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LaTeX Step 5

The Basics

Input File

The input for LaTeX is a plain ASCII text file. You can create it with any text editor. It contains the text of the document as well as the commands that tell LaTeX how to typeset the text.


”White space” characters (blank space characters) such as blank or tab are treated uniformly as “space" by LaTeX. Several consecutive white space characters are treated as one “space". White space at the start of a line is ignored. A single line break is treated as “white space". An empty line between two lines of text defines end of paragraph. Several empty lines are treated the same as one empty line.

See Example

It does not matter whether you enter one or several             spaces after a word.

An empty line starts a new paragraph.

It does not matter whether you enter one or several spaces after a word.

An empty line starts a new paragraph.

Special Character

The following symbols are reserved characters that either have a special meaning under LaTeX or are not available in all the fonts. If you enter them directly in your text, they will normally not print, but rather cause LaTeX to do things you did not intend. $ & % # _ { } ~ ^ \

These characters can be used in your documents by adding a prefix backslash: \$ \& \% \# \_ \{ \} \~ \^

The backslash character cannot be entered by adding another backslash in front of it (\\) because this sequence is used for line breaking. Use $\backslash$ to produce a backslash character. Other symbols, such as mathematical ones, can be printed with special commands. See a reference for special commands.


LaTeX commands are case sensitive and start with a backslash \ and then have a name consisting of letters only. LaTeX ignores white space after commands. If you want to get a space after a command, you have to put either {} and a blank or a special spacing command after the command name. The {} stops LaTeX from eating up all the space after the command name. Some commands need a parameter which has to be given between curly braces { } after the command name. Some commands support optional parameters which are added after the command name in square brackets [ ].

\\ or \newline command orders LaTeX to break a line and start a new line without starting a new paragraph. \newpage command starts a new page.

See Example

Quite a few \textsl{essential tips}

will be mentioned here.\newline First:

Quite a few essential tips will be mentioned here.


For a complete reference on LaTeX commands, see:


When LaTeX encounters a % character while processing an input file, it ignores the rest of that line, the line break, and all white space at the beginning of the next line.

See Example
This is an % referred to part 2

% Look at the page 3

example: Antropomaximology

Structure and Layout

When LaTeX processes an input file, it expects it to follow a certain structure. The first information LaTeX needs to know when processing an input file is the type of document the author wants to create. This is specified with the \documentclass[options]{class} command. Here class specifies the type of document to be created. After that, you can include commands that influence the style of the whole document, or you can load packages that add new features to the LaTeX system. While writing your document, you will probably find that there are some areas where basic LaTeX cannot solve your problem. If you want to include graphics, colored text or source code from a file into your document, you need to enhance the capabilities of LaTeX. Such enhancements are called packages. Packages are activated with \usepackage[options]{package} command where package is the name of the package and options is a list of keywords which trigger special features in the package.

When all the setup work is done, you start the body of the text with the command \begin{document}. You then enter the text mixed with the appropriate LaTeX commands. At the end of the document you add the \end{document} command. Anything that follows this command will be ignored by LaTeX.

See Example

\documentclass[letter paper,11pt]{article}








Well, and here begins my lovely article.


\ldots{} and here it ends.


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