The Joy of LaTeX

Over the past year I discovered LaTeX.

As in latex gloves?

No. It's pronounced "Lah-tech" or "Lay-tech". For the uninitiated LaTeX is a programming language used to produce documents. It can be used for books, articles, posters, presentation and many more things.

So a bit like Word then?

Nothing like word or any other word processing programming. Word processing programmes are great when you have nothing but text. However, I'm sure that everyone has experienced the annoyance of trying to put an image into a word document then finding it disappears onto another page or behind your text. Word and similar programmes are "What you see to what you get" (WYWISYG). LaTeX is "What you mean is what you get".

Anscombe quartet: Output in LaTeX
Anscombe's quartet: Output in LaTeX

What do you mean?

Clip from the LaTeX file for my book.
Clip from the LaTeX file for my book.

If in Word I want to put an image 2.54cm from the right hand edge of the paper and 5.53cm from the top I may succeed to start with. However, once I add another image or some text there is no knowing whether it will stay there or not. In LaTeX it will stay exactly where I told it to.

Who should use LaTeX?

The great thing about LaTeX is that you can add packages to the basic installation. Packages can deal with mathematics, make graphs, posters, define colours, make books. If you use equations, graphs etc. you may find it worthwhile. also great for phonetics, ancient languages and languages using less commonly used alphabets.

Sounds a bit complicated...

Yes it is. I had a few false starts. There is quite a good introduction on wikibooks. At some point I plan to write a very basic introduction myself. The LaTeX project page is also a good place to start.

So everyone loves it then?

No, but I think its beautiful.

Show me an example.

See my online statistics book (preview).

How much does it cost?

Nothing

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