Background: I've been using what I would call LaTex for ~4 yrs to typeset assignments, reports, essays and tutorial notes. I have been using "TexShop" (for Macs) - mostly because it was simple when I was first starting.

Situation: I was recently prompted to search out the possibility of using Tex/Latex/[Appropriate name here] to typeset Arabic, but have found that I am completely unable to understand any of the jargon or technical language, and so can't make any use of the documentation found here and elsewhere on the web. While I'm not exactly brimming with excitement at the prospect of reading hundreds of pages of technical details about the typesetting program I use, I really would like to be able to start to get a more sophisticated grasp of the topic.

Question(s): 1) where can I find an accessible, well-structured and accurate introduction to Tex/LaTex/ConTex etc. that would serve as a solid foundation for learning about more advanced features (e.g. typesetting in Arabic; adding La/Tex capabilities to a program, forum or website; generating technical images w/ Texs of all sorts; etc.)?

Clarification: I am very familiar with typesetting in LaTex (I've typed 100s of pages of math, with all the fixings), but I couldn't tell you what the difference between Tex and LaTex is or what ConTex is or any of the "Tex" story and how it fits together. So, as far as I can tell, the linked thread on "what intro book for LaTex would you recommend" (sry for imprecise quote, I can't view the title while writing this), for example, doesn't really address the question. This is meant as clarification, not criticism - thanks to all who have responded so far.

While it is a subjective question, I'd also be interested to know from those who answer the above:

2) if they would actually recommend heading down this road.

3) I also wondered if there was a community similar to this one that had assembled instructional videos or even problem sets on the topic?

Ps. I tried to add useful tags to this, but was not allowed; perhaps someone else with correct permissions could do so? e.g. "readings" "intro" "basics" "beginner" etc.

  • This is not a real answer, but I'm a lawyer and not a technican guy: I buy nearly any book on LaTeX, which is published in German, to support the authors, well, and myself. Reading an introduction for beginners (not the "Companion!"), just between 100 and 200 pages, is a sustainable investment!
    – Keks Dose
    Commented May 6, 2012 at 17:07
  • Welcome to TeX.sx! Please only ask one question per post. Also, I'm quite sure your question No. 1 has been asked on here already, try searching for it.
    – doncherry
    Commented May 6, 2012 at 17:14
  • @RaxAdaam Regarding your first question, I would suggest you read this question. It is of course possible to typeset in arabic with TeX and friends, but I would warmly recommend you switch to XeLaTeX which can handle all system fonts. Have a look at the first two answers to this question: they provide you with minimal working examples that you can just copy-paste. You may need TeXLive (not sure all of the packages are on MikTeX).
    – ienissei
    Commented May 6, 2012 at 17:39
  • 2
    @RaxAdaam On the different engines and on the different formats. Could you tell me which error you saw in the console when running the first example with XeLaTeX? For instance I see "fontspec error: font-not-found" at line 11, because I don't have the right font, which isn't by default on macs. But if I replace Scheerazade with Al Bayan it works.
    – ienissei
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 7:03
  • 2
    I would recommend TeX FAQ for "well-structured and accurate introduction to Tex/LaTex/ConTex etc. that would serve as a solid foundation for learning about more advanced features".
    – DJP
    Commented May 12, 2012 at 15:24

2 Answers 2


There are many different issues raised in the question, and there is no single resource which covers all of them. For example, typesetting Arabic is a very different matter from understanding the difference between LaTeX and ConTeXt or how to generate web content in a TeX-based workflow. As such, you probably need to ask focussed questions on the issues you particularly want to work on.

Several of those may have been covered to some extent before. Possibly useful example questions:


As for the Arabic typesetting, you can try the ledarab package, that is distributed together with ledmac. As for a manual where you can find not just the difference between TeX and LaTeX and that goes from the most basic to the most advanced, try LaTeX from wikibooks.org: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/LaTeX Still, go on visiting this site. In the end you get used to the jargon.

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