I heard from a friend that LaTeX is much better than MS Word to write my University's dissertation on. I don't really understand why bother writing an essay in code if Word automatically does that for you. However I looked online and admired how organised and nicely formatted LaTeX documents are.

I want to give it a try before deciding what I'll use. I noticed many different files, programs and editors scattered around the web.

I am using a Mac OS X (Mountain Lion) and just downloaded and installed MacTeX.

Now, what else do I need to get started? Can someone tell me what is the best editor out there? And any other essential addons that I need to make the most out of LaTeX?

Furthermore, I also heard that there is a way to immediately show changes you are doing in the editor as you are typing, how can I do that?

  • Welcome to TeX.sx!
    – egreg
    Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 22:46
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    Please tell us a bit more about your field of studies -- math, physics, economics, linguistics, musicology, elvish poetry, egyptology? The LaTeX skills you'll want to (or need to) pick up depend in part on your field of inquiry.
    – Mico
    Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 23:08
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    @Mico Mathematics, Physics, Engineering, Automatic Controls and Systems, Mechanical, Electrical.
    – Razor
    Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 23:11
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    TeXShop is a very mature editor for the Mac which will serve you well. If you are already an emacs or vim user, then there are versions of those editors for the Mac as well. Also, if someone at your university maintains a document class or package that matches the university guidelines, then LaTeX will definitely make your like easier. It also provides much better (and free) systems for managing citations and bibliographies. Once you get used to the workflow of typing and then compiling, the lack of instant feedback becomes second nature.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 23:36
  • Also for the Mac, BibDesk, a bibliography manager is fantastic. It should be in the Applications/TeX folder if you installed a full MacTeX.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 23:38

2 Answers 2


Welcome to LaTeX and the LaTeX community of users. The first thing you may want to do is to work through the online document The not so short introduction to LaTeX2e by Tobias Oetiker et al. This document is available in English as well as (at least) three dozen other languages.

I also suggest you check out the community question What is the best book to start learning LaTeX?. Obviously, there is no single "best book" out there for learning LaTeX, but the answers given to that question should give you a good sense which book, or books, will suit your needs.

To the best of my knowledge, there's very little that's MacOS-specific about your upcoming quest to learn LaTeX. These days, MacTeX is more or less the same as TeXLive, which is available for many operating systems and computer platforms. MacTeX comes bundled with a couple of integrated editors: TeXshop and TeXworks. Learn how to use them effectively, or find another integrated editor/development environment you're comfortable with. For much more information on such editors, see the community wiki question LaTeX Editors/IDEs.

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    MacTeX is TeXLive. The only thing that MacTeX does is make your local texmf folder in ~/Library/texmf and some behind the scenes wizardry that allows you to easily switch between multiple TeX distributions via the OS System Preferences. It also installs TeXLive Utility which is a very nice GUI interface to tlmgr.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 1:19
  • @AlanMunn - Many thanks for making much more precise my off-hand remark that "MacTeX is more or less than same as TeXLive". Indeed, the TeXLive utility - the gui interface to the tlmgr utility -- is very useful indeed.
    – Mico
    Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 1:38

I recommend you to use just another tool: Textexpander. When you deal with LaTeX you will definitely write a lot of \command{} stuff. Textexpander helps you to cut it short be defining a shortcut like for example s# which then gets expanded to \section{} with the cursor positioned directly in the braces.

It will help you a lot!

For completeness: On Windows I use Autohotkey, on Linux Autokey, both really good tools.

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