How to Find the Right LaTeX Symbol

LaTeX is a multi platform tex processor that can be used to created document of gre at quality. LaTeX is based on the TeX language created by renowned professor D. Knuth from Stanford, and it is currently used to typeset a large proportion of current technical documents and books.

Anyone that is interested in creating documents that contains mathematics or other symbols should be aware of the facilities provided by LaTeX. The system provides not only the means for quick generation of large technical documents, but has also been used in other areas, such as music notation, with great success.

Finding Symbols

LaTeX makes available to users a large number of symbols, including mathematics and other areas. However, there is a frequent doubt for beginners on how to find the right symbol to use in a particular context.

Each symbol in LaTeX corresponds to a particular command. Commands in the TeX language start with a backslash character, and are usually quite mnemonic. For example, the symbol for the greek letter alpha can be entered using the command "\alpha". The same is true for all other letters of the greek alphabet.

Still on the subject of greek letters, one can enter the capitalized version of a letter with a command that starts with an upper case character. Therefore, the capital alpha can be entered as "\Alpha" (although this is the same character as the roman letter A).

Mathematical Notation

Similarly, LaTeX comes with a lot of symbols that can be used for mathematical notation. For example, some operations in higher mathematics such as the integral sum can be entered easily using the command "\int". The limit of a function can be expressed using the command "\lim". Remember, however, that these commands need to be entered inside a math environment, such as provided inside a pair of "$" characters.

A few more examples of math notation are "\cup" and "\cap", used to represent union and intersection of elements. The easy way to remember that is noticing that the symbol for union really looks like a cap. Also, its middle letter, u, is exactly what is used to represent the union operation.

Symbol Tables

More complex symbols are also available, and you shouldn't be required to remember them all. For this reason, everyone that uses LaTeX also uses a table with a list of symbols and corresponding commands. The quickest way is probably having a LaTeX reference book. These books will invariably contain a list of symbols that can be readily used.

A more common way these days is to have such a list in PDF or postscript format. A few web sites also have such a list of symbols that can be viewed in html.

Whatever the means used, LaTeX is the language that makes it easier to use mathematical and technical symbols. The only thing you need is a list of symbols and entering the commands that represents it in TeX.

Tags: symbols, latex
Article created on 2011-06-03 06:53:52

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