A Simple Guide to Understanding LaTeX for All

A Simple Guide to Understanding LaTeX for All

 






This is a simple guide to understanding LaTeX for beginners. You must have come across LaTeX, in your Grad or even Undergraduate Life. If not, then this is a platform you must definitely try. LaTeX is basically a document preparation system which is written in plain text. Instead of worrying about formatting you have to work on your content and the software takes care of the rest.

LaTeX involves basic coding which anyone can understand easily. Due to this aspect, many fear away from using it without even trying it out first. I was one of them. But after everyone I knew in the research community suggested it to me, I had to keep my scepticism aside and try it out. And I am so thankful I did. I have thus decided to return the favour and share a basic guide for LaTeX where I talk about how to give it a kick start, where to learn the surprisingly simple language and much more.

I bring to you a brief guide on starting off with your first LaTeX project, so stay tuned. I will be creating a free email course on learning how to use LaTeX. Subscribe at the end of the post to keep updated. I have listed the categories I will be talking about as well as the subcategories. You can just skip to the part you want to find about if you are clear with the basics of LaTeX. If not, I suggest you read from the beginning to get the maximum out of the article.

I will keep on updating this post as I go and will include the installation for TeX soon.

 

 

 

 

The topics are:

  1. What is LaTeX

  2. How to use LaTeX

  3. What kind of documents can you make using LaTeX?

  4. Mathematics with LaTeX

  5. Can I still use Word or Pages?

 

What is LaTeX?

LaTeX (pronounced as Latekh) is a software mostly used for scientific documentation but can be used for any kind of publication. Unlike other word processors LaTeX helps the author focus on the content rather than the look of the document. For the existing word processors you have to look at your content, correctly align your sentences and pictures and if you happen to transfer data to any other operating system or word processor edition (for example from windows to MacOS or Microsoft Word 2017 to Microsoft Word 2003) the alignment goes haywire so does your work. With LaTeX you just have to write write write and forget the formatting as that is done by the software. Even if you happen to change your device the document adapts on it own.

When I first started using LaTeX it took me a day or two to get a hang of it thanks to ShareLatex (which has now moved on to overleaf and thus I will refer to it as Overleaf V2) the online editor. But it saved my life during many presentations. I did not have to worry about the formatting as my device changed from a MacBook (where I wrote my presentation) to a windows computer (which was used to present it to the panel). A small demonstration of what LaTeX can do is shown in the image below

 

How to use LaTeX?

LaTeX is an OpenSource software under the LaTeX project public license. Which means that it is basically free. When I started with my undergraduate school I discovered LaTeX and it has been my alley ever since. I used it for my bachelor thesis. For writing my internship reports. My minor projects. My CV and resumes. Basically, I have been using it and I will continue to use it.

LaTeX can be used with online platforms like Openleaf V2 and with offline TeX. Go to Latex-Project to download the version for you. Download MacTeX for MacOS and MikTeX for Windows. You just have to learn the basics of LaTeX code (takes a day or two at max) and use that code to write the content of your document. You can download the software on your laptop and use it without internet as well. I have TeX downloaded for such purposes. However, I would suggest that you start with an online platform, learn from there and then use TeX if you want to. With Overleaf V2’s wide variety of templates, you will get a good grasp of things. Platforms like for offline LaTeX might be a little overwhelming if you are just starting off. However, if you are planning to go long term then you have to shift to TeX eventually. I use ShareLaTeX for writing my CV, however, I used MacTeX for writing by bachelor thesis and my internship reports.

 

What kind of documents can you make using LaTeX?

Virtually all the types of documents you need professionally. The following are some of the documents you can make using LaTeX. Check out my article on ‘How to Write Undergraduate CV for Internships‘ to learn how to write a CV:

  • Research Paper
  • CV
  • Resume
  • Cover Letters
  • Journal Article
  • Thesis
  • Books
  • Letters
  • Poster
  • Reports

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. LaTeX can be used for a variety of documents.

 





 

Mathematics with LaTeX

Why do I have a separate section for this particular topic? That is because I felt it was necessary. When writing mathematical equations, LaTeX works wonders. It so elegantly puts equations in front of you that you would not want to use any other platform.  When it comes to other kinds of word editors when writing reports you have to go through a cumbersome process of selecting symbols, fractions, exponentials e.t.c. With LaTeX the task becomes rather simple. All you need to do is look up the mark up to write a particular kind of an equation and voila! you have a to-go equation for your documents.

Here is an example. To write this equation you just have to write this small snippet of code. This eqaution is the screenshot of my latex code output.

\begin{equation}
\frac{dI(\textbf{r,s})}{ds} = -\beta(r)I(\textbf{r,s}) + S(\textbf{r,s})
\end{equation}

Ever wonder how textbooks have beautifully written equations? Well, you can achieve the same with LaTeX. Here is a small example from one of the reports I had written during college showcasing what wonders it can work for you.

 

Can I still use Word or Pages?

Of course, you can. They are evergreen. You can also use their built-in templates. They have the added benefit of comfort as you must have been using these forever. However, if you try LaTeX you won’t regret it!

Thanks a lot for reading this post! I hope it helps you start with LaTeX. Subscribe to the list below if you want a free template of a CV. Also, please do comment on the post below if you have any questions or send me a message. I will reply to you as soon as I can!

If you want to know how to apply for research internships do read the post ‘5 Steps towards a Research Internship for Students with No Experience’ where I take you through a step by step process of the process of an application. Or you can check out how to write a CV and a cover letter. It will definitely help you out!

Cheers!

 

 





 

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