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LaTeX Workshop: Prework!

Developed for the 2015 CIRC Summer School workshop on LaTeX.



So that I can target the workshop content to what you need, please fill out this 5-minute questionnaire by Thursday 8/13 at 5pm:



In the short time we have during the workshop, we'll focus on working directly with LaTeX documents. We won't have time to get things installed on your computer and fiddle with individual situations, so I expect you'll come with a working LaTeX system in whatever way makes sense for you.

So before the workshop, you'll need to get access to a working LaTeX installation. This can happen in two ways:

  1. Highly recommended: install LaTeX on a laptop you can bring with you to the workshop.
  2. Not ideal, but workable: learn how to access LaTeX on BlueHive.

Below are some generic instructions on how to install LaTeX on a Windows or Mac computer. Note: your mileage may vary. Generally speaking, if you follow the instructions for your chosen system, things will work beautifully. But sometimes, things don't go as expected. Try your best and let me know if you run into snags.

After you've installed LaTeX, you can verify that it's working by typesetting (i.e. running LaTeX on) the sample document provided below. If you get a PDF back with readable text, you did it! 

If you'd like some help with this process, I'll be around on Monday, August 17th, between 1pm and 4pm on the first floor of Carlson Library near the VISTA Collaboratory. Send me an email to let me know you're coming!


Instructions for Windows

For Windows, I recommend using the MiKTeX distribution of LaTeX. To install, follow the directions below or directly from the MiKTeX website:

  1. Go to and select the Basic MiKTeX Installer.
  2. Run the installation program. During the installer, you will need to select your preferred paper size. Select Letter. You can always switch to A4 as needed for non-US printers. The other default options are fine.
  3. Once the installer is complete, you can close it. Now, you'll need to let MiKTeX check for any updated packages that have happened since the installer package was produced.
  4. Go to Start > All Programs > MiKTeX 2.9 > Maintenance > Update.
  5. All the default options are fine. Click Next to let MiKTeX check for any updates. If there are, select all the boxes and click Next. Once done, click Next and exit the wizard as the prompt indicated.

Once you've done that, you should have a working LaTeX installation. MiKTeX comes with a text editor that makes typesetting LaTeX documents super easy: let's try it out! First, download the sample file:

Then, we'll open and typeset it in TeXworks:

  • Go to Start > All Programs > MiKTeX 2.9 > TeXworks.
  • In TeXworks, go to File > Open, then select the sample file you just downloaded.
  • Once it opens, click the green button on the left of the toolbar (Typeset).

If it all worked, you should see a PDF appear. (Yay!) If not, contact me and we'll figure out what your next step is.

Instructions for Mac OS X

For Mac OS X, MacTeX is the de facto standard. You can download the distribution package here:

This will install a number of things in your /Applications/TeX folder, including a text editor called TeXShop, and a package manager called TeX Live Utility. First, we'll get your packages up to date.

Open TeX Live Utility (/Applications/TeX/TeX Live and let it analyze what packages you have and what updates are available. Once it displays a list of packages, navigate in the menus to Actions > Update All Packages. Once it's done, you can quit TeX Live Utility.

Next, let's verify that everything is working as expected. Download this sample file:

Then, we'll open and typeset it in TeXShop:

  • Go to Applications/TeX/
  • In TeXShop, go to File > Open, and select the sample file you just downloaded.
  • Once it opens, click Typeset in the upper left.

If it all worked, you should see a PDF appear. (Yay!) If not, contact me and we'll figure out what your next step is.

Using LaTeX on BlueHive

It is generally preferred to use a local installation of LaTeX so that you can tweak settings and install packages to your heart's desire. However, sometimes you just need to use a system that someone else set up.

If you can't get LaTeX working on your own machine, you can use the TeXLive package on BlueHive. I assume that you know how to:

  • Open a connection to BlueHive either through SSH or through a GUI connection with X2Go.
  • Transfer files to and from CIRC systems either with a Terminal or through FTP.

If you're not sure, start with CIRC's documentation and let me know if you have questions.

To verify that you've got the skills you need for the workshop using BlueHive:

  1. Copy the sample file from my public directory to your home or scratch folder: /public/tdzuba/LaTeXWorkshop/preworkVerification.tex
  2. In a terminal, load the texlive module.
  3. Run the command pdflatex preworkVerification.tex.
  4. If everything went as planned, you should see pdfLaTeX run in the terminal and produce a PDF in the same folder. 
  5. Open it up! If you get a simple PDF with some text, you're good to go!