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Learn \LaTeX

Here I'll share a bit of my experience about how to learn \LaTeX from zero, the best editor for \LaTeX (IMO) as well as typical mistakes.

Table of Contents

"Who Is LaTeX" Stage


It is a requirement for any programming activity. Open any trainer for blind printing with ten fingers — and go ahead!

How To Learn

  • I recommend this free online introduction to \LaTeX in three parts, made by Overleaf. Instead of a dry book guide, they made it as a presentation. There are a lot of examples, with a focus only on the most important stuff. This introduction should take about 4-hours for you to read.

    Also, Overleaf has great docs. Later, when you have some questions about \LaTeX, you can look it up in their docs.

  • Videos are usually the easiest way to learn, and for a quick start in \LaTeX take a free course from the HSE (in Russian).

    The basics could be learned in 4-5 hours, and two days off are enough for the entire course. Video lessons are better than thick books in the beginning.

Where To TeX

There are two ways.

  1. Online compiler like overleaf.
    • Very simple.
    • Real-time online teamwork.
  2. Set up your environment.
    • So much faster compiling!
    • Takes time.
    • Easier to integrate Git.

GUI / Text Editor for LaTeX

The best option, in my opinion, is LaTeX in Vim. There are gold articles in which Gilles Castel shows his Vim + LaTeX setup and how it works.

Otherwise — you can try TexStudio, but it looks like an ancient artifact.
Also, there is the texpad app for macOS, but I had some issues with buggy behavior (in 2020).

PS: The Vim + LaTeX setup can easily take 20+ hours to make it work if you are new.

Life Hacks

  1. Use \newcommand{command_name}{script_of_command} for commands you use very often.

    Compare f: \mathbb{R} \to \mathbb{R} and f: \R\to\R.

    f:RR f: \mathbb{R} \to \mathbb{R}
  2. Learn how to TeX in Vim =)

Typical Mistakes

  1. Please, God, don't do 500+ lines main.tex...

    • It will be an unmaintainable mess.
    • You don’t have a universal preamble.

    Instead -- use input{anotherFile.tex} or include{anotherFile.tex} to structure code.

  2. Not using or defining LaTeX environments.
    For every theorem, proof, note, etc. you can set special environment (\begin{theorem}, \begin{proof}).

    • Now you can change the style of your theorems by changing one line.
  3. Not using multiline or align environments for long formulas.

    a=b+c+dd=b+c \begin{align*} a &= b + c + d - d \\ &= b + c \end{align*}
        a &=  b + c + d - d \\
          &= b + c
  4. Not using \cfrac or \displaystyle when necessary.

    • Otherwise, the formula may get hard to read.

    2+846\frac{2 + \frac{8}{4}}{6} -- without \displaystyle

    2+846\cfrac{2 + \frac{8}{4}}{6} -- with \displaystyle

  5. Not using \text inside formulas.

    a=a+b+c+d,when  sun  is  reda=b+c, when sun is white \begin{align*} a &= a + b + c + d , when\; sun\; is\; red \\ a &= b + c, \text{ when sun is white} \end{align*}
    a &= a + b + c + d , when\; sun\; is\; red  \\
    a &= b + c, \text{ when sun is white}
  6. All variables inside text should be math mode.

    -a or a-a

  7. Avoid making new lines in text with \\.

    • Using empty lines instead makes code much more readable.
  8. Not using \ldots for ...

    ... or \ldots

  9. Ignoring warnings and errors.

    • You must not ignore erros.
    • Warnings help you deepen your knowledge and improve code.
  10. Not using Git for big projects.
    Best of luck...

  11. Using tutorials from ancient times.
    You can meet outdated and deprecated practices.

Useful Links

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