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LaTeX Installation

The fastest and easiest way to start using LaTeX is to through an online LaTeX editor. Alternatively you can install LaTeX on your computer. If you decide to install LaTeX you'll need to set aside an hour of your time. You should also be on campus or using a high-speed internet connection, since you will have to download large files. You need to install two different parts, LaTeX customized for your operating system and an editor. LaTeX is free, but some editors ask for a nominal fee after a certain amount of use (such editors are known as shareware). We have recommended free editors for each operating system, but feel free to explore other options for editors. For both Windows and Mac OS X, users already comfortable with Emacs or vim can use it as their LaTeX editor.

Online LaTeX Editors

Installing LaTeX along with an editor can be a time consuming, difficult and frustrating process. Fortunately, in the last few years, several excellent browser based LaTeX editors have been developed. These online editors require no installation, use cloud based storage and allow multiple authors to easily collaborate on the same document. Most also have useful features such as spell check and auto-complete built in. For most users we recommend ShareLaTeX. Some alternatives include Overleaf and Authorea. All three of these LaTeX editors are free but some features such as multiple coauthors and Dropbox integration require a paid subscription. In general using these editors is as simple as creating an account. If you're new to LaTeX, useful documentation can be found here.

Mac OS X Installation

  1. Download the MacTeX installer from The TeX Users Group (it's large--more than 2 GB--so be prepared to wait a bit).
  2. When the file titled MacTeX.dmg has finished downloading, open it up, and then open the file called MacTeX.pkg, the MacTeX Installer.
  3. Agree to the Installer package and walk through the installation program. When the installation is complete, click okay.
  4. Your new LaTeX arsenal is in /Applications/TeX:
    • BibDesk is a highly recommended bibliography management application. You can find out more about BibDesk from the BibDesk section on Reed's BibTeX page. The sourceforge page has links to a manual, a wiki in progress and mailing lists for users and developers.
    • Excalibur is a spellchecker that understands LaTeX commands. The Excalibur page has a online user manual.
    • TeXShop is a widely used LaTeX editor. The main TeXShop page has a wiki and much of this LaTeX documentation makes specific reference to the TeXShop interface. But, the basics :
      1. Open a new (or preexisting) .tex file and write your document.
      2. When you want to typeset it (turn it into a pdf that can be read by users without a LaTeX editor), click the Typeset button in the top left hand corner of your document window. Make sure that the adjacent dropdown menu says LaTeX, meaning that's what language TeXShop will expect to use while typesetting. (If something else is selected instead, TeXShop's engine won't be expecting certain commands.)
        typset sample image
      3. While TeXShop is creating your pdf, a new window called a console will appear. This spews gibberish that may make more sense to you as you learn to use LaTeX, but usually isn't important unless the gibberish stops and the console says that you have an error. If this happens, consult the troubleshooting section of our documentation.
      4. You can print this pdf straight from TeXShop, or open it up in any application that can handle pdfs (such as Preview or Adobe Acrobat). This part of TeXShop acts very much like said other applications in that you can scroll through the pages of your document and zoom in using the magnifying glass.
    • You may want to ascertain that the MacTeX installer has given you the most recent versions of these applications by comparing the version numbers on your copies with the versions given on the respective sites.
  5. Enjoy your new LaTeX installation! Head over to the Introduction to LaTeX page to get started.

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Windows Installation

This installation has two parts: installing MikTeX and installing Texnic Center (the editor). If you would like to use the bibliography manager JabRef, go to the JabRef home page to learn more or directly to the download page. We have documentation for its usage on our BibTeX page.

Downloading and Installing MiKTeX

  1. Go to the MiKTeX download page. Click on the latest MiKTeX download link. On the next page, scroll down and click on the Download button for Basic MiKTeX.
  2. Double-click the file basic-miktex-[...].exe on your desktop. After the files are extracted, you will be presented with the welcome page.
  3. Read and accept the conditions by checking the box. Click Next.
  4. Choose if you want MiKTeX to be used by all users on your computer or just you. Click Next.
  5. Specify the location for MiKTex to be installed. By default it installs to C:\Program Files\. Click Next to continue.
  6. Change preferred paper to Letter (instead of A4). Leave the default to Ask me first for installing missing packages.  Click Next.
  7. Review the settings. Click Back if you want to change the settings. Click Start to begin the installation process.
  8. Two progress bars indicate the progress of the installation process. Click Next when the installation is complete.
  9. You will see the final wizard page. Click Close to close the wizard. LaTeX is now installed on your machine.
You can test your LaTeX installation by opening the commmand prompt and typing "latex sample2e", then after that has run, "yap sample2e".

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Installing TeXnic Center

You have an array of choices for your LaTeX editor, but we recommend TeXnic Center, which is free and commonly used.

  1. Download TeXnic Center Setup from's Downloads page. If you're running XP with Service Pack 2, that should be your only download. If you do not have Service Pack 2, you will need to download that as well (which you can do from the TeXnic Center site). You may need to download the TeXnic Center System Components Update if your OS predates ME/2000.
  2. Launch TXCSetup and walk through the installation. The defaults should be fine, unless you have a specific desire to change them (install to C:\Program Files\TeXnicCenter, use Typical installation, put the shortcuts in the TeXnicCenter Start Menu folder).
  3. Launch TeXnicCenter from Start > Programs.
  4. The Configuration Wizard opens.  Click Next to continue.
  5. For the path to the Distribution Directory, browse to C:\Program Files\MiKTeX 2.9\miktex\bin\x64\ (or \x32\ if using the 32-bit version) and then click Next.
  6. At the Postscript Viewer screen, click Next.
  7. If prompted for a path to the PDF Viewer, browse to the location of your PDF application, such as Adobe Reader. Click Next.
  8. Click Finish to complete installation.
  9. When the installation completes, you're done. If you want an introduction to LaTeX, head on over to our introduction page to get started. But in the meantime, continue reading for a crash course introduction to TeXnicCenter:
    1. Open up a new or pre-existing document.
    2. When you are ready to typeset the file (process it into a PDF), make sure the drop down box says LaTeX=>PDF (=>DVI is also an option)
    3. Now go to the Build menu and go down to Current File. Select Build and View (or Build if you don't want to see the typeset file). build menu
    4. The tiny window at the bottom, labeled output along one edge, is what this documentation refers to as the console. This spews gibberish that may make more sense to you as you learn to use LaTeX, but usually isn't important unless the gibberish stops and the console says that you have an error. If this happens, consult the troubleshooting section of our documentation.
      TeXnic Center console sample image
      The console in TeXnic Center. Click on the image to see a larger version.

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