Also, why is proTeXt's file size so enormous?

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Note that MikTeX full install is also 1.1GB. `=)` – Paulo Cereda Aug 18 '11 at 10:47
@Paulo Cereda: So most of proTeXt's size is because of downloading all the packages? – benregn Aug 18 '11 at 10:50
yes, just like MikTeX full install. `=)` IMHO I think it's better to have a full TeX install instead of a basic system. Update: Check doncherry's answer, it's a great explanation. I was unaware that proTeXt actually contains MikTeX, my bad. – Paulo Cereda Aug 18 '11 at 10:53
related question: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/1713/… – doncherry Sep 21 '11 at 21:43

Update: The current proTeXt actually contains TeXstudio as an editor, and not TeXnicCenter anymore, but that information hasn't even reached all of their own web sites yet.

proTeXt is a bundle that contains, among other things, MiKTeX, which is one of the two major TeX distributions (the other being TeX Live):

First, proTeXt adds a few independent tools to MiKTeX, notably TeXnicCenter and Ghostscript.

TeXnicCenter is a LaTeX editor that works quite well with MiKTeX, Ghostscript is software for processing PostScript (*.ps) files.

What makes the difference between MiKTeX's 164 MB and proTeXt's 1195 MB is the fact that MiKTeX is a Basic Installer that loads further packages on-the-fly, when necessary. The MiKTeX included in proTeXt has that ability, too, of course; however, it comes with many (all?) packages included, so it's a "full" install.

If you're completely new to LaTeX and you have a decent Internet connection, I recommend going for proTeXt because it gives you all you need for a start and offers a nice installation-flow manual.

If you kinda know where you're going and you have Internet access whenever you need it, the Basic MiKTeX Install will suffice. You can complement it with an editor of your choice, some are listed in the qustion LaTeX Editors/IDEs, you can see which are quite popular among tex.sx users in our TeX Community Polls.

One last thing about MiKTeX vs. TeX Live: I started out using MiKTeX about a year ago and I have found it quite comfortable; but as time goes on, I'm thinking more and more I might switch to TeX Live soon. Some differences are discussed at What are the advantages of TeX Live over MiKTeX?. I personally am just slightly frustrated with MiKTeX because it crashed a number of times and I had to reinstall. Once again, MiKTeX (within proTeXt) might be a good choice for LaTeX beginners on Windows who are used to the Windows feel, but TeX Live really seems to be more popular among people here, looking at the TeX Community Polls again.

I just unzipped the proTeXt 2.2.4 (current version is 3.0) that I still had in My Downloads, and the biggest portion indeed goes to MiKTeX itself. Here's a breakdown of the folders with their respective sizes:

``````doc           16 MB
gsv           17 MB (GhostScript and GhostView)
Install       10 MB
MiKTeX       906 MB
Sources        1 MB
TeXnicCenter   4 MB
unsupported    9 MB
``````

Indeed, if you dig further in the folder structure, you get to one huge folder: `proTeXt→MiKTeX→tm→packages`, which is 903 MB in size and contains over 2000 files.

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Great explanation, doncherry! I was unaware that proTeXt actually contains MikTeX. – Paulo Cereda Aug 18 '11 at 10:54
Great answer! I'm actually not that new to LaTeX (ca. 1/2 year), however I have been wondering about this for some time. Since it's a possibility that I'm going to teach a very basic introductory "minicourse" on LaTeX I wanted to know :) – benregn Aug 18 '11 at 11:24

`proTeXt` is `MiKTeX` for Dummies. It makes the installation of the distribution easier. The file contains the completely MiKTeX/Editor/GhostScript. However, there is also the `TeXLive` which is also available for Windows: http://tug.org/texlive

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I don't think the term dummies is quite appropriate here. As a beginner, the Internet resources and choices for LaTeX are more than overwhelming, and it is really helpful to have just one file to download that provides you with everything you need to get started and finally compile your first document. There's always time to make more sophisticated choices later, proTeXt is simply a pretty safe bet to start with. – doncherry Aug 18 '11 at 11:17