No LaTeX at all


If I were to tell you that I’ve actually come to literally hate “do-it-all” word processors (yes, MS Word I’m looking in your direction) that take forever to launch, that usually crash as soon as you add a couple of paragraphs plus some images, and more of the old stuff we’ve come to know; I’d bet you’d agree with me. As a matter of fact, it’s been quite a while since I last used MS Word. I do have it installed in my Mac, but I try my best not to use it. All papers I write are written in LaTeX, except for the occasional what-narrow-minded-scientist-organizes-this-kinda conference that requires the proceedings to be formatted exclusively by an MS-word template.
Depending on who you ask this might actually be considered a sin. Check the ninth circle from the The Nine Circles of LaTeX Hell what Not using TeX or LaTeX means to some:

This one is so bad, it tops Scott’s list of signs that a claimed mathematical breakthrough is wrong. If you are typing up your results in Microsoft Word using Comic Sans font, then perhaps you should be filling out TPS reports instead of writing scientific papers.

These days I’m just in this sort of using-MS-Word predicament because I have to submit a paper to the spanish national meeting on optics, and the organizers just deemed themselves of putting a .doc and .docx templates for submission. If you think about it, what kind of people think that MS Word is the only document format there exists? I know it is the de facto format in many places, but one could expect better from the scientific community. The previous meeting, which was held three years ago in Orense was superb. Not only did they have a LaTeX template for submission, but the meeting was exceptional. The food, the wine, the people, the science, the atmosphere, everything was outstanding. For most days there was actually too much food and wine, without taking into account the cultural activities arranged by the organizers, which were also first-class.

Now, back to the MS Word template trouble. The best part is that they only want a pdf file for submission that must supposedly be produced with their template. However, my big surprise came when I downloaded the template. They’re actually trying to mimic the LaTeX article style. There are several fonts within the document, a font for the abstract, another for the title, for the text body, etc. On top of that if you take into account the requirements for tables, figures, margins, and keep counting, it really becomes cumbersome to write your paper while trying to keep up with all of the formatting. And it gets even worse if, like me, you already have most of the paper written in LaTeX. Just thinking about it causes some distress. In LaTeX one mostly worries about the text itself, and let LaTeX worry about the formatting.

Just for the sake of it, I’m thinking of importing the template to Pages. Copying and pasting what I have in LaTeX (probably I’d do some LaTeXtoRTF first) and finish writing the paper in Pages. Since my equations are in LaTeX I’d be best inserting them in Pages via LaTeXiT with the services option. The equations are much better formatted this way, than with the MS Word equation editor. If you see another way around this feel free to leave a comment.

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5 thoughts on “No LaTeX at all

  1. Imagine my horror when I saw that optics express started to actually discourage authors from using LaTeX and instead use MS Word. Fortunately, they seem to have reversed that approach (probably under much pressure from rational thinkers from around the world). I’d love to have a Word-template to LaTeX conversion available. But to write it would require LaTeX experts to dive in to the word file format… unlikely eh?

    • Couldn’t agree more with you. For what I know, it should be doable but it might not be worth it in most scenarios. One of the main advantages of using Knuth’s Computer Modern font is that Tex and Latex will give the same distinctive look no matter which platform a document was compile on, making the language system independent. The other problem is “non-Free” fonts. While some fonts are available, including Times Roman, Helvetica and Courier. Arial however is a “non-free-font” from Microsoft and has to be installed manually.
      To much problems to address with LaTeX when it is supposed to alleviate them.

  2. I am also often dismayed by people sending around MS Word files (especially if it’s not a form but just some informative text). I often argue that they should use plain text or pdf format instead and when they ask why I say that these are ISO-regulated formats whereas MS Word is a corporate format and not everyone should be assume to buy and use that piece of software.

    • You actually make a good point–a reasonable one too. However, to the average user this might not seem so straightforward at all. There’s a considerable gap between the average user and a more technical-aware one. I think one of the reasons is the general lack of true computer science courses in school, as opposed to the traditional “office-suite” oriented course. If you put this in context with the ubiquity of MS office, then how can you really blame someone for sending you the information in a .doc file. Computer literacy has to become the new fundamental right of the 21st century.

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