LaTeX Installation

I put the following information together to facilitate the installation of LaTeX to people who are new to LaTeX or who are moving to a different operating system.

The first thing that has to be mentioned when talking about installing LaTeX is that you will usually need two things:

  • A LaTeX distribution and
  • A LaTeX editor

The distribution contains the typesetting system as well as many packages that you may use sooner or later while writing LaTeX documents. The LaTeX distribution is provided by the LaTeX project and has different names for different operating systems (Linux: TeX Live (cross-platform), Mac OS X: MacTeX and Windows: proTeXt/MikTeX). These are among the more common ones, you may find other distributions. The TeX Live distribution is several hundred MBs (sometimes over 1GB, depending on the OS), so make sure you have a reasonable internet connection and some space on your hard-drive. A LaTeX distribution may or may not include a LaTeX editor. The editor is a personal choice, you can use a simple text editor. But since there are many good editors available for different operating systems why not use them. They provide LaTeX-specific functionality like code highlighting, some autocompletion, macros, automatic document generation, etc.


Distribution: According to the LaTeX project, most of the Linux distributions will include a TeX distribution, which are in some way or another different from TeX Live. Another possibility is to get TeX Live from the TeX user group website. I’m running Ubuntu and in the Synaptic Package Manager look for the “texlive” and “texlive-latex-extra” if you want some additional packages. For a minimal installation, choose “texlive-common” and for a full installation “texlive-full”.

Alternatively, you can also use the command line version to install TeX Live.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install texlive

Alternatively, you can download the distribution yourself. The link will automatically refer you to the closest mirror (currently: texlive2012.iso, size: 2.31GB). By doing this, you will get the standard TeX Live distribution. Updates will be done differently than with the package that comes with the Linux distribution.

sudo mount -o loop texlive2012.iso /mnt
cd /mnt
sudo ./install-tl

You will have the possibility to deselect parts of the distribution that you don’t want to be installed using the command-line interface. I quite like it, its simple and easy to use.

Editor: Linux has a few editors including Texmaker, winefish, Kile (KDE) and Latexila (GNOME) and of course Emacs. I leave it to you to find the one that’s ideal for you.

ps. Believe it or not, there is also a vim Latex-addon, called the vim latex-suite. Just in case you were looking for it :-).

Mac OS X

Distribution: The Tex Live distribution for Mac OS X is called MacTeX and can be downloaded from the TeX user group website. It contains TeX Live, TeXShop (see editors below) and other useful tools.

Editor: Personally, I have been using TeXShop most of the time, but there are other equally reasonable editors including Texmaker and TeXworks, a cross-platform GUI editor inspired by TeXShop.


Distribution: Under Windows, one of the common LaTeX distos is called proTeXt (MiKTeX + the editor TeXnicCenter) and is also provided by the TeX user group.

Editor: As mentioned, the proTeXt distribution already provides the Latex editor (TeXnicCenter). Another editor I know of for Windows is the Led.