Beginning Latex : Tutorial For Beginners

So you are writing a paper and you need to display formulas or math in it. Then this quick beginning Latex tutorial is for you. Your paper needs to be accurate and look good. You then go to your favorite word processor to type things out. It is then you discover, maybe for the first time, that regular text editors can not do math very well. You may be trying to display physics equations, biology genes, or chemical formulas.

Whichever it is, you realize you have to be super creative to even approach the accuracy that you want. At this point you will probably start asking around or researching the best way to do this. Well let me tell you folks, there is a better way.  This is when most people find out about the wonderful Latex typesetting environment. Read on and I will explain as simply as I can about Latex.



Beginning Latex Tutorial

Latex is a tool that many people will need eventually. It is great for creating a document exactly the way you want it. It does have a learning curve, however, once you get past that it is quicker to create an advanced document than a word processor.

If you write about math then this is your go to solution. Scientists and mathematicians use this every day.

Getting Latex Free

Latex is easy to get. It is free. You can not beat that. You just download it to your computer and start working with it. For Linux users try here. If you are a Mac user then you go to this site.  If you are using Windows then go here. That is all there is to it. Follow the directions from there that you are given. This article by the way is a quick Latex tutorial for Windows who need more functionality than Microsoft Word or Google Docs gives them.

You can use any editor. The document you create just needs the appropriate extension. There are also TEX environments available like [TexWorks] and [TexMaker]. I use them both.

Installing Latex

You first need to install a distribution. This can be something like MikTex, TexLive, or ProText. They are all good and it does not matter which one. It did not to me when I looked at their differences.

Then you either work from the console, use an editor, or an IDE. Again it does not matter which you do as long as you are comfortable with it. most people prefer IDE's from what I have seen. Here is a picture of TexMaker below.

beginning latex

Your First Document

There are two ways to create your first document. First of all, use the text editor of your choice and write a sentence. Save the file as a [.tex] file. Now open a terminal and navigate to the directory of the document to run it. The second choice, if it is available, is to use your TEX environment to run the file you just created.


Latex Uses Backslashes

The first thing you might notice about Latex is that is uses backslashes to start every command. I felt it was important to mention. Every time I have a document that will not compile it was because of a missing backslash. A little reinforcement will only help you in future debugging I am hoping.


Latex Environments

There are many kinds of environments in Latex. An environment is a section devoted to a specific kind of formatting task. It can be a block of text or an [equation]. There are commands that to start them. I mentioned above that each environment is started and ended with a backslash. It looks like this: [\begin{document] and [\end{document}]. It is not hard to use. The hard part is keeping up with the brackets and backslashes. Examples of beginning latex environments are equation, center, figure, picture, and verse.


beginning latex :environments


This example is simple but it shows the basics of an environment. An environment can grow and be as complicated as you are familiar with the language. It is easy to start though as you can see. So no fearing how complicated it can get. You just do what you need and learn more if you need to.

Note how the commands start with a backslash. They all start like that. Also notice that for every [\begin{equation}] there is a [\end{equation}] with it.


The Parts Of An Article Are Easy To Word With

The document area must be defined. Commands begin with a backslash. Environment declarations have a begin and ending tag. This pretty much describes everything. There are many kinds of environments and commands. The most basic document would be defining the class, starting and then stopping the document. Every document pretty much needs that information in order to compile.

Every document must have [\documentclass{article}]. The [article] option is optional. There are other classes you can use with [\documentclass]. Hope this is not confusing. Since this is a beginner Latex tutorial


Latex Subsections

You can also add subsections easily when writing paragraphs. This is super useful. It is through the [\subsection] command. This works just like the [\section] command. This makes it easy to format your text. Do not make the mistake of writing paragraphs without formatting your text. High school and college students are both very bad at this. This is why the command [\subsection] exists so please use it. Here is an example of beginning latex subsections what it looks like.


beginning latex : subsections


Doing More With Documents

In the above section I showed a quick example of what could be done to organize a document. Now I want to go into how to do that. Take a look at this piece of code.

beginning latex tutorial


The \documentclass line is always be there. For now assume it does not change. You will also have a \begin{document} and an \end{document}. Everything that makes your document what it is will go between the \begin and \end statements. The above code looks like this once it is run.

beginning latex tutorial

Choosing the font size of your document is quite easy. Use \documentclass[15pt]{article} in the beginning of your code.

Organizing Your Documents

Let me show you how to make sections and subsections in your thesis or proposal.

beginning latex tutorial

As you can see I used \section for my main topic. Then \subsection is used to narrow down for more organization. We can do even more though because often it is needed. I want to add more sections to each of the planets. How would you do that you might ask? Its done like this.

beginning latex tutorial

You will see the statement \subsubsection. Yes it is kind of weird but that is how you make sections within sections. This is the output.

beginning latex tutorial


Formatting Text

This is done often by everyone. Fortunately it is easy to do. Just type: \textbf{Planets of our Solar System}

This will make the text bold and stand out.

To emphasize text use: \emph{Mercury}

Creating Tables of Information


Latex Packages

You can add functionality to your installation by downloading morepackages. To use different packages you use the [\usepackage] command. You do this in the preamble of the document. There are many packages to use. You just download them to use. It is nice and simple. To search for different packages to download you go to CTAN. In the future I will write the most useful packages and how to use them.


Using Equations

This beginning Latex tutorial for math is designed to show equations and formulas. If you have ever used a word processor you know how hard this can be. In addition to using a math environment, you can also just include an equation in the middle of a sentence. You do this by putting [$] symbols around your math. This is really just when you want to put a formula into the middle of your text. This is not for doing expressions. You do it like this: [$x^2+ 6x -3$]. The exponents will be in the proper position then.


Aligning Equations Makes A Huge Difference 

It is easy to align equations in Latex. You do so by using the command [\begin{align}]. You will end it by using [\end{align}] when you are done with that section. This makes all your equations look beautiful. It is for your math environments that have expressions. When you want equations to look nice, that is what you do. It also helps in making comparisons because the equations or formulas are seen more clearly.


Typesetting Latex Matrices

Latex can even do matrices. This is very useful. It is done by [\begin{matrix}] and ended by typing [\end{matrix}]. This is very practical for math students. There are other ways of doing them too. So you have options if the regular way of [\begin{matrix}] does not fit your needs.


beginning latex : matrices


As you can see it is easy to get a matrix going. Here is the simple code for that.


beginning latex : matrices
quick latex tutorial

Two things to watch out for:

First, just make sure you space everything out correctly. I added spaces so I would be less prone to mistakes.

Second, you need to watch for those backslashes. Missing one will mess up the code when it compiles.


Using Powers

Latex can easily handle equations with powers or exponents. It even doessubscripts well too. Here are a couple quick examples. This shows the versatility of Latex code. Here I just made up some arbitrary numbers for equations. So don’t go trying to factor them. I have a feeling it will end badly. Anyway, a couple things I want to point out is that the equations are right justified and they are automatically numbered.

You can adjust the left or right justification if you need to at some point. It is also very handy to have the equations numbered when you are going through steps in an equation.


beginning latex : powers
quick latex tutorial


The code to generate this is short but powerful. Here it is. It is just the basics in order to show you the equations above. Notice after the first equation that there are two backslashes. You do not want to forget those. I will again mention to not forget your other backslashes. Also you see every regular command has a [\begin] and [\end] section. So when you are writing your code pay attention to that.


beginning latex : powers
quick latex tutorial


Typesetting Fractions

Fractions are also handled nicely. It is done by the [\frac] command.  The first example is just a plain old fraction. See, that really is easy. It is numbered and that is about it. Now the second expression is adding two fractions together. You can see how things are spaced and aligned with each other. The third expression starts showing some of the real potential here. You will notice it is a complex fraction. It looks very good.


beginning latex : fractions
quick latex tutorial



Note the code below. It still does not take very much code to accomplish the fractions above. Nor is the code complex. It is actually very simple. Latex can do so much more just so you know. I just typed some random expression in my head and added some spacing. That is it. That is how you do fraction and should cover most of your needs.


beginning latex : fractions


Using Square Roots Is Not Complicated

You can do square roots in beginning latex as well. While not terribly exciting they are still important to know. In the first expression I just do a simple root. The second expression I show how you can be a bit more complicated and add a fraction under the root. For the third expression I show how to do a whole expression under the root. All these forms are useful.


beginning latex : square roots
quick latex tutorial

In the code below I demonstrate how to do square roots. Note the simple syntax. Just remember to keep everything spaced so you can see potential errors. If everything goes well you will be shooting out roots in no time.


beginning latex : square roots
quick latex tutorial


Typesetting Derivatives

Making derivatives look nice is something you want to do too. It is quite easy also. You are just putting a fraction over a fraction. In beginning Latex you will use derivative notation heavily.


beginning latex : derivatives

This is how you can do derivatives. There are a myriad of ways to do them. There are different styles and display modes for everything mathematical. So this is just one way to accomplish it. The equations are again numbered. They are spaced out as well nicely. This is evident in the code. You can see at any time how to adjust your vertical spacing. In the code itself I am still using [amsmath] package. There are several more math packages. One day I will get to them all. I am just concentrating on the basics for this quick latex tutorial.


Using Integrals

Integrals are one of the most used equation forms out there. Look how much you can do.  Here are example integrals. They are the opposite of derivatives in a way. The typesetting here in this beginning latex tutorial looks really good. Integrals are done flawlessly. Notice at bottom and top of the integral symbol you have the area where the calculation takes place.

beginning latex : integrals

In the code window below you have the integration examples. This is just standard. It is meant to be combined with the other examples above or whatever your math needs are. This does not take complex code as you can see. For each type of math we do the code is always pretty simple.


beginning latex : integrals



There is a lot to learn about Latex. You do not have to know everything though. The purpose of this beginning latex tutorial was to get you started. I also did things in such a way that you will learn quite a bit. The key to this is if you type out the code and get everything to work. I highly encourage you to do this if you need to learn latex. I placed many resources to learn from throughout the article. So if you have questions or want to learn something I did not cover then check one of those sites out. They are all good. Just read until you find what you are looking for.
I will also be making a Latex tutorial PDF in the future for download. If you want to ask me any particular question then please use the comments section below. I will do my best. If you have found this article useful I would appreciate you subscribing to my email list and sharing it within your friends.