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Good free program for creating scientific documents?

  1. Sep 16, 2007 #1
    Hello, I am beginning rudimentary work on a senior thesis. I am getting tired of hassling with Word to format all my formulas and proofs, and I thought about using proTeXt but I don't want to download 540 mb. My friend told me (a few years ago!) about a program called "Tech," but he might have been referring to LaTeX or proTeXt and I just don't remember; I can't find any program called "Tech." Anyway...

    Does anyone have any suggestions for a free Windows program that will help me write scientific and mathematical documents? It doesn't need to be that complicated. I just need to be able to write and format words and formulas (mostly PDEs) and insert bitmap images.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. If it is really worth downloading proTeXt I'll do it, but I am a bit disgusted by word programs weighing more than 100 mb, even if that space is put to good use...

    Thank you in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 16, 2007 #2
    Rapid-Pi word add-on?
  4. Sep 16, 2007 #3


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    TeXnic at http://www.toolscenter.org/ might work for you.
    Use it with MikTeX http://www.miktex.org/ as suggested on http://www.toolscenter.org/tools.html [Broken]

    If you have access to Microsoft Word, you can use its "Equation Editor" [which is freely available with Word, but may not be installed by default]. However, if you plan to do any more scientific writing with equations, it's worth it to invest some time and hard drive space to learn and use LaTeX.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  5. Sep 16, 2007 #4
  6. Sep 16, 2007 #5


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    TeX is pronounced "tech", so that's surely what your friend was suggesting. LaTeX is a commonly used extension of TeX.

    TeX is not an editor; TeX is an entire typesetting package. It includes fonts, programs for translating *.tex files into dvi, postscript, or PDF formats, packages to ease the typesetting of many different kinds of mathematical objects, and so forth. When you're faced with a large download, it is these things that you are downloading.

    I believe the most convenient TeX package for windows is MikTeX.

    Any editor at all can be used to write in TeX; you edit a *.tex file as a normal text file, and then run programs to typeset your document, such as texi2pdf which produces a *.pdf file.

    The editor I use is the TexnicCenter; it's a full IDE for writing in TeX. (Of course, it's useless unless you have actually installed TeX on your computer)
  7. Sep 16, 2007 #6


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    You don't need the "full" 540 Mb of public domain LaTeX.

    The core version of MikTex is about a 45 Mb download. If you try to use part of the system that you haven't got (which is unlikely unless you are doing something specialized) it's intelligent enough to download the missing files automatically.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest packages not in the core download are support for Asian languages and fonts - and there's no reason to get those unless you actually need them!
  8. Sep 16, 2007 #7
    If you're doing anything using somewhat unusual symbols, you should be aware that they may not be available in equation editor. I made the mistake of writing my undergrad thesis in word; and, discovered, much to my dismay, that "[tex]\dagger[/tex]" is not available in equation editor (which puts a real damper on writing formally about quantum mechanics, let me tell you). Since, I already had a great deal written at this point and hadn't yet learned TeX, I had little choice but to shell out a nice chunk of money to upgrade equation editor to MathType (the full, not at all free, version with a much more comprehensive symbol library). So, before you choose to go this route, take a look through the symbol bank and make sure equation editor actually has everything you need.
  9. Sep 17, 2007 #8
    LaTeX is certainly the standard environment for scientific documents (hence, if you're using Windows, you'll quite likely need to download ProTeXt eventually). Nonetheless, I would consider whether (open)office suffices for your purposes, since TeX (being decidedly anti-WYSIWYG) isn't necessarily conducive to finding the most enjoyable writing environment.
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