CTAN
Comprehensive TeX Archive Network

Starting out with TeX, LaTeX, and friends

Do you want to be­gin work­ing with the TeX type­set­ting sys­tem? Most peo­ple start out by down­load­ing free ver­sions of the needed soft­ware, and a tu­to­rial. This page gets you to the most pop­u­lar choices.

Step one: Get a dis­tri­bu­tion

You first need a col­lec­tion of the soft­ware. Such a col­lec­tion is called a dis­tri­bu­tion, and comes with TeX, LaTeX, BibTeX, and ev­ery­thing else that will help you to per­form TeX's magic on your com­puter. Each dis­tri­bu­tion also comes with pro­grams spe­cific to your com­puter plat­form, so make your choice from the list be­low.

Win­dows:
The most pop­u­lar choice here is the MiKTeX dis­tri­bu­tion, which lets you eas­ily man­age TeX pack­ages. Many peo­ple ad­vise be­gin­ners to get the proTeXt bundling of MiKTeX, which lets you in­stall by us­ing a .pdf file with links so you can read about your op­tions and then click on the right one. And it in­cludes other com­po­nents that help you work with your TeX sys­tem.
Unix-type sys­tems, in­clud­ing GNU/Linux:
The best choice here is TeX Live, which con­tains many pack­ages and pro­grams. It is freely avail­able over the In­ter­net or on disc; see the web page for de­tails. Note that most Unix sys­tems have TeX as an in­stal­la­tion op­tion so you might al­ready have it or be able to eas­ily get it us­ing your sys­tem ad­min­is­tra­tion pack­age man­age­ment tool: RPM, or DEB, or what­ever.
Mac­in­tosh:
Get the MacTeX dis­tri­bu­tion, which is TeX Live with some Mac-spe­cific good­ies.

Step two: Get doc­u­men­ta­tion

Most peo­ple start­ing TeX to­day use the LaTeX macro pack­age. The most-of­ten rec­om­mended tu­to­rial is the (Not So) Short Guide to LaTeX2ε; this has many trans­la­tions. Another tu­to­rial is the In­dian TeX group's LaTeX primer.

Many peo­ple get a TeX sys­tem to write math­e­mat­i­cal text. For that, get the doc­u­men­ta­tion for the Amer­i­can Math­e­mat­i­cal So­ci­ety's AMS-LaTeX pack­age.

You might also be in­ter­ested in a com­pre­hen­sive list of sym­bols and a tu­to­rial on graph­ics.

Steps be­yond: know where to go

As a TeX user you will have many re­sources to help you get your work done.

First, TeX is pop­u­lar and there are prob­a­bly many peo­ple near you who have ex­pe­ri­ence with it. There are plenty of help­ful peo­ple on the In­ter­net dis­cus­sion group comp.text.tex. And, you are most wel­come to join a users group.

There are many books avail­able. The English FAQ is au­thor­i­ta­tive, clear, and up to date.

Fi­nally, this site, CTAN, is our com­mu­nity's archive; if you are look­ing for some­thing then chances are good that we have it.

But wait, there's more!

The TeX Users Group has a more ex­ten­sive in­tro­duc­tion than this page. They also keep the defini­tive list of all TeX sys­tem choices, in­clud­ing com­mer­cial op­tions.

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