Saturday, February 17, 2007

Who should learn LaTeX?

I remembered that 2 years ago I decided to learn LaTeX. The motive is that LaTeX "seems" to generate better and prettier output. 2 years latter, some of my friends have asked me to teach them LaTex. I begin to wonder the question: who should learn LaTeX?

1. You must know how to use Microsoft Word very well.
When I learned LaTeX by myself, I got an opposite message from many manuals. LaTeX is powerful. LaTeX can do what MS Word cannot do. Although I am a LaTeX user now, I must say that there is nothing LaTeX can do that MS Word cannot. So if you are pursuing a "wonder" output and are a very skillful MS Word users, you should learn LaTeX! If you suck in MS Word, then forget about LaTeX, too.

2. You must be a careful writer.
I am disqualified as a careful writer as I always have typos here and there. MS Word has better embedded macro to point out your typos. Also, you must know how to type formally as LaTeX uses more strict rule for typesetting (e.g., `` as begin of quote instead of ").

3. You must be to some extent a computer geek.
What I mean is that LaTeXing is very similar to programming. A small bug in your typesetting command will yield a failed output. In this situation, you must be very patient to debug your code. But who can be patient on this. You must be a geek.

4. Your work is highly technical.
If your work contains equations, figures and tables, you should learn LaTeX. But of course, MS Word can do these things too. Just the output is ugly. More importantly, if figures in your work is the biggest selling point, learn LaTeX.

5. You want to create an illusion that your are one of the kind named above.
I recall a comment made by Professor Jeff Gill in 2006 ICPSR. He said that whenever he saw a work submitted for journal publishing done by LaTeX, he always has an image of a careful, devoted, know-his-work-well guy. So if you are not this kind, learn LaTeX. You may create a fake image. But in the long run, you will become a careful, devoted, know-his-work-well guy. Why? Learn LaTeX and you will know.


Eriza said...

Hurrah! long live LaTeX!! My situation is quite similar to yours... I learned LaTeX, and simply fall in love with it =)

Yu-Sung Su said...

Nice to know this. Maybe we can share tips with each other!