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Does one really needs to learn LaTex?

  1. Dec 18, 2012 #1
    So I have some spare time which I decided to use to learn a new software. I thought of learning LaTex but I could not really find good reasons to do so. I do research in Materials Science / Condensed Matter Physics and in my field it is very common to communicate documents written with MS Word. To me it looks like that I can communicate whatever I want reasonably well using MS Word. Do you think it is still worth learning LaTex? Any thoughts?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 19, 2012 #2


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    I remember when I wrote up my diploma thesis using word. I was working on the document both in university and at home. For some reason when opening the document at home, word decided to reverse all opening brackets < into closing brackets > and vice versa in my formula. That's when I started using latex.

    Using latex means that you are basically "programming" your document. This also means that it is quite easy to change the style of the document, e.g. when you want to resubmit some paper in another journal.
    Typing of text, special characters, formulas etc. is extremely quick as you are coding it using basic ascii characters and you can use all the nice help tools for working with code like e.g. regular expressions. It is true, word has this in rudimentary form, too, but it doesn't work well.

    Finally with latex you learn alot about good typesetting, e.g. to use a typographically correct "minus" in front of numbers. To do that in word you have to somehow insert each time the unicode character 2212, if you don't like to use the equation editor for each number.

    I usually use word for short, simple or informal texts, while I would never use it for a scientific paper or even thesis.
  4. Dec 19, 2012 #3
    People use a lot of word. For large documents with many formulas and graphics it's ****, unstable, produces ugly printouts of vector graphics, and is poorly portable.
    Libreoffice writer is a bit nicer. The main advantage are the collaboration functions.

    Latex is very stable but can be quite a fight to get graphics right and tables are VERY annoying. But for large documents it is nicer. I have never had a text editor crash on me and your documents don't just get corrupted.

    If you want a gateway drug that some people even prefer over Latex I recommend Lyx. It still feels like a text editor, but the documents it produces are much nicer.
  5. Dec 19, 2012 #4
    Thank you for your thoughts. I think your reply encouraged me to add LaTex/Lyx to my repertoire.
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