Guide for LaTeX users

This page is a good starting point if you have used LaTeX before and want to try Typst. We will explore the main differences between these two systems from a user perspective. Although Typst is not built upon LaTeX and has a different syntax, you will learn how to use your LaTeX skills to get a head start.

Just like LaTeX, Typst is a markup-based typesetting system: You compose your document in a text file and mark it up with commands and other syntax. Then, you use a compiler to typeset the source file into a PDF. However, Typst also differs from LaTeX in several aspects: For one, Typst uses more dedicated syntax (like you may know from Markdown) for common tasks. Typst's commands are also more principled: They all work the same, so unlike in LaTeX, you just need to understand a few general concepts instead of learning different conventions for each package. Moreover Typst compiles faster than LaTeX: Compilation usually takes milliseconds, not seconds, so the web app and the compiler can both provide instant previews.

In the following, we will cover some of the most common questions a user switching from LaTeX will have when composing a document in Typst. If you prefer a step-by-step introduction to Typst, check out our tutorial.

How do I create a new, empty document?

That's easy. You just create a new, empty text file (the file extension is .typ). No boilerplate is needed to get started. Simply start by writing your text. It will be set on an empty A4-sized page. If you are using the web app, click "+ Empty document" to create a new project with a file and enter the editor. Paragraph breaks work just as they do in LaTeX, just use a blank line.

Hey there!

Here are two paragraphs. The
output is shown to the right.

How do I create a section heading, emphasis, ...?

LaTeX uses the command \section to create a section heading. To nest deeper, you can use \subsection, \subsubsection, etc. Depending on your document class, there is also \part or \chapter.

In Typst, headings are less verbose: You prefix the line with the heading on it with an equals sign and a space to get a first-order heading: = Introduction. If you need a second-order heading, you use two equals signs: == In this paper. You can nest headings as deeply as you'd like by adding more equals signs.

Emphasis (usually rendered as italic text) is expressed by enclosing text in _underscores_ and strong emphasis (usually rendered in boldface) by using *stars* instead.

Below, there is a comparison between LaTeX commands and their Typst equivalents. You can also check out the full syntax cheat sheet.

Strong emphasis\textbf{strong}*strong*strong
Monospace / code\texttt{print(1)}`print(1)`raw
Bullet listitemize environment- Listlist
Numbered listenumerate environment+ Listenum
Term listdescription environment/ Term: Listterms
Figurefigure environmentfigure functionfigure
Tabletable environmenttable functiontable
Equation$x$, align / equation environments$x$, $ x = y $equation

Lists do not rely on environments in Typst. Instead, they have lightweight syntax like headings. To create an unordered list (itemize), prefix the line of the list item with a hyphen:

To write this list in Typst...

  \item Fast
  \item Flexible
  \item Intuitive

...just type this:

- Fast
- Flexible
- Intuitive


By indenting them beyond the hyphen, you can also include multiple paragraphs or nested lists in a single list item. If the list item's become longer, it's best to put blank lines between the list items. This increases the spacing between the list's items.

To get a numbered list (enumerate) instead, use a + instead of the hyphen. For a term list (description), write / Term: Description instead.

How do I use a command?

LaTeX heavily relies on commands (prefixed by backslashes). It uses these macros to affect the typesetting process and to insert and manipulate content. Some commands accept arguments, most frequently they are enclosed in curly braces: \cite{rasmus}.

Typst differentiates between markup mode and code mode. Markup mode is the default and where you can write text and use syntactic constructs like *stars for bold text*. Code mode is similar to other programming languages like Python and allows you to write code like 1 + 2 == 3.

Within Typst's markup, you can switch to code mode for a single command (or rather, expression) using a hashtag (#). This is how you call functions and use features like imports within markup. Within these commands and function calls, code mode applies. To embed content as a value, you can go back to markup mode using square brackets:

First, a rectangle:

Let me show how to do
#underline([_underlined_ text])

We can also do some maths:
#calc.max(3, 2 * 4)

And finally a little loop:
#for x in range(3) [
  Hi #x.

A function call always involves the name of the function (rect, underline, calc.max, range) and then an argument list, even if it is empty. The argument list is enclosed in parentheses.


A function can have multiple arguments. Some arguments are positional, i.e. you just provide the value: The function #lower("SCREAM") returns its argument in all-lowercase. Many functions use named arguments instead of positional arguments to increase legibility. For example, the dimensions and stroke of a rectangle are defined with named arguments:

  width: 2cm,
  height: 1cm,
  stroke: red,

You specify a named argument by first entering its name (above, it's width, height, and stroke), then a colon, followed by the value (2cm, 1cm, red). You can find the available named arguments in the reference page for each function or in the autocomplete panel when typing. Named arguments are similar to how some LaTeX environments are configured, for example, you would type \begin{enumerate}[label={\alph*)}] to start a list with the labels a), b), and so on.

Often, you want to provide some content to a function. For example, the LaTeX command \underline{Alternative A} would translate to #underline([Alternative A]) in Typst. The square brackets indicate that a value is content. Within these brackets, you can use normal markup. However, that's a lot of parentheses for a pretty simple construct. This is why you can also move trailing content arguments after the parentheses (and omit the parentheses if they would end up empty).

Typst is an #underline[alternative]
to LaTeX.

#rect(fill: aqua)[Get started here!]

Data types

You likely already noticed that the arguments have distinctive data types. Typst supports many data types. Below, there is a table with a few of the most important ones and how to write them:

Data typeExample
Content[*fast* typesetting]
String"Pietro S. Author"
Floating point number1.459
Absolute length12pt, 5in, 0.3cm, ...
Relative length65%

The difference between content and string is that content can contain markup, including function calls, while a string really is just a sequence of characters. You can use operators like + for summation and == for equality on these types like you would in a conventional programming language instead of using \addtocounter or \ifnum. You can even define variables and do computations with them.

In order to specify values of any of these types, you have to be in code mode!

Commands to affect the remaining document

In LaTeX, some commands like \textbf{bold text} are passed their argument in curly braces and only affect that argument whereas other commands like \bfseries bold text act as switches and change the appearance of all following content in the document or the current scope (denoted by a set of curly braces).

In Typst, functions can be used in both ways: With effects applying until the end of the document or block or just to its arguments. For example, #text(weight: "bold")[bold text] will only embolden its argument, while #set text(weight: "bold") will embolden any text until the end of the current block, or, if there is none, document. The effects of a function are immediately obvious depending on if it is used in a call or a set rule.

I am starting out with small text.

#set text(14pt)

This is a bit #text(18pt)[larger,]
don't you think?

Set rules may appear anywhere in the document and can be though of as pre-setting the arguments of their function:

#set enum(numbering: "I.")

Good results can only be obtained by
+ following best practices
+ being aware of current results
  of other researchers
+ checking the data for biases

The + is syntactic sugar (think of it as an abbreviation) for a call to the enum function, to which we apply a set rule above. Most syntax is linked to a function in this way. If you need to style an element beyond what its arguments enable, you can completely redefine its appearance with a show rule (somewhat comparable to \renewcommand).

How do I load a document class?

In LaTeX, you start your main .tex file with the \documentclass{article} command to define how your document is supposed to look. In that command, you may have replaced article with another value such as report and amsart to select a different look.

When using Typst, you style your documents with functions. Typically, you use a template that provides a function that styles your whole document. First, you import the function from a template file. Then, you apply it to your whole document. This is accomplished with a show rule that wraps the following document in a given function. The following example illustrates how it works:

#import "conf.typ": conf
#show: conf.with(
  title: [
    Towards Improved Modelling
  authors: (
      name: "Theresa Tungsten",
      affiliation: "Artos Institute",
      email: "tung@artos.edu",
      name: "Eugene Deklan",
      affiliation: "Honduras State",
      email: "e.deklan@hstate.hn",
  abstract: lorem(80),

Let's get started writing this
article by putting insightful
paragraphs right here!

The import statement makes functions (and other definitions) from another file available. In this example, it imports the conf function from the conf.typ file. This function formats content as a conference article. We use the show rule to apply it to the document and also configure some metadata about the article. Finally, we can get started writing our article below!

Functions are Typst's "commands" and can transform their arguments to an output value, including document content. Functions are "pure", which means that they cannot have any effects beyond creating an output value / output content. This is in stark contrast to LaTeX macros that can have arbitrary effects on your document.

To let a function style your whole document, the show rule processes everything that comes after it and calls the function specified after the colon with the result as an argument. The .with part is a method that takes the conf function and pre-configures some if its arguments before passing it on to the show rule.

In the web app, you can choose from predefined templates or even create your own using the template wizard. You can also check out the awesome-typst repository to find templates made by the community. We plan to build a package manager to make templates even easier to share in the future!

You can also create your own, custom templates. They are shorter and more readable than the corresponding LaTeX .sty files by orders of magnitude, so give it a try!

How do I load packages?

Most things you load packages for in LaTeX are just included in Typst, no need to load or install anything. Below, we compiled a table with frequently loaded packages and their corresponding Typst functions.

LaTeX PackageTypst Alternative
graphicx, svgimage function
tabularxtable, grid functions
fontenc, inputenc, unicode-mathJust start writing!
babel, polyglossiatext function: #set text(lang: "zh")
amsmathMath mode
amsfonts, amssymbsym module and syntax
geometry, fancyhdrpage function
xcolortext function: #set text(fill: rgb("#0178A4"))
hyperreflink function
bibtex, biblatex, natbibcite, bibliography functions
lstlisting, mintedraw function and syntax
parskipblock and par functions
csquotesType " or ' and set the text language
captionfigure function
enumitemlist, enum, terms functions

If you need to load functions and variables from another file, for example to use a template, you can use an import statement. If you want to include the textual content of another file instead, you can use an include statement. It will yield the content of the included file and put it in your document.

Currently, there is no package manager for Typst, but we plan to build one so that you can easily use packages with tools and templates from the community and publish your own.

How do I input maths?

To enter math mode in Typst, just enclose your equation in dollar signs. You can enter display mode by putting spaces or newlines between the opening and closing dollar sign and the equation.

The sum of the numbers from
$1$ to $n$ is:

$ sum_(k=1)^n k = (n(n+1))/2 $

Math mode works differently than regular markup or code mode. Single characters and numbers with any amount of digits are displayed as mathematical variables and values (of your equation), while multiple consecutive non-number characters will be interpreted as Typst variables.

As you can see in the example above, Typst pre-defines a lot of useful variables in math mode. All Greek and some Hebrew letters are resolved by their name. Refer to the symbol page or use the autocomplete panel to check which symbols are available. Alternate and related forms of symbols can often be selected by appending a modifier after a period. For example, arrow.l.squiggly inserts a squiggly left-pointing arrow. If you want to insert multiletter text in your expression instead, enclose it in double quotes:

$ delta "if" x <= 5 $

You can type many symbols with shorthands like <=, >=, and ->. Similarly, delimiters will scale automatically for their expressions, just as if \left and \right commands were implicitly inserted in LaTeX. You can customize delimiter behavior using the lr function.

Typst will automatically set terms around a slash / as a fraction while honoring operator precedence. All round parentheses not made redundant by the fraction will appear in the output.

$ f(x) = (x + 1) / x $

Sub- and superscripts work similarly in Typst and LaTeX. Typing $x^2$ will produce a superscript, $x_2$ yields a subscript. If you want to include more than one value in a sub- or superscript, enclose their contents in parentheses: $x_(a -> epsilon)$.

Just like you can insert variables without typing a # or /, you can also use functions "naked":

$ f(x, y) := cases(
  1 "if" (x dot y)/2 <= 0,
  2 "if" x "is even",
  3 "if" x in NN,
  4 "else",
) $

The above example uses the cases function to describe f. Within the cases function, arguments are delimited using commas and the arguments are also interpreted as math. If you would need to interpret arguments as Typst values instead, prefix them with a #:

$ (a + b)^2
  = a^2
  + text(fill: #maroon, 2 a b)
  + b^2 $

You can use all Typst functions within math mode and insert any content. If you want them to work normally, with code mode in the argument list, you can prefix their call with a #. Nobody can stop you from using rectangles or emoji as your variables anymore:

$ sum^10_(🥸=1)
  #rect(width: 4mm, height: 2mm)/🥸
  = 🧠 maltese $

If you'd like to enter your mathematical symbols directly as Unicode, that is possible, too!

Math calls can have two-dimensional argument lists using ; as a delimiter. The most common use for this is the mat function that creates matrices:

$ mat(
  1, 2, ..., 10;
  2, 2, ..., 10;
  dots.v, dots.v, dots.down, dots.v;
  10, 10, ..., 10;
) $

How do I get the "LaTeX look?"

Papers set in LaTeX have an unmistakeable look. This is mostly due to their font, Computer Modern, justification, narrow line spacing, and wide margins.

The example below

#set page(margin: 1.75in)
#set par(leading: 0.55em, first-line-indent: 1.8em, justify: true)
#set text(font: "New Computer Modern")
#show raw: set text(font: "New Computer Modern Mono")
#show par: set block(spacing: 0.55em)
#show heading: set block(above: 1.4em, below: 1em)

This should be a good starting point! If you want to go further, why not create a reusable template?

What limitations does Typst currently have compared with LaTeX?

Although Typst can be a LaTeX replacement for many today, there are still features that Typst does not (yet) support. Here is a list of them which, where applicable, contains possible workarounds.