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2. What is TeX? What is LaTeX? What is teTeX?

teTeX is an implementation of TeX for UNIX systems. It is the work of Thomas Esser, In the Linux versions of teTeX, the executable programs themselves run under Linux and the fonts are provided in form usable by the Linux-teTeX system. (The sections covering teTeX installation concentrate on the i386 versions of Linux. Installing teTeX for MkLinux or Linux for the Alpha should require only substituting the appropriate binary-program archive in the installation process.) The rest of the code, TeX and LaTeX itself, is portable across various machines.

In addition to the executable programs, the distribution includes all of the TeX and LaTeX package, metafont and its sources, bibtex(1), makeindex(1), and all of the documentation... more than 4 megabytes' worth. The documentation covers everything you will forseeably need to know to get started. So, you should install all of the documents. Not only will you eventually read them, the documents themselves provide many examples of ``live'' TeX and LaTeX code.

In comparison with other implementations of TeX, the installation of teTeX is almost trivial, even without the Linux distribution packages, if you don't count the effort necessary acquire the distributions via anonymous FTP or insert and remove several dozen distribution diskettes by hand. If your teTeX distribution arrived on a CD-ROM, even less effort is required to install it.

TeX is a typesetting system developed by Professor Donald Knuth of Stanford University. It is a lower-level typesetting language that powers all of the higher-level packages like LaTeX. Essentially, LaTeX is a set of TeX macros which provide convenient, predefined document formats for end users. If you like the formats provided by LaTeX, you may never need to learn bare-bones TeX programming. The difference between the two languages is like the difference between assembly language and C. You can have the speed and flexibility of TeX, or the convenience of LaTeX. Which brings us to the next answer,

Answer: You have it backwards! I want to know what exactly I need to get before I can have TeX on my system!

It's important to remember that TeX only handles the typesetting part of the document preparation. Generating output with TeX is like compiling source code into object code, which still needs to be linked. You prepare an input file with a text editor -- what most people think of as ``word processing'' -- and typeset the input file document with TeX to produce a device-independent output file, called a .dvi file.

You also need output drivers for your printer and video display. These output drivers translate TeX's .dvi output to display your typeset document on the screen or on paper. This software is collectively known as ``dviware.'' For example, TeX itself only makes requests for fonts. It is up to the .dvi output translator to provide the actual font to the display device if necessary, regardless of whether it is the screen or a printer. This extra step may seem overly complicated, but the abstraction allows documents to display the same on different devices with no change to the original document.

In fact, much of TeX's, and therefore LaTeX's, complexity, arises from its implementation of various font systems, and the way these fonts are specified. A major improvement of LaTeX 2e over its predecessor was the way users specify fonts, the former New Font Selection Scheme. (See the sections Characters and type styles and Using PostScript Fonts.)

teTeX comes distributed with about a dozen standard fonts preloaded, which is enough to get you started. Also provided are the font metrics descriptions, in .tfm (TeX font metric) files. To generate the other fonts you will need, it is simply a matter of installing the metafont sources. teTeX's .dvi utilities will invoke metafont automatically and generate the Computer Modern fonts you need, on-the-fly.

By the way, the letters of the word ``TeX'' are Greek, tau-epsilon-chi. This is not a fraternity. Instead, it is the root of the Greek word, techne, which means art and/or science. ``TeX'' is not pronounced like the first syllable in "Texas." The chi has no English equivalent, but TeX is generally pronounced so that it rhymes with ``yecch,'' to use Professor Knuth's example from The TeXBook (see below). When writing, "TeX," on character devices, always use the standard capitalization, or the \TeX{} macro in typesetting. This is how TeX is distinguished from other typesetting systems.

Speaking of typing, any of the editors which work under Linux--- nvi(1), jed(1), joe(1), jove(1), vi(1), vim(1), stevie(1), emacs(1), microemacs---will work to prepare a TeX input file, as long as the editor reads and writes plain-vanilla ASCII text. My preference is emacs(1), the GNU version. There are several reasons for this:

There's a lot of software to assemble. In the meantime, you can start in ``learning'' TeX and LaTeX. Remember that teTeX and the font packages have been designed as two separate entities: The teTeX executable programs and shell scripts, as distributed with Linux, have been built specifically for the system, but the CM, DC, American Mathematical Society, or other font distributions work on many different platforms. While you are working on assembling the files, you can take a few breaks to locate some of the documentation you will need.

2.1 Resources for further information.

There are user manuals available both commercially and via the Internet. Judging by the number of mentions they receive in the Usenet comp.text.tex newsgroup, the most useful---and definitive---commercially available texts for beginners are:

LaTeX: A Document Preparation System, by Leslie Lamport, 272 pp. If you're using LaTeX instead of plain TeX (highly recommended), this is the definitive reference.

If you must use plain TeX, The TeXBook by Donald Knuth, 483 pp., is the definitive reference. It is also necessary if you plan to do any serious class, package, or macro writing for LaTeX.

The LaTeX Companion, by Michel Goosens, Frank Mittelbach, and Alexander Samarin, 530 pp., is more advanced than the Lamport, above. If you are approaching TeX or LaTeX for the first time, you may feel lost reading this. (I was.) However, when you need to add extension packages, like PSNFSS (See the section titled, Using PostScript fonts.), or bibtex(1), a bibliography indexing program, this book is one of the most highly regarded on the market.

At your nearest CTAN site you can retrieve these documents for free:

The Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX2e, by Tobias Oetiker, Hubert Partl, Irene Hyna, and Elisabeth Schlegl, 69 pp. This wonderful document is located at ~CTAN/packages/TeX/info/lshort/*.

You can get a PostScript or .dvi version of the document ready for printing, or the native LaTeX document. There is also a version available in German: lkurz.*. Make sure to read the README file before assembling!

A Gentle Introduction to TeX: A Manual for Self-Study, by Michael Doob, 91 pp. You can find this document at: ~CTAN:packages/TeX/info/gentle.tex. Almost of necessity, this document covers less ground than its LaTeX counterpart, above. However, it will get you to the same place as the LaTeX manuals. If you must use plain TeX for your documents, this document clarifies many of the complexities of plain TeX and makes its use almost easy.

``IMPRINT: The Newsletter of Digital Typography,'' edited by Robert Kiesling. I realize that this is BLATANT and SHAMELESS self-promotion. But, you should know anyway, that IMPRINT is a free, ASCII-text newsletter which is available via e-mail. IMPRINT appears approximately monthly and covers a broad range of text processing and digital imaging topics, both beginning and advanced. Many of the items covered apply directly or indirectly to TeX'ing. The emphasis is on production of industry-standard typeset and printed material. To subscribe to IMPRINT, send a brief, human-readable message to me at

The LaTeX Catalogue is a bibtex(1) database of available LaTeX packages, compiled and maintained by Graham Williams. It's included with teTeX, and the most recent version is available on the World Wide Web. Do you need a package that prints borders, or makes margin notes? You'll find that the package you need is listed here. The LaTeX Catalogue is located in your local teTeX library in the directory teTeX/texmf/doc/Catalog, and on the Web at See section LaTeX extension packages and other resources for further details about LaTeX packages.

Thomas Merz's Ghostscript Manual, which is the Ghostscript appendix of his book, PostScript \& Acrobat/PDF: Applications, Troubleshooting, and Cross-Platform Publishing. It is available from the Ghostscript Home Page (see the section Ghosctscript V. 5.03), or from Merz's home page,

There are, of course, other guides available to using TeX and LaTeX. They cover different aspects of these systems to varying degrees. The reference documents cited above, however, are the most comprehensive in scope that I have seen and are aimed at beginners (or near-beginners).

If the going gets especially tough, you can probably do a little extra shopping at Office Max, Office Depot, Staples, or your local stationer, and pick up several reams of three-hole punched, photocopy paper, two or three, three-inch binders, and some index tabs. When it comes time to print the documents, you'll need a place to keep them, and they seem to be more useful if they are kept on paper. This must be one of the stranger phenomena of technical documentation.

You will note, however, that the references mentioned above are hardware-independent. They won't tell you a thing about running teTeX specifically. Many of them, in fact, refer to some mythical ``Local Guide.'' This, and several of the documents that come bundled with teTeX, comprise the less-than-mythical Local Guide to installing and operating teTeX with Linux.

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