and more complete sources. Rather, this document focuses on the following: (i) list sources for general information about LaTeX, (ii) give local information to complement the general information, and (iii) provide relevant examples of concrete uses of LaTeX as needed, for instance, for project reports in my courses and technical reports.
As for Point (iii), the examples are not the only way to accomplish certain tasks, but they have worked for me, and I am just sharing my experience with the community. In many cases, this webpage might provide additional commentary on why certain things were done a certain way.
The information in this page should be applicable, no matter under which operating system you use LaTeX. However, when I give concrete commands showing how to process or preview LaTeX documents, I will assume that you are using a Unix/Linux machine. See your local information how to process LaTeX under other operating systems.
You are welcome to tell others about this page and to create a link to it. Instead of providing a live link to this page, I suggest to link to my homepage like I have done above. I have tried my best to be brief as well as accurate, but you will know how hard this is, if you tried to put together a document like this yourself. If you find any mistakes or have comments, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In more modern web-parlance, they are mark-up languages, in which the writer merely indicates the structure of the document (e.g., ``start a new section here''), but the actual appearance is controlled by class and style files (e.g., how a section header is actually formatted).
Side-note on the effect of all this: LaTeX has turned math professors into typesetters and publishers like Springer into celebrated copy shops: They receive a type-set and fully paginated manuscript from the author, all the publisher does is to have the master copy ``photo-copied,'' send it to the binder, and put a cover around it.
A lot of other things could be said here, for instance, about the choice of the name and its Capitalization (to avoid patent infringement on the material latex as in ``latex gloves''). I refer to the section on ``The Game of the Name'' in Lamport's book; see below for full reference.
Additionally, let me point out that there are also various other versions of TeX and LaTeX, like AMS-TeX and AMS-LaTeX, propagated by the American Mathematical Society. Those are genuinely different packages than TeX or LaTeX with quite different appearance and partially different commands; I do not use them.
On the other hand, as LaTeX is freely distributed, there are distributions of it, like teTeX included with Linux distributions. Such distributions include, if they are LaTeX2e compatible, a large number of so-called standard packages like amsmath, cite, graphicx, and many others, all of which are not part of LaTeX, but genuine extensions that provide additional features and functionality.
The books listed below are all appropriate for LaTeX2e. The starting point should always be the book by Leslie Lamport, which is both concise and readable and which explains LaTeX's philosophy well. The price paid for both is lack of completeness, when it comes to advanced features. In this context, ``advanced features'' include redefining section headers, importing files, and overcoming the struggle with float placement. I have found both the book by Michel Goossens, Frank Mittelbach, and Alexander Samarin as well as the one by George Grätzer useful - in different ways: Goossens et al. is organized `horizontally' and discusses material organized by package; I suggest to use it, if you want to dig into the innards of LaTeX2e like redefining section headers or advanced float placement. Compared to that, Grätzer is organized `vertically,' because it discusses tools for one topic from all available sources together. If you need to typeset very complicted formulas or have other problems with the mathematics, I recommend Grätzer because of its well-chosen examples and its organization.
Considering we are in the 21st century, I must mention the huge repository for information and macros put out by the TeX Users Group (abbreviated as TUG). You can find them at http://www.tug.org/. There is a wealth of information available including style files and similar. Or for that matter, I have been rather successful with google searches, if I had specific problems.
thebibliographyenvironment. It also contains a wealth of examples of the typsetting of the most common mathematical constructs like fractions and matrices. For more advanced features, see the Template for Project Reports below.
Click on this link to
to download it to your computer.
To process the file, use the following command sequence
at the Unix/Linux prompt:
Notice that running LaTeX twice is needed to get the automatic cross-referencing right. The resulting PDF file sample.pdf should be identical to the one I processed and that is posted here as sample.pdf.
Files needed to use the template:
The LaTeX source
template.tex needs several other
files, namely the bibliography database file
template.bib, the files for the figures,
and the Matlab code:
A particular book to point to is Nicholas J. Higham, Handbook of Writing for the Mathematical Sciences, second edition, SIAM, 1998. If you are a Ph.D. student, I strongly recommend that you read this book, because it addresses many question about how publishing works in the sciences.
For a more complete literature list covering also other aspects of mathematics, see my homepage.