This page is meant to assist you in learning about TeX ("tek" or "tech"), but be warned that the quality results of TeX require some effort and learning on your part. The creator of TeX, Donald Knuth, is your basic computer genius, with the distinction of being considered a genius among the computer genii.
LaTeX ("LayTek" or "LahTek") is an updated version of TeX that nearly all TeX users use, but that some people (like me), don't bother to call the programs different names.
If you are a MS Word user, much of the TeX environment will seem strange to you. TeX works by taking the input you specify, as well as typographical command, and compiling the input file(s) into a final project that is practically ready for press (ie, TeX is used often to produce books and journal articles).
I am posting this information to assist you in learning about and using TeX, but am unable to provide much hands-on support. If you need help or have a question, send an email. Note that the computer staff know nothing about TeX.
Far below are my presentation docs (input .tex and output .pdf) that show how input leads to output. (Use notepad to view .tex files if you do not have an editor. MS Word will add lots of crap.)
Main Source of Information
Wikipedia on LaTeX
Transition from Word
Advantages and Disadvantages of Microsoft Word and LaTeX
Converters between LaTeX and PC
I recommend using rtf2latex2e for converting a Word file (saved as .rtf, NOT .doc) into basic .tex. You can then compile with good results, but will have to clean up the code (especially if there were Equation editor equations embedded). You can download it and place it in your TeX folders. Then just tell windows to "open with" rtf2latex2e on your rtf file.
Sample Files, Reference, and Help (I often type "latex [command or desired command]" into google to find commands)
Templates and Sample Files
Help by Subject, Command, or Environment
Another version of Help
Google TeX discussion group
So, you wanna write a dissertation?
Beamer The Beamer Package is amazing. I use it all the time. Download a sample file. Compile with PDFLaTeX (twice). If the package is not installed and MikTeX has auto-downloads turned on, you'll have beamer in no-time!
LaTeX Installations for Windows [Mac directions] [Unix users should already be using TeX!]
You need four or five programs to run TeX on windows: a compiler, a postscript generator, an editor, (perhaps) an image converter.
1) Compiler: MikTeX
The compiler processes the input file to produce output. To avoid its command line interface, use a good editor. One VERY handy feature is its ability to install packages (extra features) on the fly. (You have to turn this feature on.)
2) Postscript/PDF generator: Ghostscript
You do not need ghostview. Look for something similar to "gs851w32.exe, AFPL Ghostscript 8.51 for Win32."
I use this program. WinEdt costs $30. I find that a bargain for the features that have saved me MANY hours.
Recommended by Hiro Uchida and others. It's free.
4) Image Converter: Imagemagick
Since TeX uses .eps images (and PDFLaTeX uses .pdf images), this program, which can convert images from any format into any other, is very handy. It is run from the command prompt.
5) Bibliography database: Jabref
This program is for managing your .bib file, where all your bibliographic data is stored.
Word (Scientific Workplace)
This professional product costs several hundred dollars ($170 to $240 for students) but is installed on several Econ lab computers. It is WYSIWYG (like MS Word), for text and equations (ie, point and click), but produces TeX code that can be (mostly) used by others. It has everything in one package (1-4 above). I also hate it because it removes the main advantage of TeX, i.e., control over your writing.
Bibliography: One of the great advantages of TeX is its ability to globally change formatting with simple commands and dynamic cross-referencing (for footnotes, etc.). This also means that your citations can take any format you choose--quickly--both in the text and ending bibliography.
What is BibTeX?
Installing TeX on a windows machine....
Note that most of the lab computers have MikTeX and WinEdt (but not the other programs above?). These instructions are for using your own computer, which will tend to compile more quickly (and consistently).
1) Download and install MikTeX first. Take all the default settings. I highly recommend reading "MikTeX Installation Procedure." It and downloads are found here.
2) Do the same for Ghostscript. Just run the .exe file.
3) Install an editor. WinEdt runs in two steps (download and install). "Small install" usually works fine After download, rerun setup and tell it to install the files it just downloaded. Again - take all the defaults. I've had non-functioning programs when I changed the setup locations, directories, etc.
4) Try to compile from within WinEdt (Click on "Document>Current Work (samples)>Thesis" from the menu). If it works, you're ready to go. If it doesn't work, you'll have to backup and start again. Remember to take all the defaults - unless you are good at debugging complex installations!
Installing on a Mac [from Jim Chalfant]
Going to http://www.esm.psu.edu/mac-tex/ gets one to a very useful page for TeX on Macs.
There are pointers to all the widely used TeX applications for Macs. I recommend TeXShop for OS X. I recommend that anyone not yet using OS X switch. But if pressed, OzTeX works fine for earlier Mac OS's. Click on References, and there's a link to a course on LaTeX at Penn State. I don't think it's very Mac-specific at all. Course materials, including sample documents and PDF slides, are available there. The slides show how much better than Powerpoint one can do, although I didn't peruse long enough to find out which TeX-based alternative they used. Further down the References page is a nice introductory document, lshort.pdf.
TeX Sample Files
My original presentation (May 2, 2003) in TeX (input) and .pdf (output) versions
NB: You may have a problem when trying to compile someone's .tex file without some other file that they "call" from that file. A real pain.