Physics: LaTeX

Physics and physical sciences

LaTeX Course

The Department of Mathematics has a one ECTS credit online course for learning LaTeX. It's open for all Helsinki University students (includes exercises and a final exam).

Why LaTeX?

Much more than just a system for managing references, LaTeX is a powerful document preparation system that is commonly used in scientific publishing, especially in computer science, mathematics and physics.

Its philosophy emphasizes users to focus on the content and let the system take care of the appearance of the document. LaTeX produces professional grade typography.

  • Documents are written in plain text files using a specific markup language and then compiled into the actual printable documents (usually DVI or PDF)
  • LaTeX uses Donald Knuth's TeX typesetting system and is generally distributed as part of a full TeX distribution
  • The easiest way to get started with LaTeX is to install one of the suggested distributions
  • There are also web application based LaTeX editors you can use without having to install anything: see for example Overleaf

Here are some common reasons to learn LaTeX:

  • Many journals require you to submit your article in LaTeX form (as do book publishers)
  • Superb support for advanced mathematics
  • Produces professional grade typography in documents
  • Focus on content instead of form
  • Almost endlessly customizable and expandable via additional plugins
  • Automates citations and bibliographies
  • It´s free software and in line with general UNIX philosophy


While LaTeX can sometimes have a reputation for being difficult to learn, those who put in the time and effort are rewarded with a powerful tool for scientific writing that often becomes an important part of the research process.

As a popular non-profit project with a long history there´s a lot of good documentation available. Here are some links:

We also have a several e-books on LaTeX in our library collections:

Last but not least, YouTube can be a good source for learning LaTeX. There are several unofficial video series – just search for "LaTeX tutorial".


The Department of Physics maintains a both a LaTeX and a MS Word template for thesis and course reports along with citation style instructions: both can be downloaded from the Helsinki University My Studies site (login required).

This is how LaTeX is generally used: take a template as a base and work from there.

  • Additional templates can be found at sites like Overleaf and ShareLaTeX
  • Many major physics journals provide their own LaTeX templates