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LaTeX: Terminology

LaTeX Terms

.aux
Produced from typesetting a LaTeX document and it contains cross-reference information for the document, such as internal links, citations and URLs. This file is read by BibTeX and LaTeX when typesetting a document.
.bbl
The output file from BibTeX. It contains all the information needed by LaTeX to construct a reference section or bibliography and supply in text citations.
.bib
A structured text file containing BibTeX records of references.
.bst
A BibTeX style file. It is used to produce a particular citation style.
class files
Contains global processing information for the document. A class file is specified using documentclass command.
command
A command begins with a backslash \ and is a string of characters. A command can have optional and required arguments.
CTAN
The Comprehensive TeX Archive Network contains nearly any package or package documentation needed.
document environment
All that is between \begin{document} and \end{document}. Can be thought of as "printing" to the document.
.dtx
Contains package documentation. Typeset .dtx to produce a readable file. A .ins file must be in the same directory.
.dvi
A device independent file that contains the visual layout of a document. It is not related to specific formats or hardware.
editor
Software that provides an interface to edit a LaTeX document more easily. Features like spell check, automatic command completion, and a graphical user interface to typeset the document are included.
engine
An executable that typesets the document according to a particular format (i.e. LaTeX).
environment
An environment is of the form \begin{environment} \end{environment}. For example, the itemize environment will contain the commands and text to typeset a bulleted list.
.eps
An encapsulated postscript file. The image format recognized for graphics when typesetting using the latex command.
front end
Software that provides an interface to edit a LaTeX document more easily. Features like spell check, automatic command completion, and a graphical user interface to typeset the document are included.
.ins
Contains all files needed to install a package. Typeset .ins to produce the needed files. A .dtx file must be in the same directory.
latex (command)
This command can be executed from a command prompt or editor to typeset a document. The command will produce a DVI file (among other files) containing the typeset document.
LaTeX
A document preparation system. LaTeX is a format to be used with the TeX typesetting system
MacTeX
A TeX Distribution that can only be used on Macs. Essentially, it is TeX Live customized for the Mac.
manually install
If a package is not contained at the package repository, it must be manually installed. The LaTeX files are placed in a directory within the TeX Distribution like .../tex/latex and the BibTeX style files are placed in a directory like ../bibtex/bst. The file name database might need refreshed.
MiKTeX
A TeX Distribution that can only be used by Windows.
optional argument
These are contained in square brackets [] in nearly all cases and can be used with LaTeX commands and environments. If options are not specified, some default occurs.
Package Repository
Contains packages that can be downloaded by TeX distributions. There are package repositories worldwide.
packages
Packages extend the functionality of LaTeX. Some are written by LaTeX users and other are "core" and are contained in every distribution.
preamble
The area of LaTeX document before \begin{document}. Document type and packages are contained here, as well as declarations or definitions that are true for the entire document.
pdflatex
This command can be executed from a command prompt or editor to typeset a document. The command will produce a PDF file (among other files) containing the typeset document.
refresh file name database
When a package is installed manually, the file name database must be refreshed using software provided by the TeX distribution or a command prompt with the exception of MacTeX. Otherwise, the new package cannot be found.
required argument
These are contained in curly brackets {} and can be used with LaTeX commands and environments. One required argument must be specified in each curly bracket. Sometimes more than one per bracket can be specified.
TeX distribution
A collection of software that supports the TeX typesetting system
typeset
Generate a DVI or PDF from a .tex file using the TeX typesetting system.
TeX Live
A cross-platform TeX Distribution. Linux must use this distribution. Other operating systems might have a choice.
write18
Allows a program to execute other programs. TeX Live installed on Windows has restricted rights to call other executable files while running which enables it to convert .eps files to .pdf files on the fly when using pdflatex.