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Options for a LaTeX installation for a retired person who uses it sporadically? I use OVERLEAF, I get messages to sign up. Price 179€/month!

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    you can use overleaf for free unless you have very large documents requiring more time, it only very occasionally suggests you might like to upgrade but if you don't, it still keeps working. Dec 9, 2023 at 11:26
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    and the price is 179€ per year, not per month. Dec 9, 2023 at 11:32
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    Which operating system do you employ -- Windows, MacOS, or something else? Is something keeping you from installing a TeXLive, MacTeX, or MikTeX distribution on your system?
    – Mico
    Dec 9, 2023 at 12:15
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    @Mico See my answer to this question, written after your comment. I have a "something else" system, and pointed out a possible solution (works for me).
    – rallg
    Dec 10, 2023 at 0:03
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    I don't really see the relevance of being retired. Sporadic usage is really only relevant if you are short of disk space or bandwidth. In that case, you might not be prepared to shell out the resources for a full install of TeX Live, say. If that's not the case, though, I don't see it makes much difference. I don't use some programmes very often but I don't remove them in between because they don't eat anything significant. (The bottle neck on my machine is generally memory and they only eat that when I'm using them.) It's different for commercial software, but that's irrelevant here.
    – cfr
    Dec 10, 2023 at 0:09

3 Answers 3

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I happen to be a retired person, who publishes a paperbook book sporadically, using my own document class and lualatex. I do not use Overleaf or anyone else's installation but my own. My hardware is a Samsung tablet (10 inch screen), plus external Keys-to-Go Bluetooth keyboard, and Bluetooth mouse. It runs the Android operating system. I believe that this would also work for Chromebook.

Android may have an app named Termux (from Google Play Store). But this is better: Get the F-Droid app, which lets you install other apps. Then install Termux from there. You may need to "side-load" it. Does not require a rooted device.

When you launch Termux, you will see a Linux command-line prompt. This gives you access to a jailed Linux system (it cannot change Android, unless your device is rooted). Within Termux, you can install many things. Among them: vnc server, TeXlive, Evince (for viewing PDF), TeXworks etc., GIMP, Inkscape. With the vnc server active, you can view everything using the free RealVNC app (Google Play Store).

Details of configuration are beyond the scope of TeX, but within the scope of Linux. So if you wish to do this, find a friend who knows something about Linux, and ask for help. It does not require much knowledge.

I mention this because it brings a full-fledged TeX system to Android. Works great. And, in recent Email, I learned that the folks at CTAN did not know about this.

TeX on Termux Android

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  • Just curious, why a tablet and not a laptop? I am also retired now and have a full setup, very similar to yours.
    – yannisl
    Dec 10, 2023 at 3:42
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    @YiannisLazarides When my last laptop finally gave up the ghost, I replaced it with a tablet. Reason: I get around a lot (bicycle, backpacking) and wanted less to carry (retitred, getting old). Originally intended for reading Ebooks. Then, after I discovered that I could enable Linux, its usage grew. No regrets.
    – rallg
    Dec 10, 2023 at 16:36
  • Great thanks, makes a lot of sense. Enjoy!
    – yannisl
    Dec 10, 2023 at 16:39
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As mentioned in the comments, you can use Overleaf for free without any problem at all especially if you work mainly by yourself and your documents are not huge and/or very processor intensive. The paid version obviously has other useful features, but depending on your use, you may not have much need for them anyway.

On the other hand, installing a local TeX Distribution on your own computer is really quite simple. Both of the major distributions (TeX Live and MikTeX) offer versions for all of the major OS versions. If you're a Windows user, MikTeX might be slightly easier to use than TeX Live, and it has the added benefit of on-the-fly package installation. If you're using a Mac, then just download the MacTeX installer, which installs a full TeX Live distribution along with a couple of great editors and TeX Live Utility to manage updates.

One big advantage of using your own local distribution is that you can use whatever editor you like, and most editors are substantially better than the Overleaf editor.

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For years, before my institution paid for Overleaf subscriptions for us, I used MikTex with the TexStudio editor on Windows. These worked just fine - albeit with a little bit of added administration time. I wouldn't have switched except Overleaf is seamless between my various computers and is better for collaboration.

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