Latex-Resources page

  1. What is it?
  2. Why should I use it?
  3. Lesson
  4. Using fancy fonts in LaTeX
  5. A small LaTeX manual containing commands for most symbols available in LaTeX
  6. Additional Reference

What is it?
LaTeX is a program for typesetting highest quality documents. But, unlike Miscrosoft Word or Corel Wordperfect, LaTeX is not a WYSIWYG word processor. If you are unfamiliar with LaTeX, it may be simplest to compare it to a programming language. One writes a plain ASCII text file (the source file--think of it as the source code for a program) and then the LaTeX program is invoked to compile it and produce the final output. The output is a document in DVI (device independent) format. The source file contains the text of the document as well as special commands which describe the logical structure of the document and the mathematical expressions and symbols.

To give you an idea of what is involved: if the source file contains

\int_a^\infty f(t)dt
then after LaTeX has processed the text file, the expression

$\displaystyle \int_a^\infty f(t)dt$

will appear in the DVI file. If you want to begin a new section, you would put something like this into the source file:
\section{title of the section}
This begins the new section...
Unlike word processing, you never do this:
Single out the text for the heading, increase the font size, change the font weight to bold, add some space above and below, change the justification, make sure the heading isn't widowed at the bottom of a page, and so on...
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Why should I use it?
LaTeX is very simple once one becomes familiar with it--just ask any LaTeX guru. Becoming familiar with it is not so simple. Why should you bother learning how to use LaTeX? Here are a few reasons:
  • The output is better. Donald Knuth originally wrote TEX because he wasn't satisfied with the way professional typesetters in the 1970s were handling his papers. Papers produced with LaTeX are simply beautiful.
  • It's faster. Because one need not worry about the document layout, one is free to concentrate on the content. Plus, since the source file is written in plain ASCII, you needn't take your hands off the keyboard to ``mouse-around'' with button bars or menus.
  • It's a standard. Most journals and book-publishers require that documents be summitted in LaTeX. Also, LaTeX commands have become a kind of universal markup for mathematical symbols when communicating by email.

    Many other programs, too, can produce output in LaTeX format. Mathematica allows notebooks to be exported as LaTeX documents. Plus, with LaTeX2MathML translaters, one will be able to write documents in one familiar language and convert them easily for web pages.

  • It's an open-source standard. With LaTeX there is little concern about people being able to read your documents. LaTeX is available (for free) for Alpha, Atari, Amiga, BeOS, Cray, FreeBSD, HP-Unix, Linux, Macintosh, NeXT, OS2, SGI, VMS, Windows, etc... operating systems. The source files are plain text--compatibility between operating systems is not much of an issue (compare to the famous incompatabilities between Word for Windows, Word for Mac, Word-7.0, Word-6.0, etc...) There are no ``Unique User Identification Numbers'' to invade privacy as in closed-source binary file-formats; and there can be no ``Macro-virus'' hidden in a LaTeX document.

There are probably some disadvantages to using LaTeX, too. As Tobias Oetiker writes in his excellent Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX (dvi, pdf, postscript): When using LaTeX ``It is very hard to write unstructured and disorganized documents.''
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In order to make use of any of the LaTeX resources, you must first know how to get it working on our system.

To get started, you have to type the source in a text editor (eg xemacs pictured below.) After you write your document, save it with a filename having ``.tex'' as the last four characters.

Editing a latex document in xemacs

First save the document by clicking on the floppy-icon (second from the left) To compile the source, click on the icon `TeX'. (What xemacs is doing for you when you click on the `TeX' icon is executing the following command: latex sample.tex). If the document contains references to equations or sections, you will need to run latex again.

If there were no errors, there will be a file with the same name as your original but with a ``.dvi'' at the end instead of ``.tex'' (also produced are two additional files: an auxillary file for internal use by LaTeX and a log file for inspection by gurus.)

Now if you want to view it directly, just click on the icon `View dvi' (which means xemacs is executing xdvi sample.dvi). A new window opens and you see something like the following on your screen.

viewing sample.dvi with xdvi

If you want to create a postscript file and/or take a printout of your document, click on `dvips' first (this means executing the command dvips -o sample.dvi), to create the postscript file, and then on `View ps' (means executing gv to open the newly created file with ghostview. You can take a printout by going to the file->print menu in the ghostview window if there is a local/network printer already configured in your machine.
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Using fancy fonts in LaTeX

The font selected by \mathcal is the only script font 'built in'. However, there are other useful calligraphic fonts included with modern TeX distributions.

The eucal package (part of most sensible TeX distributions; the fonts are part of the AMS font set) gives a slightly curlier font than the default. The package changes the font that is selected by \mathcal.

Type 1 versions of the fonts are available in the AMS fonts distribution.

The mathrsfs package uses a really fancy script font (the name stands for "Ralph Smith's Formal Script") which is already part of most modern TeX distributions. The package creates a new command \mathscr.

Type 1 versions of the font have been made available by Taco Hoekwater.

Zapf Chancery
is the standard PostScript calligraphic font. There is no package but you can easily make it available by means of the command
in your preamble. You may find the font rather too big; if so, you can use a scaled version of it like this:
             {<-> s * [0.900] pzcmi7t}{}

Adobe Zapf Chancery (which the above examples use) is distributed in any but the most basic PostScript printers. A substantially identical font (to the the extent that the same metrics may be used) is available from URW and is distributed with ghostscript.

Examples of the available styles are available on CTAN.
euler fonts
euler fonts, in Type 1 format
Browse nonfree/support/ghostscript/
Distributed as part of macros/latex/contrib/supported/jknappen.tar.gz
rsfs fonts
rsfs fonts, in Type 1 format
Script font examples
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Additional references
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