Latex the Ultimate typesetting solution

In 1978, Donald Knuth – arguably one of the most famous and well respected computer scientists – embarked on a project to create a typesetting system, called Tex (pronounced ‘tech’), after being disappointed with the quality of his acclaimed The Art of Programming series. Around 10 years later, he froze the language after originally anticipating spending a single year! Tex gave extremely fine-grained control of document layout. However, the vast flexibility meant it was complex, so by the mid-80s Leslie Lamport created a set of macros that abstracted away many of the complexities. This allowed for a simpler approach for creating documents, where content and style were separate. This extension became Latex (pronounced ‘lay-tech’).

Latex is essentially a markup language. Content is written in plain text and can be annotated with various ‘commands’ that describe how certain elements should be displayed. The Latex interpreter reads in a Latex marked-up file, renders the content into a document and dumps it a new file. Therefore, it’s not an interactive system that is the de-facto method for document creation nowadays.

LaTeX is based on the idea that authors should be able to focus on the content of what they are writing without being distracted by its visual presentation. In preparing a LaTeX document, the author specifies the logical structure using familiar concepts such as chapter, section, table, figure, etc., and lets the LaTeX system worry about the presentation of these structures. It therefore encourages the separation of layout from content while still allowing manual typesetting adjustments where needed. This is similar to the mechanism by which many word processors allow styles to be defined globally for an entire document or the use of Cascading Style Sheets to style HTML.

At first you might feel why take the trouble to learn latex when so many beautiful word processors both free and proprietary are available. The point is if you are typing an article of just a couple of pages and that too only a few articles then you may use word processors, But If you are going to make a project report or submit you thesis or if you make articles or books or documents regularly especially if they have mathematical equations in them. I would suggest latex will be your best option .

In a normal word processor the user has to take care of the content as well as the appearance. If you set a particular font size for the heading and the such other details you will have to remember it and set it every time in the document. But latex on the other hand does all this automatically and in case you want to customize you have to do it only once in a document and latex will repeat it. gives a good comparison between latex and MS word and Latex gets 18 /21 and MS word gets a 13/21 as Score

Advantages of using LaTeX

  • excellent support for all symbols and characters
  • separation of content and style (If you have a good typing speed Latex will not hinder your speed like MS word. Just type out the content.)
  • scalability – LaTeX can be used for a one-page letter or a 300 page book
  • high quality output – PDFs produced look elegant and professional
  • performance – LaTeX doesn’t crash like Word
  • can be used with the bibliography/reference package, BibTeX
  • files are very small – a LaTeX file is just a text file
  • it’s free
  • platform independent – can be used on Windows, Macs, Linux

Disadvantages of using LaTeX

  • it can be a bit overwhelming at first
  • learning how to use it takes time

I hope these are sufficient arguments to let you decide whether you need latex or not. If you feel latex is you ultimate typesetting solution then welcome aboard.

Very soon I will be posting how to use latex. But there are better tutorials written by experts .

You can download a sample of the Project Report from here.

Please visit the links given below


About vineethkartha

Hi, I am Vineeth Kartha, I hold a Masters degree in Embedded Systems from BITS Pilani, Goa Campus. I currently work as a Software Developer. I am A free software promoter and electronics hobbyist. In my free time I do a little bit of birding and Wildlife photography. I love travelling, reading and blogging.

Posted on May 14, 2012, in Technical and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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