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Installing TeX, LaTeX, and REVTeX
on your own computer

TeX is a software system for typesetting text, especially text containing mathematical equations. It is used by the American Physical Society (APS) and American Mathematical Society (AMS) to typeset their journals. REVTeX is a macro package (a LaTeX class, actually) used by the APS journals. The instructions given here will help you to install TeX and REVTeX on your personal computer.
Last updated: 6 April 2011

Here are the main things you need to know about TeX in general to help you get started:

  1. TeX is a typesetting system which is particularly good at dealing with mathematical equations (that is what it was designed for). Typesetting is much more powerful than mere "processing" of words.

  2. There are two main "flavors" of TeX, called "Plain" and "LaTeX".

  3. Within LaTeX there are different specialized document classes or formats. One of these, called REVTeX, is used for papers submitted to the Physical Review and other APS journals. If you are going to submit a paper to one of these journals you should use REVTeX.

  4. There are other specialized document formats you may find useful. One of these is "TeXsis", which does substantially the same thing as REVTeX but works with Plain TeX rather than LaTeX.
Confusing? Not once you get used to it, but it can be confusing at first.

Here are the main things you need to know about installing TeX on your computer:

  1. TeX is a powerful piece of software which runs on many different platforms. As a result it's not just one program, but a collection of tools that you may need to install separately.

  2. The core of TeX is the TeX "engine", which does the actual typesetting.

  3. Along with the core you need a set of macro packages or "formats". The most common set of macros and formats is sometimes referred to as the "foundation". These often come with the TeX "engine", but you may have to get them separately.

  4. The TeX engine and macros have a command-line interface (CLI), but you can also get a "front end" which provides a Graphical User Interface (GUI) for editing TeX files and for viewing the resulting Device Independent (DVI) output files.

  5. You'll also need filters to convert TeX's device independent output files (DVI files) into PostScript (PS) or Portable Document Format (PDF) files, although some newer versions of TeX are based on something called "pdfTeX", which converts the TeX source code directly into PDF.
TeX is the same everywhere, but the software that implements TeX is different for different systems, and the elements described above are packaged differently for different platforms.

So the first thing you need to determine is what kind of computer you are using?

Windows Mac OS X Linux


There are several implementations of TeX for Windows PC's. Today it seems that the best (and least expensive) is MiKTeX. You can get MiKTeX from.
http://www.miktex.org The latest version of MiKTeX installs very easily on Windows and includes a package manager which will easily install any other TeX packages you may need, including REVTeX.

The current version of MiKTeX is based on TeXworks, so you no longer need to install a separate "front-end". TeXworks is a fairly complete GUI for TeX. MiKTeX also includes the XeTeX "engine" to do the actual typesetting.

(Previous versions of MiKTeX did not have is a "front-end", so you had to install something like WinEdt separately. That is no longer necessary.)

Follow these instructions to install MiKTeX, WinEdt, and REVTeX on your Windows PC:

  1. Be sure you are logged on to your Windows computer as the Administrator. (On Windows XP you can install as a normal user but authenticate as the Administrator during the installation.) You'll be asked later to allow any user on the computer to use MiKTeX.

  2. Connect to the MiKTeX Download/Install page. If you wish you can skip reading the article MiKTeX Installation Procedure, since all it will tell you is how to use the installer, which works like any standard Windows installer.

  3. You can now "download" MiKTeX in two different ways:
    1. The "basic" system installer is one big file (now about 160MB) which you download, then execute to install a basic working MiKTeX system on your computer. You can then add packages later using the built-in package installer. This is recommended if disk space is tight.

    2. The "net" installer is a small "setup wizard" (under 6MB) which you download, and then execute to download and install a complete MiKTeX system. This may be easier, but can take more disk space.
    The "net" installer has been around for a while. Use it if you are already familiar with it. I think the "basic" installer is easier, so that is what I now assume in what follows.

  4. Once the installer program finishes you will have installed the basic MiKTeX system, but not REVTeX. You can use the package manager that comes with MiKTeX to automatically get REVTeX as well as the "natbib" package that it requires. To do so:

    1. Start -> Programs -> MiKTeX 2.9 -> Maintenance -> Package Manager This will show you a list of all available packages, most of which are not installed.

      Optional: If you have a problem connecting to the package repository, or if you feel you need to change to a different repository, you can do so by pulling down "Repository -> Change Package Repository" and selecting some other site. But you do not have to do this each time you start the package manager.

    2. Under the very long list of packages you want to find REVTeX and natbib install them. You can use the "filter" at the upper right to help winnow down the list of packages. For example:
      1. Enter "rev" in the "Name:" field and press "Filter".
      2. Find and highlight the package "revtex4".
      3. Press the "+" button in the upper left corner, or pull down a menu with the right mouse button from the highlighted package. Either will tell you that your MiKTeX installation will be updated, and will install the package.

      Repeat the process to install the "natbib" package. You can install other packages as needed, including the "texsis" package, which is similar to REVTeX but based on Plain TeX.

  5. To install the front-end GUI package go to www.WinEdt.com and follow the directions for downloading the WinEdt package. You will probably get the best performance by downloading from the USA site.

  6. The file you have downloaded is an executable installer program, so just launch it (double click) and follow the directions. There are also installation instructions on the WinEdt web pages.

  7. The first time you run WinEDT you might need to configure it to use MiKTeX (it can also use other TeX installations). To do so pull down the "Options" menu and then pull down:
    Options -> Configurations -> TeX -> MiKTeX

  8. You may also want a previewing program for viewing PostScript files. If so, you should download and install GhostScript and GhostView from this site. However, WinEdt also works find for previewing.

Once you have MiKTeX and WinEdt installed you can try it all out by launching WinEdt. Try opening the file modlab.tex from the Modern Physics Lab and running it through TeX (you will need the full set of files in modlab.zip).

Some more general links about TeX can be found here.

Mac OS X

Installing TeX on MacOS X can be somewhat confusing because there are several ways do to it. We have found that the Fink installation is the easiest and gives the best results. Besides, Fink also give you access to a number of useful Open Source Unix tools. Other options are listed below.

To install system software you will need to know the password for the "Administrator" account on your computer. You do not need to be logged in as the Administrator, but you will need to authenticate when it comes time to install something. It is always a good idea to do most of your work as a normal user without privileges, and only take on advanced privileges when you know they are needed to do something special. Apple makes this very easy to do without having to log out and log in as a different user.

  1. If you have not yet used Fink, then go to http://fink.sourceforge.net/ and download the Fink Binary Installer. Instructions are provided on the site; it is as easy to use as installing any other software package on the Mac.

  2. Launch (double-click) the Fink installer to install Fink on your system and follow the instructions to install Fink on your system. Almost everything is put in the /sw directory (folder) be default, though you can change this.

  3. One very useful component of Fink is the Fink Commander, which lets you easily manage the installation of all Fink packages. You will find the Fink Commander as /Applications -> /Fink Commander -> FinkCommander When you launch the Fink Commander it will show you a list of all Fink packages (over 1700 of them as of this writing) and the status of each one. At this point you will only have a few Fink packages installed, those in the "base" category.

  4. Find the package "tetex-base" and highlight it. Then press the blue "plus sign" button in the menu bar across the top of the Fink Commander window to install this (as a binary package.)

    To install this in your system you may be asked to "authenticate". You should enter the username and password of the Admin account for your computer. (You should not normally be logged in as Admin.)

    As a part of the installation Fink will report to you the amount of disk space needed and ask you if that is okay. Fink Commander will pop up a window asking for your answer. Unless you are tight on disk space, you can continue by simply accepting the default answer (which is "Y").

    Once Fink says it is "done" you have the TeX "engine" and "foundation" installed on your system.

  5. Repeat the procedure above using the Fink Command to install the "altpdftex" package.

  6. You will probably also want to get a "front" end to make it easier for you to use TeX. We have found that TeXShop is the easiest to use. You can get it from

    (As of March 2005 it looks like TeXShop is being added to Fink, but the process is not yet complete. You may want to see if Fink will install it for you before you go get it yourself.)

    The first time you use TeXShop you need to configure it, as follows:

    1. In TexShop, goto TexShop -> Preferences and click on "Engine".
    2. Under "Path settings" change both paths to /sw/bin.
    3. Under "TeX+dvips+Distiller" change the commands to tex and latex, respectively.

    (Thanks to G. Scott Johnson and Luc Peterson for the configuration instructions.)

  7. If you plan to use BibTeX to manage your references and citations then you might want to get BibDesk, a graphical BibTeX bibliography manager for Mac OS X.

  8. REVTeX is now a part of the Fink distribution of TeX so you should not have to do anything to use it.

Alternatives to installing "Fink/teTeX + TeXshop" are...

Another popular front end for TeX is iTeXMac:


The implementation of TeX on Linux (or at least on Red Hat Linux) is called teTeX (written by Thomas Escher, ie "T.E."). It comes packaged with the standard Red Hat distribution, so you just need to make sure it is installed. Here are the packages I recommend you install:
(the version numbers may be later)

Unfortunately REVTeX does not come with teTeX, you have to get that separate. You can download REVTeX from the APS at:

to be continued...

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