Wanna learn LaTeX?


by Luke Smith

Table of Contents

  1. What is LaTeX?
  2. Installing LaTeX
  3. LaTeX Video Tutorials

I have a full video tutorial series on learning LaTeX, broken into small sensible parts, here.


What is LaTeX?

Basically, it's how big boys write and format documents. Every public brief, scientific article, book, cryptocurrency whitepaper or even outline written by people who know what they're doing is written in LaTeX.

If you want to see examples of documents made with LaTeX, you can see my Master's thesis here or another paper here that shows some diagrams and other features you can have in LaTeX. Of course, LaTeX documents can be infinitely customized.

Writing

"Is it hard?"

No. It's sort of like learing vim. People complain about how hard it is until they take the bare minimum of time to learn it and realize how much more effective they are with it. The return on investment is massive. I wrote the thesis above in LaTeX in around a week of learning from the bare minimum.

"How is LaTeX different?"

LaTeX is a markup language, meaning that you write documents in whatever text editor of your choosing and instead of manually moving margins and placing things yourself, everything is optimally places when you compile the document into a .pdf.

Markup languages are great because they separate the task of writing from the task of formatting. It's somewhat similar to the difference between HTML (a markup language) and CSS (which does styling) and Javascript (which does scripting). LaTeX does the equivalent of all three, but it allows you to do them all separately so you can easily extend documents.

"Why is LaTeX better than Microsoft Word and friends?"

"But Word has some of those things!"

Niche features that basically no Word-user uses. Also they change with every new update. This is the primary operating structure of LaTeX.

Installing LaTeX

The core LaTeX package (texlive) is fairly small, but I highly recommend you download all the LaTeX packages out there at the beginning (a big download). This is nice because as you learn more things, you won't have to manually download new packages. You'll be able to experiment with new LaTeX abilities through new packages seamlessly. Here's how you get them:

Once you've downloaded and installed that, you have a fully-featured LaTeX engine on your machine! You can make lots of amazing things that you don't even fullt realize yet.

LaTeX Video Tutorials

Basics

First thing to learn is how to compile documents with pdflatex and the basic principles of the TeX lanugage. In this first video, I talk about how basic text, paragraphs, titles, headings and more work. This in itself is enough to make a professional write-up.

Click to Reveal Video.

Numbering and cross-referencing

As you make more complex documents, you'll want to automatically number and interrelate section, figure and other numbers together. LaTeX makes this super simple, and make it even easier to copy your file into a new file where it will automatically update all cross-referenced numbers.

Click to Reveal Video.

Bibliographies with Biber and BibLaTeX

Bibliography management is a huge plus in LaTeX through biber. I haven't written a bibliography in more than half a decade due to the fact that LaTeX only needs a bibliography file of metadata and autogenerates citations for any needed source.

Click to Reveal Video.

Images and Figures

TeX isn't all text either. You can insert and nicely format images in a way that they are optimally placed without too much human interference.

Click to Reveal Video.

Macros to make things easy

As you do more specific things, you might want to make your own macros and functions. This really makes things easier, and you can do very complex things very elegantly.

Click to Reveal Video.

Slide Presentations with Beamer

LaTeX isn't just for printable documents either. You can change your document into a Beamer presentation, allowing you to present it as a slide show similar to Microsoft PowerPoint's.

Click to Reveal Video.

Making a Professional Résumé

Here, I also give some extra pointers while I make a résumé.

Part 1

Click to Reveal Video.

Part 2

Click to Reveal Video.