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Why do I have to be a programmer to write math papers?

  1. Jan 6, 2009 #1
    I have some great math ideas I want to write, but the most accepted format is latex. I go to the latex website and see that it is a complicated program. I don't want to be a programmer . Seems like too much work for just some symbols I can easily write by hand. Then you have to somehow put it in PDF form??? way too confusing.

    Also, there is tex, latex, LEd 0.51 and MiKTeX 2.7?? which do i choose?
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  3. Jan 6, 2009 #2


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    You're just being lazy.
  4. Jan 6, 2009 #3


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    Don't they accept math papers written by hand any more?
  5. Jan 6, 2009 #4
    LaTeX is not a programming language any more than a washing machine. A washing machine can be complicated, but washing your clothes is still not programming. I suggest you get your terms correct.

    That said, learning to TYPESET DOCUMENTS (not program) in LaTeX takes a tiny fraction of the time it'd take to learn enough math to write something interesting in it. I'm a high school student, know very little, and can use LaTeX. Google "LaTeX Tutorial" or something. Good luck.
  6. Jan 6, 2009 #5


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    Programming is an essential skill in most technical disciplines these days, including the physical sciences and math. Depending on your field, you will probably end up doing a good deal of programming over the course of your education and during your research. I suggest you learn to deal with it.

    That said, LaTeX is not programming. It is considerably easier. If you are smart enough to develop "great math ideas," then you'll be able to learn LaTeX no problem.
  7. Jan 6, 2009 #6


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    Like everyone else said, LaTeX is not programming. If you have access to a linux machine, chances are LaTeX is already installed. If you are using a Windows machine, download MikTex. If you have a Mac, use TexShop. There are plenty of sample LaTeX documents out there, and some good books. I recommend 'First Steps in LaTeX' or 'Math into LaTeX' by George Grazter (both on using LaTeX to write mathematical articles). After a few days of using LaTeX to typeset your math, you'll wonder how you ever did without it. It looks so much more professional and works so much better than any other word processing program I've used.
  8. Jan 6, 2009 #7


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    Just one more suggestion to add. If for some reason you don't want to bother learning LaTeX, you could use MS Word 2007 to help you write all those math symbols and fomulae.
  9. Jan 7, 2009 #8
    There are WYSIWYG LATEX-generating programs... Some of them work ok... though tinkering with them to get the formatting just right might end up being more annoying than just learning LATEX -this is coming from someone who also despises typesetting
  10. Jan 7, 2009 #9

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    Unless, like many journals, they accept submissions only in LaTex.
  11. Jan 7, 2009 #10
    LaTeX is tedious and terrible. The only thing it has going for it is that everything else sucks more. It boggles the mind how many hours have been wasted by mathematicians trying to figure out which document class to include or what the syntax is for a random command - hours that could have been better spend proving theorems.

    Now that said, LaTeX is the "industry standard" in math so you better either learn to use it or hire a secretary to do it for you.

    As for front-ends, LyX is decent.
  12. Jan 7, 2009 #11


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    The best way to learn LaTeX in my opinion is to get your hands on some sample documents and modify as necessary. It can be tedious, but once you get the hang of it, writing in LaTex can be a lot faster than messing around with Word.

    A journal, if it requires LaTeX format should be able to provide you with a template for your manuscript to get you started.
  13. Jan 7, 2009 #12
    texmacs is an ok *cough cough* WYSIWYG editor...just throwing that out there...
  14. Jan 7, 2009 #13
    Just install the TeXLive package and you'll get a bunch of editors with it. It is available at least for Linux and Mac (don't use windows, so I don't know). It takes only a few hours to learn the basics. Unfortunately, if you need to e.g. customize a document class for a special layout, then you're up for a very steep learning curve. However, having used LaTeX for a few years, I've had to do it only once.

    To get up to speed, you really only need to know very few tags. It helps to write a small cheat sheet and update it each time you need to do something new. I'll guarantee that in a week you will be very comfortable with LaTeX.

    (The only thing that sucks in LaTeX is getting good looking graphics for commutative diagrams. I have tried loads of different packages, but all of them have problems when you have a node with a long name, an arrow with a long label or something similar.)
  15. Jan 7, 2009 #14
    thanks for your help guys. I think I have no choice but to get used to latex it instead of complaining.
  16. Jan 7, 2009 #15
  17. Jan 7, 2009 #16
    If it helps, before LaTeX was made (well, before TeX was made), typesetting many mathematical documents were done by professional typesetters at publishing companies and cost a lot of money, so LaTeX isn't as bad as you think.
  18. Jan 8, 2009 #17
    Wouldn't most journals accept Mathematica documents as well? I'm surprised that you don't have to learn Mathematica or maple for a math major. Its incredibly useful.
  19. Jan 8, 2009 #18
    If you are having trouble getting LaTeX installed and set up (it can be a pain on Windows) then there are sites like http://www.scribtex.com" [Broken] which let you use LaTeX completely online. There are plenty of tutorials around too and once you get started it's not too bad, honest!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  20. Jan 9, 2009 #19


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    It hardly takes a few hours to get comfortable with basic latex...
  21. Jan 22, 2009 #20
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