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Formatting Information — An introduction to typesetting with LATEX

Chapter 1: Writing documents

Section 1.4: Quick start for the impatient

If you already know all about editors and plaintext files and markup and how to run programs, and you know that LATEX is already fully installed (including an editor that you know how to use), you’d probably like to type something in and see LATEX do its job. This is probably specially true if you’ve just signed up with Overleaf or another of the online LATEX services.

Exercise 1.4 — Quick start

  1. Open your LATEX editor (or log into Overleaf) and create a new, empty document (delete any auto-template material if present)

  2. Make sure your editor is set up to use XƎLATEX

  3. Copy and paste the text from Figure 1.2 below. Make sure you get all of it (apart from the caption), and don’t change anything yet.

  4. Save the document as quickstart.tex in your Documents folder or wherever you normally keep your documents (Overleaf already asked for the name in step 1 above)

  5. Click on the Run, Build, Typeset, Recompile or TEXFile menu; or on the toolbar icon for your editor, as indicated by the black arrow in the illustrations in Figure 1.3 below.

  6. Some editors open the preview automatically when a new document is typeset. If this does not open automatically for you, click on the View or Preview toolbar item (usually next to the Typeset icon).

  7. If you have a printer installed, you can click on the Print toolbar icon in your viewer (or open the PDF in any suitable viewer).

If you don’t know this stuff yet, then by all means do this section now, but treat it as part of the learning experience. Then you can read in § 1.5 below more about how LATEX works, and come back to this section to check it.

Figure 1.2: Quick-start example document text


\section{My first document}

This is a short example of a \LaTeX\ document I wrote
on \today. It shows a few simple features of automated
typesetting, including:

  \item setting the font size to 12pt for the `article'
  \item using any font, not just the default;
  \item using the special formatting for URLs (web
  \item using the XCharter typeface;
  \item preventing sections from being numbered;
  \item formatting a section heading;
  \item using the \LaTeX\ logo;
  \item generating today’s date;
  \item formatting this list of items;
  \item formatting a subsection heading;
  \item using opening and closing quotes;
  \item formatting a URI;
  \item boxing, centering, and italicisation;
  \item autonumbering the pages.

\subsection{More information}

This example was taken from the book `Formatting
Information', which you can read online at
and use as a teach-yourself guide.

  \fbox{\textit{Have a nice day!}}


You can check to see if LATEX is already installed on your computer by opening a command window and typing xelatex and pressing the Enter or  Return key.

If you’re using an online system like Overleaf instead, make sure you have created an account.

Figure 1.3: What to click on to typeset a document

If you are using an editor not shown here, look for a menu or toolbar button marked Typeset or XƎLATEX or pdfLATEX or Build or Compile.


The Kile editor (Linux, Mac, Windows)

The TEXshop editor (Mac)

The LATEX Editor app (Android)

The Emacs editor (Linux, Windows, Mac)

The TEXStudio editor (Linux, Windows, Mac)

If you encounter any errors, it means you do need to read the rest of this chapter after all! There is a list of common error messages in § B.3.1 below. You need to fix the errors in your document and click on the Typeset button again (or whatever your editor uses).