What Does LaTeX Mean?

LaTeX is a document preparation system for typesetting. It is the de facto standard for the communication and publication of documents in the scientific community and is widely used by mathematicians, scientists, engineers, linguists and researchers. The system makes it easy to integrate complex mathematical formulas, equations, bibliographies and indexes into a document.


Techopedia Explains LaTeX

LaTex is a package that allows users to use the TeX typesetting program as the formatting engine. TeX typesetting is designed to document complex mathematical notations, text and formulas. That is why LaTeX is best suited for technical journals, reports, books and slide presentations. A LaTeX output is usually in a device-independent file format, which can then be exported to postscript or PDF.

Someone using LaTeX, and without the aid of additional tools, would not have to deal with the styling details found in WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors like Microsoft Word.

A LaTeX input file can be written in a text editor. This input file will contain text and commands for formatting. A LaTeX user would have to specify the structure of the document. For instance, one would need to indicate information like the type of document (article, book or letter), the title, the author, and when the document was written. This file is then saved with the “.tex” file extension. After that, the file will be compiled using a LaTeX package to produce a formatted document.

When viewing a LaTeX input in its raw text form, the markup commands, like those found in HTML documents, can be viewed. However, backward slashes and curly brackets are used in a LaTeX input file instead of angle brackets.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.