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Okay, first things first. We assume that you have become friendly with some editor (vi, pico, or ``the editor's choice'': emacs, which has a nice latex mode) and can actually sit down, login, and open a file and edit it. If not, find a computer TF or friend and get these basic prerequisites under control.

tex is not a word processor, but a formatter. This means that you prepare a file containing commands for tex using a text editor (which is not part of tex itself), and then you use the tex program to convert this file of commands into a printed document. Any tex file you make should have the extension ``.tex''. For example, the chapters of your thesis might be in the files


And perhaps your letters might be called things like


Giving the file the .tex extension will indicate to various programs that the file contains tex commands.

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