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Learning LaTeX and Note-Taking

  1. Aug 16, 2015 #1
    Dear Physics Forum advisers and friends,

    I am a college junior with major in the mathematics and an aspiring mathematician in the theoretical computer science. Recently, I got very interested in the LaTeX as it seems that it is widely used in the mathematics (research papers, homework, etc.), so I am very eager to learn it. Could you inform me the source or link where I can download the LaTeX program, and the learning source where I can learn how to use it? Also how efficient is LaTeX compared to traditional pen/pencil in the note-taking. I have been seeing a growing number of students that use the LaTex and laptop to take notes from the lectures and books, rather than using the notebook and pencil. Could you share you experience?
     
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  3. Aug 17, 2015 #2

    e.bar.goum

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    Where you get LaTeX from depends on your OS. Here's a link explaining where to get it: http://latex-project.org/ftp.html
    And there's another explanation on this rather excellent blog: http://www.howtotex.com/general/12-great-resources-for-getting-started-with-latex/

    Now, unlike something like MS Word, LaTeX isn't a word processer - it's a document markup language. You will need a text editor. You can of course use whatever text editor you use normally (emacs, vi, etc), but there are lots of rather excellent LaTeX specific editors (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_TeX_editors ) Again, what editor you use is dictated a bit by your OS, but you can also choose to have an editor that is WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) or not. I have a fairly strong preference for Kile, http://kile.sourceforge.net/ , but there are many good options.

    As for using LaTeX to take notes with in class? I never did. I found it faster to write equations by hand, and I like that paper allows you to easily sketch diagrams, draw arrows across lines, and generally allows you to write notes in a non-linear fashion. However, YYMV, I had a friend who took notes in LaTeX quite successfully, it really depends on your style (and speed!).
     
  4. Aug 17, 2015 #3
    My personal preference is TexWorks: https://www.tug.org/texworks/#Getting_TeXworks

    Like the above poster, I also prefer to use pencil and paper to take notes. It is less distracting for other students (the click-clack of a keyboard can be irritating), and it's easy to draw diagrams and organize thoughts without having to look up the syntax and such online. I know a couple people with messy writing though who find using Latex easier.
     
  5. Aug 17, 2015 #4

    e.bar.goum

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    I hear a lot of good things about TeXWorks.

    Another option that I started to use in the last year or so of my degree was to use a tablet + stylus + note-taking app - it has a lot of the advantages of both - you get the nonlinearity of paper with some of the benefits of notetaking on a computer - being able to tag documents, access them everywhere, and the ability to insert links/multimedia. With a tablet you can also have apps that use handwriting-to-text conversion, and annotate PDFs on the fly (very useful if your lecturer gives you access to notes before class).

    In any case, LaTeX is a good idea to learn for assignments/papers.
     
  6. Aug 17, 2015 #5
    Dear e.bar.goum,

    Thank you very much for your advice! I am using MacBook Pro and iPad Air2 (I do not know if LaTeX support iOS too but I should find it out!). What text editor do you recommend for Mac OS?
     
  7. Aug 17, 2015 #6
    Dear Dishsoap,

    Thank you very much for your advice too! What is the difference between TexWorks and LaTeX?
     
  8. Aug 17, 2015 #7

    e.bar.goum

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    I use Kile on my Mac as well as on my Linux desktop. I'm a big fan of Kile. I can't say I'd want to be writing up LaTeX markup on anything but a real keyboard, but there are cloud-based LaTeX editors that you could use on your iPad.
     
  9. Aug 17, 2015 #8

    e.bar.goum

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    TeXworks is an editor. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TeXworks

    Another good option for macs is TeXShop.
     
  10. Aug 17, 2015 #9
    I tried the note-taking through my iPad Air2, but I do not like it since I had to face the great level of discomfort trying to write the notes down. I mainly use my tablet for storing and reading books (PDF and Kindle), daily works, eMail, etc. What I have been doing is that I use the app that converts the photo into PDF file, which convert the notebook pages into PDF files. I always feel obligated to write down the most visible, neat notes as possible, which consume some times. It seems that LaTeX is not good for the note-taking to me. I should extensively use it for the home works, papers, undergraduate research, etc.
     
  11. Aug 18, 2015 #10

    Dr Transport

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  12. Aug 19, 2015 #11
    Dear e.bar.goum,

    I downloaded the LaTeX program from the website you recommended (latex-project), and the TeXShop (I believe it is a text editor) came along with the package. Is that text editor as good as Kile or TexWorks?
     
  13. Aug 19, 2015 #12

    e.bar.goum

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    I've only ever really had a lot of experience with Kile, so I can't say from personal experience. However, I hear a lot of good things about it! If you don't like it, you can always try something else.
     
  14. Aug 19, 2015 #13
    After you get a bit more comfortable with the program, one really valuable tool I used when learning LaTeX was http://detexify.kirelabs.org/classify.html

    The website is basically a database of symbols that you can search through if you find yourself needing a specific symbol. Just draw what you are looking for and it will give you both the needed command and package to process the command.
     
  15. Aug 24, 2015 #14

    pmr

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    If you want to really learn how to be a TeX hacker then I would suggest the following:

    1) Get on a UNIX based operating system, if you're not already on one. Good candidates are OS X, Linux, or FreeBSD. If you go the Linux route then try either Fedora or Ubuntu.

    2) Learn how to use a bash terminal. This is how advanced users interface with most computer programs, including TeX. It's one of these things: http://cookingwithlinux.com/sites/default/files/gnome-terminal.png

    3) Learn how to use Emacs or Vim, which are the two most common hackers' text editors on UNIX. Both editors have built in tutorials. Vim has the vimtutor program, accessible from your bash terminal. Emacs has a tutorial which you can access from its startup screen. If you learn how to use one of these editors well then typing complicated jumbles of TeX code will become just as easy as breathing.

    4) Learn history of TeX, and learn the difference between Palin TeX and LaTeX. Plain TeX came first. It was created by Prof. Donald Knuth (an Emacs user, by the way). LaTeX came later. LaTeX was written on top of Knuth's core TeX program by Leslie Lamppost (thus the "La" in "LaTeX"). Plain TeX and LaTeX are both based on the Knuth's core TeX engine. Much of the stuff you learn in Plain TeX will also apply to LaTeX, either directly or in some altered form.

    5) If you settle on learning Plain TeX then get Donald Knuth's book: https://www.amazon.com/Computers-Typesetting-Donald-E-Knuth/dp/0201134470 If you settle on learning LaTeX then try Leslie Lamport's book https://www.amazon.com/LaTeX-Document-Preparation-System-2nd/dp/0201529831 Learning both is probably worthwhile, especially since learning each will help you to better understand the other.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
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