A LaTeX Course for UoA Students
A HTML version Instructor: Theo J. Mertzimekis
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University of Athens

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About this course

This course is an extra-curriculum, fast-track course on LaTeX for students at the Department of Physics, University of Athens. It is especially designed for senior students aiming at writing their research thesis in LaTeX and need some essential guidance for that. The course comprises a short introduction on LaTeX, a basic template of a student thesis, tips and tricks for the most important components (such as tables, figures, math equations etc), and a rather straightforward instruction set on building a bibliography in BibTeX.

The website is written only in english because I think it might also be useful for international people looking for composing their thesis in LaTeX. However, I need to clarify that the site is supportive material to the course and NOT the course itself. As a consequence, many things are missing and some instructions aimed to be explained at class are not presented in exhaustive detail. In addition, this is a first draft of the site and I am sure with your help I will make it better and more reliable in the near future.

As this is a non-credit course on LaTeX for beginners, I have no definite time plan. We will take our time and plan ahead until we complete a basic understanding of how we can use LaTeX to prepare some sorts of documents. The level of familiarity with it depends mainly on student's practice at home, therefore I can not guarantee for the time needed. However, I estimate that we won't need more than 8-10 hours to reach a rather satisfactory level. For 2013, classes will start in mid-October. Look for announcements in here or in my twitter stream (hashtag: #uoa_latex)

What is LaTeX?

One of the first questions people who have never used LaTeX (pronounced lay-tech/λέι-τεχ) in the past is "What is LaTeX?". The answer deserves to be given in a desriptive way since LaTeX is packed with a plethora of features and can play many roles in document preparation business. My one and only comment is that LaTeX is ** NOT ** a word processor. LaTeX is a flawless typesetting system for documents. It seems complicated and makes our lives difficult until we get to the end product, however, the ultimate result is by far superior than any word processing system, such as that produced by Microsoft Word or OpenOffice Write.

Depending on what we need to accomplish, LaTeX uses packages, that provide certain capabilities. There are packages for graphics, for language, for bullets and almost anything. The task is completed in several steps, where the user has to provide LaTeX his/her own commands to typeset the document, LaTeX translates these commands to the backbone, TeX, and the final document is further processed to the universal Postscript format, ready to be printed. PDFLaTeX is a modern flavor that creates nice PDF documents instead.

If one LaTeX feature needs to be mentioned, I think it is its consistency in producing high-quality, professional documents. During the past few years, LaTeX has become quite popular and is now available in several OS, such as Linux, Windows and Mac OSX. For this course, see the requirements below.

Course requirements

Participants to this course are expected to have their own laptops equipped with Windows. In my opinion, Windows is the least convenient OS for LaTeX, however, MikTeX (a LaTeX flavor for winOS) is a stable and easy-to-use distribution for that purpose and will be provided for this course, either as a download or on a CD. All packages needed will be installed during MikTeX's initial installation to the computer.

LaTeX commands will be typed in an editor that supports unicode fonts. This is only a requirement for using the Greek language needed later for the theses. There are several excellent options for LaTeX editing, however, Texmaker is a free editor, with integrated commands and automated compilation. During the seminars the basic operation will be explained and the essential configuration to run XeTeX efficiently (see next paragraph) will be completed.


One of the desired features for this course is to provide Greek language for students writing their theses. babel package is responsible for providing greek (and other languages). In addition, universality of the greek language in LaTeX will be ensured using a particular flavor of LaTeX that supports Unicode fonts. This flavor is called XeTeX and has several additional features that we will employ during our document production. MikTeX's initial installation places both XeTeX (and its cousin XeLaTeX) in the executable directory and we will cover the way to use them for creating our documents.


Besides all other powerful features, the thesis bibliography can be organized very efficiently and almost automatically by BibTeX, a pre-processor for citation entries. The course will cover all steps required for organizing a bibliography for the students and citing particular entries in the text.


A ready-made template for high-quality presentations using Beamer will also be visited during the last class, if there still time.