Phil Pollett's Web Pages


Things TeXnical

What is TeX? TeX (usually pronounced Teck) is a typesetting system written by Donald Knuth, which is especially suited to typesetting mathematics. TeX constructs (written in ASCII text) have also become the primary means of communicating mathematical ideas by e-mail. Here are some examples:

$e^{i\pi}+1=0$ tex2html_wrap_inline9
$\int_0^\infty e^{-x} dx = 1$ tex2html_wrap_inline11
$\sum_{i=0}^n i = \frac12 n(n+1)$ tex2html_wrap_inline13

For further explanation, see below.

Explanation: TeX is a typesetting system written by Donald E. Knuth, who says in the Preface to his book on TeX that it is "intended for the creation of beautiful books-and especially for books that contain a lot of mathematics".

Knuth developed a system of `literate programming' to write TeX, and he provides the literate (WEB) source of TeX free of charge, together with tools for processing the web source into something that can be compiled and something that can be printed; there's never any mystery about what TeX does. Furthermore, the WEB system provides mechanisms to port TeX to new operating systems and computers; in order that one may have some confidence in the ports, Knuth supplied a test by means of which one may judge the fidelity of a TeX system. TeX and its documents are therefore highly portable.

TeX is a macro processor, and offers its users a powerful programming capability. For this reason, TeX on its own is a pretty difficult beast to deal with, so Knuth provided a package of macros for use with TeX called plain TeX; plain TeX is effectively the minimum set of macros one can usefully employ with TeX, together with some demonstration versions of higher-level commands (the latter are better regarded as models than used as-is). When people say they're "programming in TeX", they usually mean they're programming in plain TeX.

If you have any comments on these pages,
feel free to e-mail me: