Just as a side note, if you are a Linux user setting up LaTeX is about the easiest thing in the world. Especially on Ubuntu. Perhaps I’ll go into that in a later post. I have no idea how to set it up on a Mac, though I hear it isn’t that difficult. The beauty of LaTeX is that the only thing that really differs between operating systems is the TeX program and the installation process. After that, everything is the same. So if you have a different OS you’ll have to find out how to get LaTeX set up elsewhere, but you can come right back to learn how to use it.
That said, getting your system working on Windows takes a little effort. The process is the same for both Windows XP and Windows Vista. Before you read any further, please look through my disclaimer. Also note: the order of installation is important, so please follow these directions step-by-step.
Before you do anything else, go to MiKTeX.org and download the “basic MiKTeX 2.7” installer. If you followed that link, scroll down for the part of the page that looks has this:
Click on the “Download” link. It’s about 80 Megabytes, so it will take some time to download. MiKTeX is the main (and perhaps only) Windows TeX program and is freely available for download and use. This is the biggest download in this process, which is why I had you do it first.
The next thing you’ll need to do is download an editor. You could just use Notepad or another standard text editor, but there are some that are written specifically for writing LaTeX documents. Using one of these has the added advantages of: 1) having keyboard shortcuts and pulldown menus for quickly finding TeX commands, and 2) a built-in way to send your work to MiKTeX for processing. If this isn’t clear to you (and don’t expect it to be), it will be later. The editor that I use, and recommend for the purpose of my tutorial, is Texmaker. It is free and open source, and also available for Mac and Linux. Follow that link and look for this:
Click the “texmakerwin32_install.exe” link and save to the Desktop (or wherever you save your setup files).
The last thing that you need to get is aspell. Aspell is an open source spell-checker that will work with Texmaker to spell-check your documents. You must download two things by following the previous link and clicking the links indicated in the following screenshot (red circles):
The first link gets you the actual Aspell program, which searches through documents and looks at words. The second link gets you the English dictionary (of course, grab any other dictionaries you want as well) for Aspell to compare against the words in your documents.
So you should now be downloading four things: TeXmaker (for writing documents), MiKTeX (which reads those documents), Aspell, and its dictionary. Go to the next post for installation instructions.