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Stefan Kottwitz studied mathematics in Jena and Hamburg. Afterwards, he worked as an IT Administrator and Communication Officer onboard cruise ships for AIDA Cruises and for Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. Following 10 years of sailing around the world, he is now employed as a Network and IT Security Engineer for AIDA Cruises, focusing on network infrastructure and security such as managing firewall systems for headquarters and fleet.
In between contracts, he worked as a freelance programmer and typography designer. For many years he has been providing LaTeX support in online forums. He became a moderator of the web forum latex community.org and of the site golatex.de. Recently, he began supporting the newly established Q and A site tex.stackexchange.com as a moderator.
He publishes ideas and news from the TeX world on his blog at texblog.net.
When I read about the publication of the book on various forums and blogs, my interest was definitely piqued: the author, Stefan Kottwitz, is a frequent and helpful contributor/moderator on TeX.SX. On the other hand I wondered if anyone would actually want to buy an introductory book to LaTeX, considering the many free tutorials and eBooks available on the Web (although there are many out-of-date ones, so beware!)
After a quick flip through the book, I felt the answer was a very firm "YES". First off, this is certainly an up-to-date book with descriptions of recent packages, and warnings about obsolete ones. While the first few chapter headings read like most other beginner's guide to LATEX, Kottwitz's approach of using complete step-by-step examples throughout the book is something seldom seen in other books or tutorials. By that I mean you don't just get the first few handful of "Hello World" examples, but for much more advanced usage scenarios as well. (BTW, The examples are based on TeXLive and TeXworks.)
Your mileage may vary, but I do feel that such a hand-holding approach (that's what my training course had been described as) -- at least in the early days of learning LaTeX -- is very reassuring. Especially so since LaTeX can be rather intimidating for people who have only used WYSIWYG word processors before. There are pop quizzes are interspersed throughout the content (answers in the appendix).
The book has 13 chapters on the following topics:
1. Getting Started with LaTeX 2. Formatting Words, Lines, and Paragraphs 3. Designing Pages 4. Creating Lists 5. Creating Tables and Inserting Pictures 6. Cross-Referencing 7. Listing Content and References 8. Typing Math Formulas 9. Using Fonts 10.Read more ›
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The author, Stefan Kottwitz, can be found in all common (La)TeX forums as the user Stefan_K and if you're not new to LaTeX you probably already met him online. Since that was the case for me, I knew that he knows what he's talking about and so this book was a must-have for me. I read it in two days and I have to say: I am surprised and amazed. Although it's titled "Beginner's Guide", the target group definitely isn't restricted to beginners. I already wrote larger documents with LaTeX, so I wouldn't consider myself a beginner - and yet I learned a lot just by reading this book once.
The book itself is divided into 13 chapters, each being divided into smaller sections. It usually begins with explaining the topic and how to do it in general, followed by "time for action" examples, which then are explained and discussed in detail. That way, it is easy to follow his thoughts, but also to skip certain parts if you want to. I recommend reading everything though, because sometimes he gives little hints which can be really useful.
What can I say - amazing! From how to install a TeX distribution on your computer to how to manage even large projects this book covers everything you (or at least I) need. You really learn how to use LaTeX from scratch and, since I wasn't new to it I know that, he tells you about all the small problems you will sooner or later meet. If I would have had this book at least two years ago, I could have saved myself a lot of time using Google and forums.Read more ›
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This book covers all the basics of LaTeX and then some in thirteen chapters totaling about three hundred pages. Each chapter contains a Quiz with solutions given in the Appendix. Its starts with the usual Installation chapter with the installation detailed for Windows, not other environments. It then goes on in a logical sequence starting with formatting words, lines, paragraphs, and pages. Next are lists, tables, tabbings, and pictures (bizarrely in the same chapter as tables), cross-references, lists of references, indexes, bibliographies, maths, fonts (but not much on Unicode), long documents, hyperlinks and bookmarks to finish with a nice and useful chapter on troubleshooting, followed by online resources, answers to quizzes and an index.
The book is for beginners in LaTeX, but not for computers novices. You will need some fluency in computer lingo since many terms are not defined nor explained. But then, most people who would be aware of the existence of LaTeX and consider using it are probably somewhat computer savvy. The advantage is that the book can cover quite some ground and still remain within a reasonable number of pages. Overall I found the book to be a good introduction to LaTeX. It packs up quite a good deal of information in a relative small amount of pages and is easy to follow and well organized.
I do have a few caveats though. The book was made using InDesign CS4, not LaTeX. It would have been nice to see LaTeX in action. Furthermore, the book has very little on Unicode. The book is about LaTeX, it does not deal at all with XeTeX. It's still useful, but you need to know it. The author uses TeXWorks on Windows. As a result, if you use a Mac and/or another editor, some pages will be useless.Read more ›