[nSLUG] Learning TEX

George N. White III gnwiii at gmail.com
Tue May 29 06:35:48 ADT 2007

On 5/29/07, Mike Spencer <mspencer at tallships.ca> wrote:
> So: if one wants to learn and start using TEX, what's the entry point?

For most people LaTeX, a macro package for TeX that uses high-level
markup (e.g., \section, \subsection, \textit{...}, etc).  LaTeX is
used by the majority of maths publishers.   If you are doing journal
articles and
reports with lots of maths it is probably what you want.

"Plain" TeX, the subect of Knuth's book, is what you need to implement
a macro package.  There are a number of such packages that target
niche markets where LaTeX is not suited.

For LaTeX you can start with the online introductions.  Most academic
users start with the source of some article their thesis supervisor
wrote and use it as boilerplate.  Eventually you will need "The LaTeX
Companion", a comprehensive resource, as probably the "The LaTeX
Graphics Companion" if you do much graphics.

You should know that teTeX, the original TeX packageon most l;inux
distros, is no longer being maintained.  The Tex Users Groups
collaborate to produce TeX Live (last release in Feb. this year) which
is starting to repalce teTeX.  Currently much of the effort is going to
better support for Eastern languages (unicode, etc.) and also "luatex"
which will be tex with an embeded lua interpreter that will be used to
preform auxilary processing (generating and sorting indexes,
extracting bibliographic entries from a database, interfaces to
databases for creating data tables, etc.).

Watch out for obsolete documentation -- TeX was there at the start of
the internet and there are lots of older documents that google can
find but which aren't relevant to current TeX systems.  In particular,
most modern TeX systems do not need .dvi files and metafont fonts
use PostScript Type 1 or OpenType fonts, and generate pdf output directly).

George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia

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