How to LaTeX

Install LaTeX

You will need LaTeX-distribution and an editor.


For the former, the most popular is

  • TeX Live (Linux, Windows) by the TeX User Group
  • MacTeX (Mac OS) by the TeX User Group
  • MiKTeX (Windows only)


In theory, any text editor will do the job. In practice, you probably want syntax highlighting and some IDE-functionality. Here are our top recommendations:

There are plenty of alternatives:

  • Lyx (Linux, Mac OS X, Windows); CONTRA: do you really need your own file format .lyx?!
  • Texmaker (Linux, Mac OS X, Windows); CONTRA: seems to be superseded by TeXStudio

Testing the installation

a minimal latex document contains :


Hello world!

Save the 5 lines above as minimal.tex, open it with the editor and compile.

Write LaTeX

Armin Gerl has provided a template for the (German) master thesis (based on the standard report-class):

Alternatively, Florian Stegmaier built template (based on the KomaScript scrreprt-class):

Document Classes

The standard classes are book, report, article with differences in the (default) settings and the available commands/environments. Here’s a preview of some documentclass options.

For presentations, there’s the beamer-class. For a CV and a (business) letter, my choices are moderncv and dinbrief, respectively.

There are plenty of alternatives: Many departments, work groups, conferences, and journals offer their own documentclasses. There are also the popular replacements scrbook, scrreprt, scrartcl from the KOMA-Script bundle. Here’s a list of incompatibilities for the latter.

Maintain your bibliography with BibTeX

A text editor is sufficient to maintain one’s .bib-file, but if you prefer some GUI (which might for example also link to the corresponding pdf’s), there’s JabRef.

see tex-stackexchange for a list of sources for bibtex-entries, e.g.

Draw beautiful inline graphics with TikZ

see tex-stackexchange for a list of libraries




  • Detexify by Philipp Kühl and Daniel Kirsch to reverse-lookup the LaTeX-command for that math-symbol for which you don’t know the name
  • Beamer Theme Matrix to visualize combinations of themes (rows) and color themes (columns)
  • Advice on Data Presentation/Visualization with LaTeX by Stephan Lukasczyk


An earlier version of this document was published in the blog of PGBBS.