Features of LaTex

Last revision August 3, 2004

Table of Contents:
  1. Features of LaTeX
  2. Basic layout of a LaTeX document
  3. Required parts of a LaTeX input file
  4. Basic LaTeX topics
    1. LaTeX environments
    2. LaTeX modes
    3. Special symbols in the input file.
    4. Running LaTeX
  5. LaTeX by example
  6. LaTeX Frequent Questions

LaTeX includes a rich set of built-in commands.

Full programming language features allow complicated macros to be easily defined.

Most complete selection of mathematical and special symbols.

The LaTeX macros are at a high level. That is, they make most of the formatting decisions for you, which is good if you don't want to bother with typographical layout problems. If LaTeX's default layout is not what you want, you can change almost everything, but some items are cumbersome to change. Examples:

Footnotes and marginal notes are automatically located on the page.

LaTeX will automatically number sections and equations in a document.

LaTeX makes it easy to control the actual width and format of columns in tables and to set paragraph entries in columns.

TeX/LaTeX uses only integer arithmetic, so it processes quickly.

There is a well-written book for LaTeX containing both tutorial and reference sections, plus a good index.

LaTeX allows commands to be freely intermixed with text in free-format. Command names may be any length. Thus, commands names tend to be more verbose but self-explanatory. Indentation may be used to show the structure of the commands.

LaTeX is output device independent.

The basic programs are available free or at low cost and can be put on systems ranging from PCs to Unix to VMS to IBM mainframes.

LaTeX creates a device-independent (DVI) output file in a standard, well-documented format. Filter programs then convert this file to the format needed by various printers or graphics terminals.

LaTeX works the same way on all systems. Unless specifically modified at the local site, the macros give the same result regardless of the system, and the DVI files are interchangeable between systems. The name of the program used to invoke LaTeX may differ among systems, however.

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