Latex is installed on all the computers in the Math Labs in Eucalyptus, Live Oak, and Citrus Halls at CSUN; if you prefer, you can use the version there. Since it is free and open source software, you can also install it on your home computer.
You need two things: A LaTeX installation, and a text editor. You can use any text (ASCII) editor, though I would recommend a LaTeX-enabled editor because they have Wizards and other neat tools that make your life immensely easier. I suggest TexMaker here because it is (a) free and (b) available on all three platforms so I only have to teach it once in class; but there are lots of other good editors such as WinEdt or the MacTex built-in editor. You may want to play with LyX which has lots of neat features, free, and available on all platforms. It's not quite a word processor but its more than just a latex editor. But you will still need to install the Latex distribution before you can use LyX or any of the other LaTeX enabled editors.
All of the LaTeX distributions are really based on TeX Live, the Linux version - the mac and windows version just have wrappers that make them work in the alternative file systems.
Install Texmaker and TeX Live using your package manager (e.g., Synaptic, apt, yum, dpkg, rpm, etc.) In Ubuntu the full tex live distribution is called texlive-full. Be patient, there are a lot of packages to download. You can also follow the instructions at the textlive web page but that is a lot more complicated.
For Mac OS-X
Follow the instructions at http://www.tug.org/mactex/ to install the latest MacTex distribution Distribution. Please be patient, the download is 1.15 GB.
(Note: Don't confuse MacTex with MikTeX which I recommend for Windows. The Mac and Linux ports of MikTeX are not complete. )
Start with MikTEX. This is the basic Latex distribution. Follow the instructions to downlaoad and install the latest stable release (under the "Download" link on the left hand side of the page. (It was called MiKTeX 2.9 at the time this was written).
Click on the line MiKTeX 2..9 on the left hand side of that page.
Scroll down to where it says "Basic MiKTeX 2.9" Installer Size: 163.89 MB and click on Download
Locate the installer after it downloads and run it.
Get Texmaker. This will give you a GUI to write latex documents with lots of shortcut keys. If you already have a different text editor that you really like and would rather do everything from the command line (not recommended) this step is optional. There are other text editors that have direct latex support but the only one I am familiar with on Windows in Texmaker.
rev. Fri Jan 13 15:26:53 2012