Well, it turns out that setting up a Windows machine to run LaTeX turns out to be a smudge more complicated than I had thought (I'm usually a Mac or Unix person). I want you to learn how to use LaTeX, but I did not intend to bog you down with computer problems. A lot of you have sent me messages saying you were having trouble setting up MiKTeX, so I borrowed one of my husband's computers and installed it myself to see how the process works. What follows is a step-by-step guide to getting it all set up and working. Enjoy!

Downloading and installing MiKTeX

First, you have to get it downloaded and set up:

  • use Internet Explorer
  • go to
  • choose the "miktex 2.4" link from the Download/Install menu on the left
  • at the top of the page, select the link "small-miktex=2.4.1705.exe"
  • pick a nearby download mirror
  • if your browser doesn't download automatically, click the link that is provided
  • choose "Save", and save the file to your Desktop
  • after it finishes downloading, choose "Run" (if it asks you if you are sure that you want to do this, say yes)
  • the Setup Wizard will now open
  • go through "Next" a few times, keeping the defaults as is - don't change anything at all!
  • Setup Wizard will do stuff for a while, moving files around and stuff
  • click "Next" when it stops
  • then click "Finish"
  • now you can throw away (put in Recycle Bin) the installer "small-miktex-2.4.1705.exe" that is on your Desktop

    Downloading and installing TextPad

    LaTeX works like this: you use a text editor (like TextPad) to create a LaTeX document foo.tex --> MiKTeX/LaTeX compiiles the document and makes files foo.aux, foo.log, and foo.dvi --> you view the pretty foo.dvi file in some viewer/previewer (in this case, "yap", which is part of MiKTeX). So to use MiKTeX you need a text editor. Probably the easiest to deal with is TextPad, and you'll need to download it, as follows...

  • go to
  • choose one of the English downloads
  • choose "Run" and go through the installation/wizard, leaving all defaults as they are (i.e. just choose "Next" or "Finish" when you have to; don't change anything)

    Creating a very simple LaTeX document to work with

    Now you have to create a LaTeX document to work with. You could use the "latexsample.tex" file from the class website/handout, but to keep things simple we will make the simplest LaTeX document in the universe and work with that.

  • open up the "TextPad" program
  • type this:



    hello universe


  • save this file as "universe.tex" to the base level of your "C:" drive (be sure to select ``All Files' under the ``Save as Type'' menu)

    Compiling and viewing your LaTeX document

    Now you have to ``compile'' the LaTeX document. Right now I'll tell you how to this from the command line, so you know what is going on. Then later I'll show you how to set TextPad up so that it can be done from a menu within the program.

  • from the "Start" menu, choose "Run"; type ``cmd'' in the text field (it may already be there) and choose "Okay"
  • a black window should open up; this is the ``command line''
  • type "cd \" (this will take you to the bottom of the C: drive)
  • now type "latex universe.tex"
  • this creates the following files: universe.log, universe.aux, and universe.dvi.
  • now on the command line, type "yap universe.dvi" (``yap'' stands for ``yet another previewer'')
  • this should open up a window where you can proudly view your pretty document
  • to work with this document, you'll repeatedly go through this cycle:
  • hint: pressing the up and down arrow keys on the command line will cycle through recent commands that you have typed
  • if you need a PDF copy of your pretty/compiled document (like if you need to port the file to another computer for printing), then typing "pdflatex universe.tex" on the command line will create the required file "universe.pdf".

    Configuring TextPad to control "latex" and "yap"

    Okay, now that you know how this process works, let's set up TextPad so you can do ``latex'' and ``yap'' right from the TextPad program without explicitly opening the command line like we did above. Luckily for us, my husband is a computer programmer genius, and he not only figured out how to do this, he made you a step-by-step document with screenshots that explains exactly how to set it up.

  • go to the link
  • follow the instructions exactly and you should be all set up!

    Getting TextPad to colorize LaTeX documents

    Your life will be easier if you configure TextPad to color LaTeX source code so that you can easily distinguish comments, commands, et cetera. You don't have to do this, but you will be happier if you do.

  • open TextPad
  • select menu Configure --> New Document Class
  • for Document Class Name, type "latex"
  • hit "Next"
  • for Class Members, type "*.tex"
  • hit "Next"
  • click "Enable Syntax Highlighting"
  • for Syntax Definition File, select "LaTeX.syn"
  • hit "Next"
  • hit "Finish"