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I am sick and tired of text formatting in Word/OpenOffice, especially when it comes to incorporating math/science/engineering terms.

How long would it take me to become proficient at LaTeX? What are the best educational tools/tutorials to learn LaTeX? What else is LaTeX useful for outside of science/math publication? Is there an easier to learn but equally useful alternative?

asked Jun 08 '11 at 07:55

oliver's gravatar image


edited Jun 08 '11 at 07:55

The Lyx editor (http://www.lyx.org/) is a nice way to get started, as it will get you writing and allow you to see the underlying LaTeX as you go. If you are writing regularly and using LaTeX for the formatting and presentation, you could get up to speed on the basics in a couple of days.

For building equations, sometimes it helps to start with something visual - this online tool is fantastic: http://www.codecogs.com/components/equationeditor/equationeditor.php

I only use LaTeX these days when I want something to look typeset or if I need to present a formula that actually looks right in context and that will scale (otherwise a picture (bitmap) is just as good).


answered Jun 08 '11 at 09:38

willyyam's gravatar image


Use Pandoc instead. Write your document in markdown and pandoc will convert it to LaTeX, HTML, Open Office, PDF, ePub, and more. For mathematics, write the formula in LaTeX, and Pandoc will know what to do with it.

[Markdown] is much easier to learn than LaTeX, and less distracting too. Plain markdown is supported all over the web (the comment boxes on this site use Markdown to format these comments). Pandoc's [extended markdown] supports everything you need for serious writing: footnotes, definition lists, citation processing, LaTeX math and LaTeX macros, tables, and more.

LaTeX [touts itself] as a system that allows writers to focus on content. Here is the example from that page in LaTeX:

Cartesian closed categories and the price of eggs
Jane Doe
September 1994

Hello world!

Here is what you'd have to write to get that in LaTeX:

\title{Cartesian closed categories and the price of eggs}
\author{Jane Doe}
\date{September 1994}
   Hello world!


Here is what you'd write to get that in Pandoc:

% Cartesian closed categories and the price of eggs
% Jane Doe
% September 1994

Hello world!

More generally, LaTeX forces you to constantly litter your text with \begin{foo}s and {\bf ... \} and the like. By contrast, text written in markdown is clean and easy to read, even if you have no idea what markdown is.

Of course, you'll still need to learn LaTeX for writing formulas. But unless you need to do things that are seriously complex, that is fairly straightforward.


answered Aug 01 '11 at 13:24

dsanson's gravatar image


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Asked: Jun 08 '11 at 07:55

Seen: 2,962 times

Last updated: Aug 01 '11 at 13:24

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