My only knowledge of LaTeX is that it is a markup language that lets me concentrate on the structure of my document rather than its appearance. It uses tags similar to HTML.

My problem is that I've only experienced all that through reading tutorials and Wikipedia.

How do I start using LaTeX on Windows XP? I have programming experience in Python and MATLAB. I would prefer to start out "raw" or low-level, without any WYSIWYG's, so that I can get my hands dirty and understand how it works. But any answers about WYSIWYG's would surely be helpful as well.

I have just installed LyX, but I'm not sure if it fits my "raw" preference well enough.


It's a very good decision to start with LaTeX.

For working with it, you need a LaTeX distribution. You could choose between two:

  • TeX Live ist cross-platform and maintained by many people or
  • MiKTeX is very user-friendly, runs only on Windows and is maintained by one man.

Both distributions install TeXworks, a cross-platform LaTeX editor. It's easy to use and not overloaded, so you are encouraged to learn LaTeX instead of learning buttons and toolbars. Start TeXworks and you're ready to go. It comes with an integrated pdf previewer supporting SyncTeX. That means: clicking somewhere in the output would get you to the corresponding line in the source code, and the other way round as well. That's very handy with large documents.

If you prefer a more complex editor, you may try the outstanding TeXnicCenter or Texmaker.

Perhaps have a look at Distributions, Editors and Viewer for Windows.

By the way, the new version 2.9 of MiKTeX is expected to be released this month, and TeX Live 2010 may be released at the end of August or in September. A pretest version is available.

  • Inferring from your answer, TeX Live does the "1. Install MiKTeX; 2. Install source editor" sequence for me. Is this correct? Or are there other actions that I missed? – Kit Aug 14 '10 at 13:39
  • TeX Live and MiKTeX are different 'TeX distributions' So pick one or the other and use it. MiKTeX is Windows-only, which means it has a more Windows 'feel'. Recent versions of TeX Live have moved from being more Unix-focused to truly cross-platform. I've moved to TeX Live from MiKTeX. – Joseph Wright Aug 14 '10 at 13:47
  • The proTeXt distro is probably the simplest way to set up a working MiKTeX / TeXnicCenter environment. You can download it from ctan.org. – Geoffrey Jones Aug 19 '10 at 5:18

You basically have to do three things

LyX is definitely not “raw” level. It might sound too harsh, but I wouldn't recommend LyX for anything. Conceptually, there is really not much difference between LyX and Word, which could sound like an advantage but it's actually more like a flaw. LaTeX offers you a completely different way to “think” about documents, allowing you to clearly separate the format from the content of a document. Really, try the real LaTeX, specially if you already are a programmer, you will be amazed by the power and the new perspective that it brings to you.

  • This is wrong. You don't have to install MiKTeX. You have to install a TeX distribution. – cfr Jan 18 '15 at 2:56

LyX may be a good way to entice users of Microsoft Word to structural markup, but it is inappropriate for a low-level LaTeX start.

My recommendation: Use TeXworks as the editor of your choice - it combines an editor for "raw" LaTeX code with a preview window that shows the corresponding final output. Load the file sample2e.tex which offers a selection of basic LaTeX commands, compile it, then play around with the code.


I suggest MikTeX and TeXnicCenter to start, download and instalation are easy. You can then, very easily download template documents from many websites, I suggest articles to start. The advantage of TeXnicCenter is that it includes buttons which write the corresponding code for you, this will allow you to see how different things look like, e.g. equation environments, greek letters, etc. I also suggest the LaTeX cook book avilable here to get started with , probably-not-so-basic stuff. You'll find this tremendously easy to follow and experiment. I hope you have fun.

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