NOTE: this is NOT a tutorial on how to use LaTeX. There are way too many very good books and onlince documents that teach you that. Instead, this is a simple guide to easy installation and use of LaTeX on a Windows system.

How do I install LaTeX on a Windows system?

I will only cover Windows because (a) this is what I am most familiar with, (b) this is what a typical political scientist is most likely to use, and (c) if you are running UNIX and you need this help, you should not be installing anything.

1. Software to Download/Buy

You will need the following software:
  1. MiKTeX. Required, free. This is the TeX typesetting system for Windows. It comes with an easy setup and maintenance program, it is regularly updated, and it includes all the tools you will ever need. Get MiKTeX!

  2. WinEdt. Recommended, shareware. You can use any text editor as long as it can save straight text (ASCII) files. You CANNOT use a word processing program, like Microsoft Word or WordPerfect, unless you tell it to save files in text format. WinEdt has the advantage that it has been designed for easy integration with MiKTeX. It is also very cheap for students, and if you read the author's sob story about its early history, you will find yourself compelled to pay the regular registration price. Get WinEdt!

  3. Math Fonts. Optional, commercial, costly. If you are at all serious about typesetting beautiful documents, you will want to use fonts other than the standard Computer Modern fonts that come with TeX. You should get the awesome MathTime designed by Michael Spivak (which work very well with Times Roman) or the Lucida set (which includes fonts for text and math). Buy the MathTime Professional 2 Fonts or buy the Lucida Fonts!

  4. Alladin Ghostscript. Recommended, free. Software to view and print PostScript (PS) files. You will be going through PS as intermediate format to produce Adobe PDF files and sometimes it is useful to be able to use the PS files directly. This software can also convert PS to PDF, so you may want to use this instead of Acrobat Distiller. Get Ghostscript and Gsview!

  5. Adobe Acrobat. Recommended, commercial, with inexpensive academic pricing. You should really get the full version of Acrobat for many, many reasons. For example, not only will you use Distiller to create beautiful PDF files from your documents, but you can use Acrobat to manipulate PDF files in various ways (e.g. combining files, deleting, cropping, rotating, and inserting pages). You can also use it to scan documents directly into PDF with some pretty decent OCR capability. Buy Acrobat from UCSD Bookstore!

2. What do I do with this software?

Install it. All of the programs come with setup programs that do all the work for you. You should install MiKTeX first, followed by Acrobat, followed by Ghostscript. Install WinEdt last --- it will find the other programs and self-configure to use them, saving you effort and frustration. The fonts you can install at any time.

Note that MiKTeX now comes with a package manager, so you don't have to download a lot of these, you can always get them through this manager. This will also save you from the pain of getting files through FTP, running obscure commands on them, moving them to various directories on your system, editing configuration files, and refreshing the filebase. In other words, it will save you from many things guaranteed to piss you off, induce nausea, and be generally distressing.

3. Ok, everything's installed, now what?

Now you should create your first document. WinEdt is a "simple" text editor. It is NOT a word processor like Micro$oft Word. This means that you will be inputting ASCII text without seeing what your document currently looks like. Get used to it. Now, go read the tutorial on how to create your first document.

Branislav L. Slantchev, UCSD