Query from Nature about TexLive for Linux

Reinhard Kotucha reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Tue May 14 01:12:47 CEST 2019

On 2019-05-13 at 18:47:33 +0200, David Matthews wrote:

 > Dear Tex Live,
 > I'm a Berlin-based journalist currently writing a Nature article
 > about LaTeX.

Dear David,
if you are interested in the basics of LaTeX, you'll find a brief
introduction here:


See also


Some of the books can be freely downloaded as PDF but they all contain
much more than a beginner needs.  If you understand German, I even
recommend the German version of lshort.pdf


because it's more compact.  The English version describes many
extension packages which a beginner doesn't need.

 > We're looking at the pros and cons of using it and how to get
 > started.

Linux distributors split up TeX Live into several packages.  In order
to make sure that you've installed everything you need, run

  pdflatex sample2e.tex

This creates a file sample2e.pdf.  The file sample2e.tex is somewhere
in the TeX Live directory tree.  You can copy it to the current
working directory in order to inspect it:

  cp -p $(kpsewhich sample2e.tex) .

As you can see, one of LaTeX's biggest strength is typesetting math
formulas.  Another thing, which you might not see at a first glance,
is that content and layout are completely separated.  Thus you can use
the same content in a thesis as well as in a presentation.

LaTeX is also well supported.  There are many mailing lists and forums
where users can ask.  Nobody is left alone.  

 > A quick question. When users download Tex Live for a Linux OS, what
 > editor and compiler does it come with? Can users use this to write
 > and compile a .tex file out of the box?

Yes, originally TeX Live could be run directly from a DVD without
installation.  For a couple of years the uncompressed system doesn't
fit on a DVD anymore.  But it's designed from the beginning to work
out of the box.

I suppose that with "compiler" you mean the program which converts
.tex to .pdf.  Most people use pdflatex though there are also lualatex
and xelatex.  Unless you have special requirements, pdflatex is a good
choice because it's described in most books.

 > MekTex

It's spelled MiKTeX.  According to its author, Christian Schenk, MiK
stands for MicroKid, as he called himself. 
 > comes with TeXworks, MacTex with TeXShop, but I couldn't find firm
 > evidence what editor the Linux version of TexLive comes with.

TeX Live provides a TeXworks binary only for Windows.  Linux users are
advised to use the TeXworks binary provided by the Linux distribution
they use.  But as Nelson Beebe already pointed out, any other text
editor can be used as well.  The main purpose of TeXworks is to
support beginners.  A programmer will always use the editor he's
accustomed to.

TeX Live works on all platforms in use today and is supposed to work
exactly the same way on all these platforms.

MacTeX is actually an unmodified TeX Live system with graphical
maintenance tools adapted to Apple's look-and-feel.  It also provides
a few programs which are ubiquitous on Linux but not part of OS X
(Ghostscript, for instance).  AFAIK MacTeX provides both, TeXShop and

If you need more information, don't hesitate to ask.


Reinhard Kotucha                            Phone: +49-511-3373112
Marschnerstr. 25
D-30167 Hannover                    mailto:reinhard.kotucha at web.de

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