learnlatex.org

Using the learnlatex.org site

The course consists of 16 core lessons that can be reached from the table of contents on the home page.

Each lesson has a link to one associated lesson on the same subject that goes into greater depth. It should be possible to work through all 16 lessons without reading the additional lessons.

At the end of the course there are one or more lessons specific to the language being used for the lessons, and finally a gallery of examples of packages demonstrating LaTeX use not covered by this course.

Running the examples

Each example consists of a complete small LaTeX document shown within the page like this:

\documentclass{article}
\begin{document}
Example text.
\end{document}

The example is complete. However you may wish to edit it to make small changes, perhaps as part of an Exercise set at the end of the lesson.

The button enables editing within the page; this is marked by the removal of the LaTeX syntax highlighting and a green border added around the code block. Note that this is just a basic edit facility provided by your browser; there is no TeX specific editing help as found in typical editing systems that you would use with TeX.

Whether or not the code block has been edited, there are three basic ways that you can run the example.

  1. Use a LaTeX Online service. The button will submit the code to the LaTeX CGI service1.

    The LaTeX CGI service was developed specifically to support this site, and in particular makes use of PDF.js to enable display of PDF on mobile and other browsers without built in PDF readers.

    The resulting PDF document (or section of the error log) will be shown inline immediately below the example. A button will be provided so that you may remove this output (or you may leave it in place and continue the rest of the lesson below).

    Note that LaTeX Online requires no login or signup of any sort so it is very convenient for small examples, but neither this site nor the latexcgi, latexonline.cc or latex-on-http sites provide any mechanism to save your document. Any changes that you make to the example are lost if you move off the page.

  2. Use the Overleaf Service. The button will submit the code to Overleaf.

    If you do not have an account, or the account details are not already cached in your browser, then you will be redirected to a login page where you may login or register with Overleaf. This is a free service but does require you to give some details and agree to terms and conditions.

    If your Overleaf account is already cached in your browser, then Overleaf will be opened in a new tab, with a new project with the code. You may then edit it in Overleaf which will simultaneously run LaTeX on your code showing the resulting output or error log.

    The editing features in Overleaf are far more extensive than on this site, and you may save your project in your Overleaf account and return to it later.

  3. If you have a TeX system installed locally, then you may copy the example code off the page, either explicitly selecting it, or by using the button. This will place the code in your operating system clipboard so you can start a blank document using your local editor, and paste in the text.

Choosing the TeX engine

When submitting example documents, by default the pdflatex engine will be used unless the example uses the fontspec package in which case xelatex is used.

You can force the choice of pdflatex, xelatex, lualatex, platex or uplatex by using a comment of the form:

% !TEX any text lualatex

where the white space at the start is optional and case is ignored as is any text between the first and last word.

This allows the form % !TEX program=pdflatex used by some TeX editors but does not require the program= and is currently restricted to specifying just one of the five engines that are supported on the online systems being used.

You can see an example of a comment being used to specify LuaLaTeX in some of the examples on this site.

If platex or uplatex is specified; then the dvipdfmx program is also used to produce the PDF result from the DVI file that these variants generate.

Choosing how to display the output

If you use the LaTeX online system, then the PDF output from running an example is shown using PDF.js by default. This provides consistent behavior over the widest range of browsers.

If you would prefer to use your browser’s default PDF reader (either its built in one, or an external application that you have configured) then add a comment of the form:

% !TEX any text pdf

The default behavior can be explicitly specified by using pdfjs as the final token. For debugging you may sometimes want the log file returned, even if the document produces a PDF with no errors. This can be specified by using log as the final token in the comment.


  1. Note that during development of the site we have also used LaTeX.Online and LaTeX-on-HTTP and we thank the developers of those services for making updates to enable the examples on this site to be available at an early stage.