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what is LaTeX ??

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Old   August 20, 2002, 12:58
Default Re: what is LaTeX ??
  #21
Scott Whitney
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LaTeX and Word are two different ways of doing the same thing - producing a good looking scientific paper. They each have their advantages and disadvantages. I've worked with both during my schooling and here are the points that I found to be the most important (in no particular order):

1) Working on multiple computers: Word wins. I can take my document to virtually any computer in the world, and it will be immediately useable (especially if you save in an older format). With LaTeX, if I want to bring my work to a different computer (such as a different school lab) I need to download some version of TeX. I might not have permission to install TeX, I might not have the time to download the huge numbers of files, I may have trouble finding versions of TeX that will work on each different computer...

2) Group work: Word wins. What if only half the group understands Tex (I can imagine the look on my grandmothers face if I ask her to help type a family letter using TeX instead of Word)? What if some group members cannot download it? Word has many built in features that assist with multiple authors. The best you can do in TeX is to put comments listing the author of each sentence - but that really clutters up the source file. Also I can't count the number of times I was in a rush to finish a group project and found out that the disk with the project on it didn't have all the necessary files (fonts, formats, individual files for every single picture, etc.) meaning that I had to quickly drive from campus to the person who has that file.

3) Viruses: TeX wins. Word has many 'bugs' that are actually computer viruses. The must frustrating and one of the most common is the 'out of disk space' error. When this occurs it is difficult to save your file and most people give up and lose their data (although there is a simple workaround). This isn't a Word bug, but your computer is infected with a virus. TeX itself is basically immune from these. There are other examples, TeX wins in all.

4) Debugging: Word wins. Since TeX code must be converted into a viewable format you must code it properly. If you aren't skilled at computer programming, I wish you luck. It can take hours searching through a TeX file filled with complex symbols and code until you find the improper code that won't let you see your work. It is a viscous circle. You can't see your work, so you don't know where you messed up, so you can't edit it, so you can't see your work... With Word there is no debugging of code since there usually is no code (few people do any sort of Word macro work).

5) Learning curve: Word wins. Go back to my grandmother example. I truely think she would give up computers all together if she only had TeX to write letters with (assuming she could even figure out where, what, and how to download to use it in the first place). With Word, all you need is basic computer knowledge and you are up and running.

6) Cost: TeX wins. Assuming you have internet capability, TeX is virtually free. Although Word document viewers are free, Word itself often adds to the cost of computer purchases.

7) Writing time: Word wins. Due to #4 above, it is highely undesireable to write large sections of TeX code at once. Thus you must write a small section, save your file, load a TeX viewer, wait for it to be compiled, see it has errors, edit your TeX source, recompile, then you see your work, repeat until you like the outcome. With Word, you see what you get as you type it. The result is a document often takes 2-3 times as long to write in TeX.

8) Finished document: tie. I can get the exact same result with either so neither have any advantage.

9) Working with multiple programs: Word wins. Suppose you need to create a document with text, line drawings, pictures, and graphs. Word can create the line drawings, for the graphs you go to Excel (or similar program) and hit copy and paste, for the pictures you just hit insert picture. Need to change data on a graph? Just update it in Excel and it is automatically changed in Word. TeX is much more difficult. There is no built in drawing program. You must save the graphs as pictures and write code to load them in (meaning that the graphs are then uneditable if you get additional data, you must regenerate them, and resave them as another picture). Also all these individual items reqires another file that you must remember to copy (see #2 above).

10) Conversions to other formats: Word wins. Suppose you need your document as a webpage, as a PDF (assuming you have the PDF writer), as a Lotus 1-2-3 document, as an easily readable text file, or even a TeX file, etc. just hit 'Save As' in Word and you are done. Converting a TeX file to any other format can be quite a nightmare in time and expense. Note: due to easy converting, this eliminates the fear of outdated document formats that someone above mentioned.

There are other advantages and disadvantages of each, but they are minor compared to the top 10 I listed above.
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Old   August 20, 2002, 14:49
Default Re: what is LaTeX ??
  #22
alex
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well, as you probably know LaTeX output is easily converted to ps and ps to pdf is a piece of cake, now you can always do telnet and set screen to do remote work, the same applies to the rest of the points, but it's a problem when equation 101 becomes eq.2 in your dissertation and you do not even know it. And btw what formats are outdated?
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Old   August 20, 2002, 20:51
Default Re: what is LaTeX ??
  #23
Greg Perkins
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I agree with all these points, and only add the the Lyx front end word processor for latex (www.lyx.org) overcomes most of the shortcomings with LaTex and allows you to have a WYSIWYG type front-end like Word while still allowing you to use the power and flexibility of Latex at the back-end.

Greg
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Old   August 25, 2002, 17:56
Default Re: what is LaTeX ??
  #24
Jim Park
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Sigh ...

I can remember when WordPerfect was the clear way to do all of this. Word was expensive, buggy, difficult, obtuse, ... . You get the idea.

I have Word in self defense, but WordPerfect is still the way to go.
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Old   August 26, 2002, 06:08
Default Re: what is LaTeX ??
  #25
Joern Beilke
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Have you ever moved a word document to a computer with a different printer installed or some fonts missing ?

Good luck !!
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Old   August 26, 2002, 09:36
Default Re: what is LaTeX ??
  #26
Jim Park
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Yes, and the equations were 'modified' in the process. Magically, Word changed the physics when I went from an attched printer to a network printer!

I didn't say, you'll note, that I like Word. It's simply that one has to have it available because it's so widely used.

I remember about 5 years ago participating on a multi-laboratory team for the Department of Energy. One character at Argonne Nat'l Lab insisted on sending his e-mail messages as Word documents that he compressed into ZIP files!

Having no experience with LaTex, I won't vote in that election.
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Old   August 26, 2002, 09:38
Default Re: what is LaTeX ??
  #27
gita
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Hi,

I agree with you almost. But when it comes to resolution,MS Word can not compete with LaTeX. LaTeX is built on higher order interpolants! We cfd guys know about truncation error,blah blah. The crispness that you get using LaTeX is amazing. I have used LaTeX extensively. But I agree with your point 4. I feel,it's upto the individual to choose given the timeframe and other facilities.

Regards
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Old   September 3, 2002, 05:05
Default Re: what is LaTeX ??
  #28
steve
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Why not try out Scientfic Workplace if you are a "WYSIWYG type of person", its probably the best of both worlds. LaTeX typesetting for beginners (and the lazy).

http://www.mackichan.com/index.html?...html~mainFrame
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Old   September 6, 2002, 12:01
Default Re: what is LaTeX ??
  #29
warner
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The Latex used here is confusing, because Latex is a kind of film which is encountered in chemsitry field.
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