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Why use LaTeX

  • 17-11-2009 8:23pm
    Registered Users Posts: 8,452 ✭✭✭

    Made in MS Word:

    Made in LaTeX:
    Did you notice the difference?

    Put simply, LaTeX looks better. Instead of using crappy, elementary rules to deal with spacing between letters and words, LaTeX compiles it to look supremely professional automatically. For more details of these fine details, see here.

    But here's the really good thing: I included no formatting in the LaTeX version. The font size and family is automatic. The date came up automatically. The text is justified automatically. I didn't have to indent the new paragraphs, I just left a blank space between each paragraph.

    That's just for plain old text. If you have to write up technical/mathematical documents, LaTeX is so much quicker and cleaner and better. Have you ever noticed how bad the maths in a technical document looks when made in MS Word? Compare that to something made in, yeah, you guessed it. Math written in LaTeX is just pretty, and there's no fiddling around with those buttons when all you want is a fraction. Want to write "one half" in fraction form? No problem, the code is \frac{1}{2} (output = [latex]\frac{1}{2}[/latex]). Done. What about "x-squared"? Even easier, x^2 (output = [latex]x^2[/latex]) and you're done. What about something hard, like [latex]\exists x \not \in N[/latex]? Also easy: \exists x \not \in N.

    Need to do a presentation? No problem. Compare these Powerpoints to these LaTeX (beamer) slides and make your own mind up.

    Is it for everyone? No. If you appreciate the difference between the two essays posted above, it's for you. If you have to write technical documents, it's for you. If you're a bit of a computer nerd, it's for you.

    And the point of this forum is to help get you there :)

    (DeVore's full post, if you wish to read it, can be found here.)


  • Hosted Moderators Posts: 7,485 ✭✭✭Red Alert

    Another important thing is that the source (or input) files are plain text files that can be edited in any editor. There are a few big advantages to this:

    First, the LaTeX processor doesn't ever write to your input file. So you can't get file corruption, unless your text editor corrupts the file. I've seen theses go down the drain on the day before printing when Word files get corrupted.

    You can use standard versioning tools, like Subversion, Bazaar or CVS to systematically control the version and do rollbacks.

    You can edit LaTeX files on machines that don't have LaTeX installed. Notepad or TextEdit will do fine. You only need the LaTeX processor to make the output PDF.

  • Registered Users Posts: 849 ✭✭✭petronius

    I like using LaTeX -
    horses for courses ms-word or open office is needed in cases and some people would not have the technological fearlessness to use a non MS or Windows specific platform.

    I did flirt with using DocBook in the past... however I use MikTex on windows myself and think it does the job I need for documents like Academic ones, Faxes, Formal Documents, some presentations but in some cases the gui ease of openoffice/microsoft office is an easier route to do some things.

  • Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 28,792 Mod ✭✭✭✭oscarBravo

    Something I've been itching to do since I first saw this thread:


    I'm really not a fan of the Computer Modern font, so I always use something... prettier. The above is the same document, but using the Bitstream Charter font.

  • Registered Users Posts: 148 ✭✭markmcg

    I've been using latex last year and this year in college. mainly for my project. it makes the document look much better than word.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 288 ✭✭EGaffney

    The initial time investment discourages many people from using LaTeX, including many who ought to use it at their stage in university, research/analytical work, or whatever.

    It is worth spending some time using the quite intuitive tutorials that are available for LaTeX, especially if you intend to write lots of documents for an audience that is familiar with the software. It looks much better. The programme probably knows more about typesetting than you do, if you are not a professional typesetter.

    After you do this, you will have the ability to create attractive documents easily, because the initial investment can be used in everything you create with the programme.

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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 39,022 ✭✭✭✭Permabear

    This post has been deleted.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,745 ✭✭✭Eliot Rosewater

    Recently two friends and I decided to launch a mathematics magazine for fellow undergraduates in Ireland. The main problem was technical: how does one make an 80 page book of maths from different authors? This project would simply not have been possible without Latex. Besides the usual benefits of easy formula rendering, I was also able to use Latex basically as a project management tool. I gave every article a sub-directory to hold its .tex file and images, and then created a master file to include all of these. This allowed me to "comment out" other articles from the master file as I worked on a particular one. It also streamlined header and titling creation, section and figure numbering resetting, and so on. And of course there was never a chance the whole thing become bloated and crash like a Word file (though Latex couldn't stop my hard drive from corrupting itself...)

    The main benefit is, naturally, the beautiful typesetting. Forum members might appreciate that: you can download the magazine here to check it out.

    Typeset in Bitstream Charter btw!

  • Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 28,792 Mod ✭✭✭✭oscarBravo

    Nice work, very polished. I'll be perusing some of those articles with interest.