The TEX typesetting system was created by the well-known computer scientist Donald Knuth because he wasn't satisfied with the way his books looked when they were published by existing means. TEX produces beautiful output, especially of mathematics, but it is hard to use directly. Mathematician Leslie Lamport built LATEX on top of TEX to provide easier access to fine typesetting.
Writing papers with LATEX is very different from writing with a word processor. With a word processor, you have to be concerned with many minute details of the format and layout of your paper. LATEX takes care of many of these details for you. On the other hand, to use LATEX, you have to learn something that will look to many people like a programming language (although HTML, the layout language of the Web, is a better analogy). Fortunately, you can learn the basics in a very short time. This short paper aims to cover enough to get you to the point of producing attractive documents with LATEX.
Maybe the first thing to note is that the actual typing of a LATEX paper is done in a plain text editor rather than in a word-processing program. The text file is then processed to produce the actual output. The output can then be printed or can be viewed on-screen with a special viewing program. You can also convert LATEX output to other formats such as HTML or PDF.