Getting Started: Install Tectonic

Let’s start out by making sure that Tectonic is installed on your system.

Even this step will be very different than what you might be used to with other TeX systems. To install a normal TeX system such as TeXLive, you normally need to download gigabytes of support files and set them up in a complex directory hierarchy. Tectonic, on the other hand, is distributed as a single executable file. That one file not only combines the functionality of many standard TeX programs, but it also can download the many necessary support files on the fly. This makes Tectonic super easy to install.

The quickest way to get started is to use your terminal. On a computer running a Unix-like operating system, including macOS, just run the following command in your terminal:

curl --proto '=https' --tlsv1.2 -fsSL |sh

This will download the tectonic program and place it into the directory where you ran the command.

On Windows, copy-paste this into a PowerShell window, which will unpack tectonic.exe for you:

[System.Net.ServicePointManager]::SecurityProtocol = [System.Net.ServicePointManager]::SecurityProtocol -bor 3072
iex ((New-Object System.Net.WebClient).DownloadString(''))

No matter your operating system, you should move the unpacked file into a directory in your executable search path so that you can run Tectonic from any working directory. For the time being, the download script doesn’t do this because it can be tricky to automatically determine what the best installation destination would be.

Alternatively, you can install a packaged version of Tectonic if one is available. For detailed instructions and additional installation options, go to the How To Install Tectonic guide.

You’ll know that you’re set up when you can go to your computer’s command prompt and run:

$ tectonic --help

and the result is that you get a printout of information about different options and arguments that you can pass to the Tectonic program. (From now on we’ll use a convention of a leading $ to indicate a command that you should run at your computer’s command prompt. You don’t type the dollar sign itself.)

To be explicit, Tectonic does not invoke an external latex program, and Tectonic is not a “wrapper” for (La)TeX. Tectonic is the LaTeX program. This is essential. The goals of the Tectonic project involve a fundamental transformation of how we use TeX to create technical documents, and it is not possible to achieve that without radical surgery to the heart of how TeX has traditionally operated.