LaTeX Workshop

If you want to communicate mathematics in the written form, these days you need TeX. It's used widely in academia and industry for technical writing which requires a lot of mathematical notation. It's also free. There isn't a good reason not to learn it. I wrote this brief page for an hour-long workshop on the basics of using LaTeX, the most widely used collection of macros for using TeX.

Goal. A goal of the workshop is to get you started by encouraging you to use TeX to write up homework solutions. After you get a better feel for it, you can then graduate to other things like preparing posters, Beamer presentations, posts to MathOverflow, research articles, books, etc. It comes gradually (and slowly), just like anything else worth learning. You will get the hang of it. Try to remember that can use TeX for every conceivable writing project and make a habit of using it accordingly. I use a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) word processor only when I am forced to collaborate with minds which have not yet been elevated to the TeX sphere.

Disclaimer. This is only an introduction. TeX is a huge system and I only know about a tiny fraction of it. I don't know how to do a lot of things, but I have faith that I can solve just about any problem that I encounter. If I need to do something in particular and I don't know how to do it, I usually do an internet search and something invariably pops up as a popular query. Your knowledge and experience will come faster if you adopt a variant of this attitude.

Sample File. Download this LaTeX homework template to your own computer for study. After you get done with this workshop, write your next set of homework solutions with LaTeX. And the next. And the next. And so on. You will get the hang of it.

Outline. Here are the things we study in this workshop:
structure of a .tex file
packages, styles, templates (use well-established structures whenever possible!)
the edit/TeX/review cycle
reserved characters: #, $, %, &, \, _ (underscore), ^, {, }, ~
text mode vs math mode
displayed vs inline equations
subscripts and superscripts
parentheses of all kinds
fractions \frac{}{}
roots, integrals, sums, limits, arrows, and other miscellaneous, goofy math symbols
matrices, arrays, tables
environments (structural elements of a document)
numbers and labels (time permitting)
graphics (time permitting)

Exercise 1. TeX a page of Whittaker and Watson.

Exercise 2. Solve a page of Whittaker and Watson and TeX your solutions.

You need to know and practice more. A one-hour workshop can hardly scratch the surface. There is literally a ton of help on TeX and LaTeX on the internet. Here are just a few things:
a primer by David Wilkins,
a Wikibook,
a tutorial by Denise Moore,
a tutorial by Paul Oh,
a tutorial by Norm Matloff,
some notes by A. J. Hildebrand at UIUC,
and on and on and on.... (These links were valid on February 21, 2012.) See also the Comprehensive TeX Archive Network and the TeX Users Group.
CTAN has the comprehensive symbol list, for example. (This may prove useful when you need to write something in music theory or a handbook for a laundromat.)

Getting TeX. TeX and LaTeX are freely available from many places for many different platforms. Use an internet search using "TeX", "LaTeX", and the name of your system to find a source and download and install on your system as soon as the workshop is finished. I use TeXShop on my MacBook. MiKTeX works well with Microsoft Windows systems.

You should also learn about BibTeX. This is a system based on TeX for managing and formatting bibliographic data. It is also widely used and freely available. For example, the AMS uses BibTeX in Mathematical Reviews. It usually comes packaged with a TeX distribution.

Speaking Personally.... I really should figure out how to display TeXnical things in HTML. Probably I need to become acquainted with MathJax.


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