LaTeX Resources Getting started with typesetting beautiful mathematical documents

LaTeX (typically pronounced lay-TEK or lah-TEK) is the gold standard for mathematical typesetting. If you've ever tried to format an equation in Microsoft Word (or any other WYSIWYG word processor), you know how incredibly painful it is. You might have wondered how math professors maintain their sanity when writing handouts, quizzes, tests, and research papers loaded with symbols. Our secret? We don't touch Microsoft Word for these tasks. LaTeX is a document processing system and markup language that makes creating beautifully formatted documents a breeze. Well, it's a breeze 99% of the time once you've gotten over the learning curve. Many Math 301 classes introduce our majors and minors to LaTeX, but here are some resources in case you didn't get started with LaTeX there or just need a refresher. All the software you'll ever need to make documents in LaTeX is 100% free, which is great news!

Microsoft Windows Users

You need MikTeX. This, fortunately, is a reasonable file size to download. Go to the MikTeX download page, download the current version of the basic MikTeX installer and run the file you download. (There's a tutorial near the top of that page if you need assistance.) MikTeX comes with an editor called TeXWorks. Download a template file from below and open it in TeXWorks, and click the appropriate button to typeset your file.

MacOS Users

You need MacTeX. This is a huge download (~2.4 GB), unfortunately. Get it from the TeX Users Group page. (You want to download MacTeX.pkg. Don't try to save time with the "Smaller Download".) If you're a BitTorrent user, you might try the BitTorrent file as a faster/more reliable way to download. Once you've downloaded it, double click on MacTeX.pkg to install MacTeX and a bunch of associated utilities. Download a template file from below and open it with TeXShop. (If you're lucky, double-clicking on hw-template.tex will open TeXShop. If not, you can find TeX shop in the TeX folder inside your Applications folder.) Typeset hw-template.tex by clicking the big "Typeset" button at the top left. (Make sure that "LaTeX" is selected in the drop down. Otherwise, chaos may ensue.)

Issues with El Capitan (OS X 10.11)

Mac OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) made some changes to where the MacTeX bundle is allowed to write files. This can cause issues. See below for some troubleshooting tips, and if you get stuck you can ask a math professor. Profs. Bush and Keller have both debugged some of these issues.

  • Existing installations: If you had previously installed LaTeX and then upgraded to El Capitan and suddenly your TeXShop complains about not being able to compile, the first thing you should do is go to the TeXShop menu and check for updates. For many users, you'll find there's an update to install and that will fix your problem. If that doesn't solve things, try downloading and installing MacTeX again and then have TeXShop update itself (again…reinstalling MacTeX will replace TeXShop).
  • New installations: If you've never installed LaTeX before, the first thing you'll want to do after launching TeXShop is to go to the TeXShop menu and check for updates. Once you update TeXShop, it should work fine.
  • All installations: If you want to use the other programs that come with MacTeX (LaTeX-it and BibDesk in particular), there are some manual settings changes required. (You might try checking for updates in those applications before digging into the manual settings. The developers are working on updates that will make the fix seamless.)

Editing LaTeX Online

if you're not sure that you want to install software on your own computer, you might try out some free online sites for editing and compiling LaTeX documents. These sites can be particularly useful if you're editing a document collaboratively or want to share something with a professor to see why a file won't compile.

Template Files

Useful Links