On Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 5:44 AM, Patrick O'Callaghan <pocallaghan(a)gmail.com>
On Mon, 2016-01-25 at 13:52 +1030, Tim wrote:
> Just for curiosity's sake, is academias prolific use of it because
> ingrained into them, or does it really outclass the alternatives?
> I know that in general use, I find Word horrendous. But I've never
> tried formulae in it, etc., nor used any word processor as a
> page layout engine, either.
Yes, it really outclasses the alternatives. When it comes to
typesetting complex equations, it really has no competition. No doubt
Word can be tortured into producing equation output (I know it has some
maths setting capability) but the huge advantage of TeX/LaTeX is that
it's *not* a word processor, it's a document description language and
typesetter. There are plenty of examples on the Web so I won't repeat
them here, but as someone who worked on an early typesetting system for
Cambridge University Press (way back in the 70's) I know how horrendous
maths copy can be and how well TeX handles it.
I formatted my PhD thesis "way back in the 70's" using a CDC mainframe
system with a small character set (no lowercase alphabet). Markup was
needed for capitalization as well as (typewriter-quality) maths. TeX was
developed on a system that supported 7-bit ASCII.
Since 2007, Word has used a high-quality math layout engine internally.
In short, LaTeX provides structural markup for the low-level TeX engine,
current versions of Word provide a GUI for an engine whose capabilities
draw heavily on the ideas behind TeX) but extended to support UniCode.
for details of how Word has adopted (and extended in areas such as
UniCode math support) the math typesetting infrastructure that grew
up around TeX. Current versions of Word are capable of producing
maths, but there are other reasons for the continued importance of TeX-based
TeX/LaTeX are widely used to format software documentation where
batch processing across unix/linux and Windows systems is required.
There are some massive documents (think about technical manuals for
commercial aircraft) that may need to be be provided in multiple
translations and formats where a TeX-based format makes it
possible to automate much of the formatting.
For technical writing in other than Western-European languages (e.g.,
using UniCOde), open-source TeX-based systems have lagged a few
years behind Word. Developing high-quality fonts thru international
standards processes has been slow. Microsoft can just go ahead and
do things without consulting external bodies. Since there is still an
important segment of the TeX community using ASCII source format
and a huge number of existing documents that requite updating and
revisions, TeX has to preserve support for legacy documents. As a
result, we now have two widely used engines, pdfTeX and luaTeX,
and also multiple backends (dvips, dvipdfmx), bibliographic systems,
and systems for generating graphics in TeX-based documents.
The fact that the TeX-based systems are open-source means that users
with needs that are not handled by Word can often find solutions
using a modern TeX system.
George N. White III <aa056(a)chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia