Getting Started with LaTeX
Learn how to get started with LaTeX and Overleaf
What is LaTeX?
LaTeX (pronounced “Lay Tech” or “Lah Tech”) is a way of creating documents, just like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. The difference is that document content and formatting are written in plain text, as opposed to showing you the formatting of the document as you type it. LaTeX is widely used in academia. Chances are that your math exams are written in LaTeX. This is due to LaTeX being great for mathematical expressions. While it might be intimidating at first, once you become familiar with it, you can create fully customized professional documents even quicker than Word or Docs.
Why am I learning this?
Learning CS and DS is not just learning how to code. There is a decent amount of theory and mathematics. You will take courses like CS 182 and CS 381 that are will require you to turn in mathematical write-ups, like proofs. Lots of statistics professors want you to type your homework, as well. LaTeX is useful in these cases. Also, technical research papers you might write in the future will likely be written in LaTeX.
What is Overleaf?
You can think of Overleaf as the equivalent of Google Docs for LaTeX. It allows for documents to be created online and edited by multiple collaborators.
Step 1: Create an Overleaf account
Purdue provides you with a free Professional Overleaf account ($30/month value). This gives you benefits like full document history, syncing with Dropbox/Github, and unlimited collaborators per project.
Be sure to use your Purdue email to receive Professional account benefits
Step 2: Creating your first document
- Verify your account via email
- Click the Project button on the top right corner
- Click the “Create First Project” button, and select “Blank Project.”
Step 3: Your first compile!
As you might have noticed, LaTeX has a lot in common with programming languages. Like Java or C, LaTeX needs to be compiled before you can see changes in your document. Change the author from your Purdue username to your full name, and click the big green “Recompile” button. This should update the document that is shown to the right. Clicking the arrow on the “Recompile” button gives you the option to automatically recompile between changes. You can enable this, if you so choose.
Step 4: Edit!
Congrats, you’ve created your first document on Overleaf! Now all you have to do is start writing. LaTeX is very powerful, so much that our wiki can only cover a very small percentage of what it has to offer- if you want to get a good starting point, though, head over to our LaTeX guide here.