LaTeX is a typesetting system primarily used in the production of scientific and technical documentation. It uses a markup language to describe how a document is to be produced, rather than the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) concept used by most word processing programs. The LaTeX homepage is at

There are literally thousands of introductory guides and tutorials for LaTeX on the internet - some are linked below. This page is not a LaTeX introduction, but is a description of the LaTeX tools available on Thayer computing systems along with particular issues regarding LaTeX that may be of help to the Thayer Community.

In addition, there is a Dartmouth Library page which has some information about LaTeX, more links, and information about upcoming information sessions they provide:

Guides, Introductions, etc.

As we said above, there are far too many of these available on the Internet for us to mention. However, here are a few links that we have found to be helpful and useful. If you are a member of the Thayer community and find a link that you think should be included on this page, please send an e-mail to and let us know.

LaTeX Page on Wikipedia - General Introduction to LaTeX
LaTeX Wikibook - Open-Source Textbook
LaTeX Project Documentation - Lots of links to basic information
Getting Started with LaTeX - Nice primer from Trinity College Dublin
An Introduction to Using TeX in the Harvard Mathematics Department - Good general intro
LaTeX overview - Another nice intro from San Diego State University, with a particularly nice explanation of embedded graphics
LaTeX: Math into LaTeX Short Course - Downloadable book in PDF format
Formatting information: A beginner's introduction to typesetting with LaTeX - Full online LaTeX book
Arbitrary LaTeX reference - One user's notes about using LaTeX
Latex cheat sheet - Two-page quick reference

LaTeX Tools at Thayer

Before compiling, LaTeX documents are just text, so any text editor would be fine to create and edit them. However, we do have a range of tools to make LaTeX typesetting and compiling easier.


Dartmouth's Library and Research Computing offer free OverLeaf licenses to all faculty, students, and staff.  Overleaf provides web tools for LaTeX and rich text document creation.


The tools below are available on all Thayer Linux clients, including the Dual-Boot Computer Labs in MacLean M210, Cummings C115 and the CAD Lab, and the public compute servers (babylons).

  • gedit
    The simplest graphical linux tool available is the gedit text editor. However, it does not by default understand LaTeX documents. To add this functionality, you can install a plugin. There are instructions and a download link on this page:
  • TeXstudio (
    TeXstudio is an integrated environment for writing LaTeX documents. Their goal is to make writing LaTeX as easy and comfortable as possible. TeXstudio has numerous features like syntax-highlighting, integrated viewer, reference checking and various assistants.
  • Texmaker (
    Texmaker is a graphical LaTeX editor with easy access to macros, text formatting sequences and equation building. Documents are created in pure LaTeX, and Texmaker can call the correct commands to compile your document into its final form.
  • LyX (
    LyX is a much higher-level LaTeX editor. You create documents in a WYSIWYG editor, and although it is LaTeX underneath, you do not have to see or deal with the LaTeX code itself. Of course, this makes more granular control over formatting slightly more difficult.

If you are using one of the graphical tools, they can compile your document into a dvi, ps or pdf file for you. However, if you want or need to compile your documents manually, there are two commands you can use:

  • latex
    The latex command will create a dvi file from your tex file. In order to then convert to postscript, you use the dvips tool. The latex command can handle inserted graphics only in eps format. (see the section on inserted graphics below)
  • pdflatex
    The pdflatex command creates a pdf directly from your tex file. However, this tool will only work if all inserted graphics are raster images (jpeg, png or pdf). (see the section on inserted graphics below)

Graphics Formats

The latex and pdflatex tools handle graphics in very different ways. The latex tool can only include encapsulated postscript (eps) graphics, while pdflatex can only contain raster (jpeg, png or pdf) images. If you have a combination of the two, you need to convert your graphics from one format to the other and then use the appropriate tool. In general eps graphics are more flexible and output will likely be better, so if you can produce any needed graphics in this format, this is best. However, if you must use raster graphics, you can convert any eps graphics to pdf using the the epstopdf command. Although it is possible to convert raster formats to eps, the results are usually unsatisfactory.
For a really nice explanation of all of this, see Figures in LaTeX documents