LaTeX2e – everything you need to start

You’re here because you’ve seen someone’s work in LaTeX and realised it’s as sexy as academia gets. That’s /ˈlɑːtɛk/ for people into phonetics or lah-tek for the rest who have no idea what the second word of this sentence is. 

LaTeX2e_logoSo I won’t bore people who are ready to start by praising the system. Lets get to it:

    1. You need a typesetting system: download MikTeX at 64 or 32-bit
      – or – MacTeX if you’re currently sitting in a Starbucks café
      – or – TeX Live for Linux.
    2. Install and then update.
    3. Now you need an editor: get TeXstudio 32-bit, (my favourite editor by far but you can look for others later)
      – or – for Mac
      – or – for any other system.
    4. Educate yourself! Have a good look through this document and keep it somewhere close for reference – you can’t really cut corners here unless there’s some poor soul who has nothing better to do with their time than to talk you through everything.
    5. Once you’ve had a look, get to some problem based learning: Try to build your CV on this template from the University of Southampton
      – or – get right into your thesis using this helpful template from the UOS. That’s how I thought myself during my MSc. You’ll get there, but best to start this venture is with someone who might also be interested.
    6. Really lost? Go to the thesis template and start reading the pdf called ‘Thesis’. To start editing you need to open the Thesis.tex file.
    7. Print this cheat sheet out for when you’re ready to get going.
    8. Here is a list of other templates you might find useful.
    9. beamerUPDATE (06/05/2014): University of Southampton staff and students can now enjoy access to a great “power point” template thanks to Falk-Martin Hoffmann. When it comes to presentations, the LaTeX ‘beamer class’ is often used; as in this template. Click here to download. The zip file contains:
      •  the presentation.tex file
      •  a folder where your pictures should go
      •  a folder where your logos go
      •  a beamers users guide
      The beamers user guide is great if you want to really understand what’s going on. Current logos are for the ISVR, but if you place your school logos in the ‘logos’ folder and edit the .tex file, it’s easily resolved. The colour scheme and fonts follow university branding and roles.  This beamer template utilises .eps graphics so make sure you prepare TeXstudio for them: Click on Options, Configure TeXstudio, Build; and under the Build & View settings select DVI->PS->PDF Chain. If the program’s being temperamental, try closing it, deleting all the auxiliary files (all those .aux, .nav, .out, .snm, .dvi, .snm, .toc, .ps files that are created automatically), restarting LaTeX and compiling the file again.   
    10. And finally, this is for when you’re ready to start from scratch.

There will be times when you’ll feel like this was a bad idea, but eventually once your piece of work is complete, you won’t regret it. If you’re ever stuck, Google it – there’s a massive and helpful on-line community.

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7 thoughts on “LaTeX2e – everything you need to start

  1. Hi Andrew, thanks a lot for this short but compelling introduction (or in my case, revision) to LaTeX! However, I would suggest adding maybe one or two discussion forums where people could search for help when facing potential problems with LaTeX*; Stack Exchange could be a good one, for example. Cheers, mate!

    [* Though I must confess setting TeXstudio up was much easier than TeXnic Center, which I used during my MSc!]

    • Thanks Fabio! Yeah, Stack Exchange, the community forum ( and I’m sure plenty of other places are great. In honestly though, I find that letting Google guide me is the best approach! I’ve never actually had to post my own query – the community’s so big the answers have always already been online. BW, AC.

  2. Dude…Totally needed a revision..thank you for that 🙂 Can’t believe i’ve almost forgotten how sexy this piece of software is!!!!
    Hope all is good 🙂

  3. PS: ‘best to start this venture is with someone who might also be interested.’….was this me? In that case AWESOME to feature in your blog :p

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