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I've been using LaTeX consistently for about two years now and I haven't looked back to my MS Word/PowerPoint/Publisher days since.

I'm working at a research institute / university spin-off where the use of MS Office prevails. Aside from the odd PhD student, no one there uses LaTeX for typesetting scientific articles, reports, manuals, scientific posters and presentations, etc.. Some have never heard about it or even do not understand the concept.

LaTeX vs MS Office

That said, frustration with MS Word/PowerPoint/Publisher is palpable at work. As I believe everybody there would benefit from becoming TeX-literate, I've tried to convince my boss to encourage the use of LaTeX at work, but he remains fiercely opposed to it for several reasons:

  1. time investment required due to the steep learning curve;
  2. most of our partners/clients tend to use MS Office;
  3. collaborative work in LaTeX is difficult.

(These issues have been addressed here and here.)

Despite my boss's skepticism, and with his approval, I'm going to give a 10-15min presentation on LaTeX to try and bring my fellow workers to the Bright Side of typesetting. During that talk, I need to explain what LaTeX is (Stefan's post should come in handy for that), how it works, and why they should consider learning how to use it; in other words, I must dazzle them with the possibilities offered by LaTeX.

My questions are:

  • How, in your opinion, can I most effectively convince TeX-illiterate co-workers to take up to LaTeX? Do you have any trick up your sleeve?
  • Have you had to give such a presentation, or did you attend a similar presentation, which could inform me on how to prepare mine?

EDIT: See my self-answer below for an account of how the presentation went and for links to the relevant files.

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34  
+1 for the picture. –  Marc van Dongen Mar 17 '13 at 12:44
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Well I think your boss is right. It would be a painful experience for everyone in such an environment. LaTeX usage needs a certain dedication instead of immediate pragmatism. Before attempting to switch to LaTeX, send PDF versions of the Word documents around and see how much complaint you get. If above a very low threshold don't bother. –  percusse Mar 17 '13 at 12:48
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You are fighting a losing battle here. The sanest thing to do is get new coworkers ;-) –  Manishearth Mar 17 '13 at 15:12
17  
I disagree with the claim that "collaborative work in LaTeX is difficult." In my experience, merging changes in a Word document is a huge pain. Since LaTeX is stored in a plain text file, if collaboration is done via a revision control system like SVN/Git/Hg, then merging changes is completely painless. –  ESultanik Mar 17 '13 at 16:01
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@ESultanik: I use latex+git, and it works great. But IMO it's totally inappropriate to expect ordinary office workers to master such a setup. –  Ben Crowell Mar 17 '13 at 16:36

22 Answers 22

up vote 76 down vote accepted
+100

Convincing people is difficult. Mainly because we tend to be too conservative.

Here are some of my advice for your presentation:

  1. Do NOT show about the preamble. If your company was ever to change to a TeX based solution it should be because of its superior functionality inside and that the preamble should be the same for the entire company. Ensure that people should understand, that they need only considering the common things in TeX, itemize, description, equation, align, section, ...

  2. Show what can be done from a single document, i.e. take your favourite \documentclass and show that the same code can be used to generate two very different results, merely by changing one thing (make two layouts and create two classes). Do that, Office (ok, it has styles... but...)! When the company changes, logo, CEO, or whatever, you can immediately create all previously created documents with the corrected things.

  3. Don't delve too much on the fact that floats are floats, but rather, show some bad examples of figure placement in Office, single lines above top figures etc., to make people comfortable with the fact that they (in principle) should not decide where to place floats. Again, the document class can alter the way floats are placed.

  4. Show that dividing a document into several files makes management much easier than having to edit a 200 page Office document. Furthermore, it allows people to edit files simultaneously (be careful here :) ). Also in this regard a version control system can centralize all documents and keep a searchable history. Binary files are often version controlled by copies and date-marks. 20 MB binary documents with 200 history revisions takes up 4Gb of space, how much of that has changed? Maybe 20 MB?

  5. Show a simple example of figures, two figures beside each other, side-caption. And nothing more. (I often see side-captions in Office-documents, even though I am not that keen on using them).

  6. Show them how equations are typeset, again simple examples, show them how references work to label equations (I would not go too deep into the fact that you need several recompilations to achieve the effect). Show them that you can leave a reference in a document, even if you remove the referenced text. When you re-instantiate the text again you will retain the previous reference, as expected. If you ever did that to an Office document, you would loose the reference.

  7. Show them beautiful showcases of TeX-created stuff. There are quite a few lists on this page which has TikZ, beautiful typographical documents, etc.

All of the above points to an efficient and streamlined way to handle documents. Possible you could show them about the fact that German train tables are generated by LaTeX, see LaTeX in industry.

Tell them that backwards compatibility is a virtue in TeX. No need to transfer old documents to new versions (ok, not the full story, but more or less).

So maybe I already went too far, but take a pick of the ones seems more fit for your company.

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31  
Don't forget to mention "Oh yeah, this presentation was of course also done in LaTeX" –  Tobias Kienzler Mar 18 '13 at 9:38
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Real life example: A colleague of mine was on a party in his neighborhood the night before he had to hand in his PhD-thesis. He told another guest that he had to leave now as he still needed to reformat it from DinA4 to DinA5 before printing, but would come back later. An hour later they spoke again, and the other guest was amazed that he was already back as he had had the experience of spending a night reformatting his own thesis. Who of the two uses LaTeX rsp. Word? –  j.p. Mar 22 '13 at 14:59
    
Regarding point 7: Showcase of beautiful typography done in TeX & friends. –  Speravir Apr 30 '13 at 0:36
    
Great advice. Circulating beautiful documents you create with LaTeX leaves the deepest impression, especially if they have a colophon. For immediate mind-blowing effect, embed a 3D model or an animation in a figure. I do this in my lecture notes, and students snap to attention. –  GTK Apr 30 '13 at 1:45
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I have just managed to convert a person from MS Word to LaTeX and it was a woman without a technical background! I shall call myself the Convertor from now on. Thanks for the tips! :-) –  Harold Cavendish May 7 '13 at 9:29

Your colleagues are probably already bored of you droning on about LaTeX's virtues, so you giving a presentation will make it worse. Invite Stefan's Grandma to give a presentation.

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That's a good one! :) –  Svend Tveskæg Mar 17 '13 at 15:52
    
@DavidCarlisle Accepting your answer is very tempting, David :) –  Jubobs Mar 17 '13 at 15:52
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But don't let her wear LaTeX. –  Marc van Dongen Mar 17 '13 at 16:22
    
At sexpo?...... –  Nicholas Hamilton Jun 21 '13 at 14:27

The best way to convince is efficiency. Find examples in which the use of LaTeX is far more efficient than MS Office. Of course, these examples should be relevant to your field of work. Possible aspects on which to focus are:

  • Modularity: Don't invent the wheel again, take what's been invented by other people
  • Programmability: A single, cleverly used \newcommand can suffice.
  • Level of Boilerplate: Could be dangerous, as there are also many good templates for office products.
  • Cooperative working: Show, how easy it is to separate content and format. One person is responsible for formatting. Others are responsible for content. Find examples here, how easily the others might unexpectedly and unintentionally crash the intended formatting or layout.

Another way to convice might be control. In TeX and LaTeX you have total control over nearly everything. Some control mechanisms are more complicated than others, but all is well documented. Find some examples, where this isn't true for MS Office.

And the last way to convince might be asthetics. Show some beauties of TeX-Art and their short source code.

Additionally, you can do a contest. But be careful that you don't run into something where Office products might be better suited than TeX.

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9  
I don't get the Pratchett reference. –  Gregor Bruns Mar 17 '13 at 17:22
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A new/other technology (clack towers resp. LaTeX) might be better/cheaper/faster in most cases (short messages). But you can almost always construct cases, in which the old/one technology (post resp. Office suites) is better/cheaper/faster: books. –  Toscho Mar 17 '13 at 19:26
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"In TeX and LaTeX you have total control over nearly everything." - very, very few people care / can be brought to care about this. (You can't really force someone to become a "power user".) Unless lack of this sort of fine-tuning is one of the pain points the OP's coworkers are facing, you risk alienating them by going on about minutiae. –  millimoose Mar 18 '13 at 14:33
    
You are right. It's risky to delve too much into details. But maybe one example, which is not possible in MS Office due to lack of control but is in LaTeX, might help. –  Toscho Mar 18 '13 at 15:03

In order for more than just a few fellow enthusiasts to "get with the program", i.e., to start using LaTeX rather than MS Word and/or Powerpoint, I believe you and your backers within your organization should be committed to providing the following services, listed in no particular order:

  • By all means, provide simple tutorials, in both online and hardcopy format, for instance, something patterned on the first half of Tobi Oetiker's "Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX2ε".

    • Make it extremely easy for all users to locate those tutorials and print off extra copies.
    • Don't be surprised -- and don't get exasperated -- if users tell you they can't locate the tutorial document(s) online.
  • Be aware, though, that this is only a (hopefully excellent) start. There's going to be a lot of follow-up work in order to make the use of LaTeX a more or less self-sustaining situation.

    • Any organization has regular staff turnover. Be prepared to hold these tutorial sessions three to four times a year for at least the first three years. After that, offer them at least twice a year.

    • Don't try to do everything all by yourself. Identify and recruit at least two colleagues -- and train them up front, if necessary -- so that somebody is always available if the network-based TeX distribution seems to be experiencing difficulties and users start freaking out.

    • Make updating and maintaining the underlying TeX distribution as automated as possible. Do not expect more than a handful of dedicated geeks to remember to update the TeXLive or MiKTeX distributions on their own. At the very least, have a place on your network that contains all the latest LaTeX packages and programs, and provide robust scripts that update the local TeX installations from this master in-house repository. If users want to have TeX distributions installed on their own machines (say, because they travel a lot and aren't always on the organization's network), that's fine. However, do provide ample, clear, and correct instructions for these people on how to go about keeping "their" TeX distributions up to date.

    • If at all possible, also provide a TeX-aware editor package to go along with the TeX distribution. This will let writers have an editor window and a pdf-viewer window open simultaneously, letting them "see" the results of their writing simply by clicking on a button. For Windows-based systems, I happen to be a fan of WinEdt, in part because one can download some amazingly useful macro packages (including some for managing .bib files). WinEdt isn't free, but purchasing a site license shouldn't be prohibitively expensive.

    • Consider providing a pdf previewer such as "Sumatra" rather than letting people use the "default" pdf reader, which is likely to be either Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat. Why? Unlike Reader and Acrobat, Sumatra doesn't need to close the old .pdf file completely before it can re-open the newly updated .pdf file.

    • Be sure to invest some serious time and effort into coming up with well-designed templates for documents such as internal memos, letters (including letterhead), presentations (presumably using beamer), working papers (including title page(s)), etc. If you keep tinkering with the templates (probably because they aren't all that well set up at first...), many of your colleagues will quickly lose patience and choose to stop using LaTeX. Make it trivially simple for people to "find" and install these templates. Be willing to let users customize these templates to a certain degree, preferably by providing options that can be set when the template is loaded (likely via a \usepackage command). Write a concise yet clear user guide that explains how people ought to use these templates. Don't expect many users to read those user guides thoroughly, though...

    • Be sure to document these templates with lots and lots of comments. That way, if it does become necessary to modify them, little time will be wasted on figuring out what on earth the previous maintainer was trying to do.

    • If your organization encourages or requires the use of fonts other than Computer/Latin Modern, Times (New) Roman, and Helvetica, give some serious thought to creating templates that let users use either LuaLaTeX or XeLaTeX instead of pdfLaTeX.

I speak partly from personal experience. A couple of years ago, I wrote a .sty package file and a .bst bibliography style file for the professional staff of my organization who prefer to write their working papers with LaTeX rather than with Word. The number of users who access the .sty and .bst files (and the associated user guide) seems to be rising steadily (though slowly). Speaking for myself, I can definitely tell very quickly if a given working paper was produced in Word or LaTeX, and there's no question that the LaTeX-produced working papers look much better. I find it very gratifying when people I don't know personally call me or email me to let me know that they "found" my templates on our network, and then go on to express their amazement with how easy and straightforward it turns out to be to write working papers that conform to our organization's (rather stringent and unintuitive) style and layout guidelines.

Of course, writing good papers is always going to be a challenge. It just shouldn't be any more challenging -- and, ideally, a whole lot less challenging! -- to write good papers in LaTeX than it is in Word.

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A picture can say more than a thousand words, and so can a film. Perhaps this film can show them the advantages of using LaTeX.

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Thanks. I had already seen the video, but I had forgotten about it. It's great! –  Jubobs Mar 17 '13 at 12:56
    
Great video! I've come by Latex a few times from the hot questions page on SE and was waiting for something like this to give a clean display of the power of Latex. Thank you! –  mowwwalker Mar 18 '13 at 2:20

This does not really provide what your question demands. For just a 10 to 15-minute presentation, I will say that Marc Van Dongen's video, as linked in his answer, speaks a lot. To tell more within that amount of time might be counter-productive.

Learning LaTeX requires some dedicated amount of time. I have helped one office-mate to switch to LaTeX (doesn't use Word anymore) while eleven others have signified willingness to learn it. (There are only 26 of us at the moment, two who already use LaTeX before we met). In that one successful case, I had to explain the basics and help her out through the errors whenever she met one. Before she got interested, she saw a lot of my test papers first, which are all beautifully typeset in LaTeX. My other co-workers became interested when they saw the beautifully typeset documents, especially when they saw some of the student research papers of our high school students typeset in LaTeX. (My students learning LaTeX is a happier story :)

BTW, my boss likes how documents produced with LaTeX look like and he seems happy when I type some of his memorandums using LaTeX.

There is no pressure to have all my co-workers to switch to LaTeX. If they ever want to shift to it, it must be because they have weighed the pros against the cons and tried manipulating small examples just to have a taste of it. So I provide them a lot of minimal examples when they ask me and make sure that I can guide them through from start to finish.

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Consider an intermediate step: Lyx For people used to Word, the transition is a lot less frightening and the results are already excellent. Advanced users can easily integrate "advanced LaTeX magic" and those who like it will sooner or later try it, too.

I have used this approach a couple of times. Some stay with LyX forever, but that is perfectly okay.

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LyX seems to address 1, 2, and 3 of the bosses concerns. Change tracking works well and makes collaboration easy; Time to learn is not much; and (although I don't like to admit it) it is the closest to MS Word out of LaTeX front-ends. Learning LyX is not an excuse for not learning LaTeX though (everyone who uses LyX should learn LaTeX), but it might provide an easier start. –  scottkosty Apr 7 '13 at 4:25

The easiest solution is to change your colleagues, in three easy steps:

  • Use LaTeX, submit beautiful reports, and get an early promotion
  • Fire them all
  • Hire LaTeX literate employees.

Convincing people to use LaTeX is hard. Most just balk at the fact that it's all code-y, and are resistant to all "But..it's beautiful" arguments.

OK, getting serious:

Here's what I've done

  • Continued with "But...but...it's beautiful" arguments
  • Made some easy to use template files which can be used without much difficulty (enough comments for it to be easy to understand). I tell friends to try out their next report with these, it works well.
  • Programmer friends can generally be instantly won over by mentioning that macros exist.
  • Non programmer friends can be shown the power of macros.
  • LaTeX is hard to set up on Windows, I have a fully configured folder with USBTeX which I distribute.
  • Sometimes, asking them to sit next to you while you write a LaTeX document can go a long way in dispelling any fears about "I'm not a programmer, I'll never be able to write all this code"
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LaTeX is hard to set up on Windows? miktex.org + texniccenter.org provide pretty straightforward installation and configuration –  Tobias Kienzler Mar 18 '13 at 9:34
    
@TobiasKienzler: Hmm. I recall being quite intimidated by it a few years ago. And my friends have been intimidated as well. Guides like pinteric.com/miktex.html make it look much more complicated than it really is, I guess. –  Manishearth Mar 18 '13 at 9:44
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Yeah, I remember having spent quite some time bothering with GSView et al. some years ago - just to realize that it was wasted effort: Use pdflatex (or yap to view dvi) and there's no such worries anymore. –  Tobias Kienzler Mar 18 '13 at 10:09

I am going to take a different approach from the other posters. I do not think you should try to demonstrate how beautiful or powerful LaTeX can be. Nor do I think you should try to show that it is better than Word at what they already know how to do in Word.

I think you should focus the LaTeX philosophy of "separate the content from the formatting". If you can get them to see the value in this fundamentally different approach to document creation, then they will be much more open to trying to understand how this approach is executed (e.g., document classes etc...).

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I finally gave that presentation, after it being postponed several times, including by an untimely fire alarm in the building.

Not content with simply advertising my presentation by email, I also decided to lure my attendees with a tart, a carrot cake and a Madeira cake in the conference room, so that they would associate LaTeX with good taste. When you initially don't know much about LaTeX or have negative received ideas about it, you've got to have extrinsic motivation before intrinsic motivation kicks in!

enter image description here

My presentation was designed for 25 to 30 minutes. This is pretty short but I tried to synthesise all the good advice you gave me here. The presentation had the following structure:

  • Introduction
  • What is LaTeX? (a bit of history; differences between Office products and LaTeX)
  • What can LaTeX be used for? (examples of output documents)
  • How does LaTeX work? (Hello World in TeXmaker)
  • Why use LaTeX? (basically, a showcase of killer functionalities that are mainly missing from MS Office products)
  • How to learn LaTeX (from scratch)

For my showcase of LaTeX functionalities, i.e.

  1. effectiveness of presentation,
  2. structured writing,
  3. modularity,
  4. style consistency,
  5. automation,
  6. maintainability,
  7. modal documents,

I had a number of examples in .tex files that I would open and compile on the fly. At least some people seem to really enjoy those examples, which prompted them to ask me questions on more advanced possibilities. Sadly, other people didn't seem to care that much...

At least 5 people out of 20 attendees said they were definitely going to look into LaTeX in the very near future, and I guess more of them will probably use it at some stage down the road. My goal was to convince at least one person to try it, so the presentation was a success in that respect.

I've posted all my files in a .zip (along with a copy of the main .tex file and its output pdf file, for those afraid of zip archives) on my Dropbox. Feel free to use it and adapt it to your needs.

Finale note: the "Apple WWDC keynote" background (black-to-grey vertical gradient) will not appeal to everybody, but it looks pretty slick and works well in a dimly lit room.

Thanks again for your precious help, and keep up the great work!

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There are excellent suggestions in the answers above, but they are preaching to the choir. My feeling is that those 15 minutes are best spent making a proper business case for LaTeX. And in preparing that business case you may find that your boss is right.

Whether there is a case for LaTeX in your company depends completely on the actual value of creating something that looks good, or where version control is optimized or ... any of the other excellent suggestions above. If you can present costs versus benefits then that may win your company over to LaTeX, or may help you sleep easy over the fact that you did not make your case.

In the list you can have quantifiable costs and "soft benefits". For example (I do not know you company, so I'm making this up).

Returns:

  1. Value of additional business caused by increased professional look of the documentation: USD XXX
  2. Saved work hours because of improved version control and fast changes to standard portions of documents: USD XXX
  3. Saved work hours because of improved ease of changing figures and recompiling the document (perhaps including better workflow between those who create images and those who write text): USD XXX

and so on and so forth

Costs:

  1. Amount of hours required to retrain staff: USD XXX
  2. Cost of converting current templates to LaTeX templates: USD XXX
  3. Cost of writing custom scripts to automate common tasks: USD XXX

and so on and so forth.

"Soft" benefits are things like employee happiness and the like, and they are very specific to your particular company environment. A brainstorm session with one of your colleagues (who is either in favour or against the idea) will help you get an overview.

You may find that it is not easy to make a convincing case. But on the other hand if the professionality of the look of your company's output matters, or if you have examples where a re-write or corrections of customer documentation could have been X hours faster or X times better than the way you work now, you may be able to convince your team.

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Maybe this wouldn't be the most obvious argument, but I use LaTex because i think is fun. I like that some parts are tricky and provide me with challenges, and I like that in the end I can get it to look just the way I want it to. But, in the end I stick with it because I think it's more fun. So, I really think you should mention this if you agree with me.

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Welcome to TeX.sx! –  hpesoj626 Mar 18 '13 at 0:28
    
I agree, especially when it comes to things like diagrams. There's a reason I use chemfig to draw reaction mechanisms instead of the graphical programs that everyone else uses. I think, though, that once you pass a certain skill threshold, manually defining every bond length and angle is actually the easiest way to do it. –  Anthony Apr 22 '13 at 22:09

This is like convert Windows to Linux users. My advice is always show the way, but try to force the change is a lost battle.

There are several very good manuals and presentations to LaTeX that demonstrated that is not as hard as it seem, but this is not the problem.

Let me tell my real experience: The last document that I have made at work only a few day ago was a simple KOMA article (without tables or figures, only plain text with a table of contents for a few sections, two itemize environments and one footnotes). I am sure that nobody realise exactly why, but comments of everybody at first glance to the first page was that it was a beautiful work.

This people has been also impressed long time ago with my Beamer presentations, my elegant tables, my automatic statistical two column reports with well fitted tables and figures generated by R, some tikZ diagrams, etc.

I think that this most convincing argument to use LaTeX (show what you can do with LaTeX and they cannot) that any good presentation, but my score of convinced people to use LaTeX is 0 (zero). Why?

Many people, after using Word even for decades, is still not able to use efficiently the best tools of this program. Most users are not able to do an automatic table of contents, nor use styles consistently, nor make figures with automatic numeration with text references. I had troubles every time that I shared a Word document with a simple test exam with questions and answers with automatic numeration, because people making modifications try to insert this numeration manually!. And so on...

Using Word more or less as an typewritter is the confort zone for a lot of people. Ask to this people learn some easy Word feature that will save many hours of work is not convincing, because this increases their sense of risk and their anxiety level. So, imagine the panic of this people jumping to a markup language without a WYSIWYG program.

Advanced Word users are better candidates to jump to LaTeX, because more probably they tend to stay outside their comfort zones to accomplish what they wish, but also they are those who will find fewer benefits changing to LaTeX.

The perfect newbie for LaTeX is probably a advanced user tired of misplaced figures, someone trying alternatives like LibreOffice, people with experience with HTML, or better a new Linux user that still have not discovered the TeX Live included in their distribution ¿but someone of your coworkers have this profile?

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As pointed out in my answer: Show them LyX! LyX already fixes the standard mistakes of "standard users" (like manual numeration) and advanced Word users sooner or later start to tune their preamble and add pieces of LaTeX code here and there. –  Daniel Mar 17 '13 at 22:39
    
@Daniel, I started myself with Lyx, but this WYSIWIM (not WYSIWYG) is not enough for people in the Word confort zone. On the other hand, there are limited options and compilation errors are more frustrating than editing LaTeX code directly. –  Fran Mar 18 '13 at 0:38
    
Yes, WYSIWYM is different than WYSIWYG, but in my experience it is a lot less frightening than going directly to markup with weird compilation errors. I don't know when you have tried LyX, but I would not consider the options as too limited (compared to "Word without knowing it"). Compilation errors are rare in my experience. –  Daniel Mar 18 '13 at 7:59
    
Sadly, I have to agree with this response. I too was one of those who had the interest and energy to learn how to get the most out of Word (or WordPerfect for that matter), usually just by thinking about my current project and how I could draft a good document. I certainly spent a lot of time helping colleagues, but the reality was they had no interest in learning how to use the software to make documents; they just were putting words on their screen. Under those conditions, I don't see how you can get anyone to make the investment of time and effort to learn LaTeX. –  DPLentini Mar 19 '13 at 20:36

I think you have to start with a question to yourself: "Does LaTeX really offer an improvement to this business, either by improving the quality of the work we produce, or the efficiency of our processes; or am I just frustrated with the poor aesthetics of Office's documents and Office's clumsy and annoying user interface?"

If the answer is the former, then you have to build your presentation and examples around that point, showing how LaTeX is an investment that will provide a positive return for everyone; and then you have to offer a realistic path forward. And you must consider how your LaTeX utopia will deal with your customer's documents and any collaborative work you do with your customers.

If the answer is the latter, then you have to accept that you'll have to be lone voice in the wilderness; that hopefully you'll enjoy the support of your boss to keep your LaTeX island; and possibly some brave souls will join you one day. But the idea of transforming your office is not likely to happen, and any attempt to drag everyone into the light will likely leave you eating lunch all by yourself.

I've been working as a solo consultant for several years now. One of the reasons for striking out on my own was that I could run Linux and use LaTeX. But I have to constantly (and gently) point out to my clients that I do not use Office, and will generally send drafts as PDFs. For my work, this is actually more efficient that exchanging red-lined MS Word documents; but many of my customers simply don't understand that, and they don't want to be bothered with the effort.

And I have to accept that some clients simply need to work with Word; so, even if I produce my final work in LaTeX, I have to take the time to convert those documents to Word. Sadly, the conversion options are not that great, especially if you use custom commands in LaTeX. If you haven't already, take a look at Chikri Software's LaTeX import-export utilities for Word; they're the best I've seen, but you have to accept that you will have to use Word--the long hand of MS will always grab your ankle from the grave!

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This answer won't be as thorough (and probably not as useful either) as some of the other ones I've seen, but here is my experience.

  • Look for the most typography aware (or least typography unaware) people around and show them the beauty of LaTeX typesetting. The learning curve will be long and painful (for you) because you will probably need to take their hand and do half of the work for them by installing and maintaining distributions, preparing classes and styles, writing documentations, etc.
  • Look for people who do have needs for a programming language but don't know it yet – any researcher will do, as long as they write equations or bibliographies –, and show them the power of macros (switching bibliography styles and boasting about how little time it takes you to write them works wonders).
  • If you are dealing with a small or medium business, look for the people who are in charge of money. It's a cheap argument, but it can't hurt to tell them: "it's free, forever, updates and all, and you don't have to buy a new licence every time we get a new computer". Eventually, some people will wonder why they are paying for something that doesn't work as well as something that happens to be free.

But don't fool yourself. Half of the people won't read the manuals (and you can't blame them… has any one of us ever opened a Word manual? I am not even quite sure there is one because it never occurred to me to look for it). They need to be shown that you can avoid most of the programming at the user-level (show straightforward things: \section creates a section, etc.) – that can be done through a lecture/tutorial. And they need someone to correct their documents (how many regular people pay attention to closing parentheses and such? how many can be expected to correctly close their braces?).

Oh… and an editor with auto-completion is a must have, unless you set-up something like LyX. If you can edit the patterns, just add the commands they need and create extra completion packages for more advanced users.

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Already there are superb answers from many users. Here is my opinion and approach to deal this "reluctant old story by MS and its users". Choice is left to TeX-ignorant MS users. I have tried to place my answers according to your questions hierarchy.

Positive Point: Since you are in a Research institute where scientific articles, reports, manuals, scientific posters and presentations are written.

  • You are in the best place and have the best chance to convince the best quality typesetting tools for your application.

Remember Boss is always RIGHT (atleast in his presence and his followers). Great news that you got a 10-15min presentation on LaTeX from your Boss.

  1. To effectively convince TeX-illiterate co-workers to take up to LaTeX,

    • we should first treat them as "TeX-Ignorant" people,because once you know/see LaTeX output noone leaves the marriage. Just arrange an date with the TeX-Lion. I could not resist to add Teaching Lion Courtesy of Artist Duane Bibby.

      enter image description here

  2. For the 10-15 min presentation, i can suggest to start from Beamer(speaks louder than our words).

I am pretty sure 10-15 min is not enough , you might arrange a LaTeX course workshop with delicious refreshments :).

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If you ever had to teach people how to format a document properly in MS Word then it would actually be a pretty easy argument to make. If you can understand the mysteries behind copying and pasting styles in MS Word then you would not have a case.

I would suggest by doing a simple demonstration of a series of slides where you copy and paste the styles and getting people to work out what actually happens (offer prizes too if you want). Then you can do the same thing with LaTeX and explain to people EXACTLY what will happen.

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Welcome to TeX.sx! –  hpesoj626 Mar 18 '13 at 0:28
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Also, I wonder if it is possible to collect a list of things that people complain about in MS Word, and address each of those issues in LaTeX. I tend to actually use a simple text editor to write these days, and then use another drawing program to create images (Visio, Illustrator, whatever works best), but pagination, sections, references and headers + footers are really annoying for me in MS Word. –  Michael Lai Mar 18 '13 at 3:40

Since you have a very short time of 10-15 minutes, you have to focus stongly.

  1. Convey the basic concept how LaTeX works:

    • source code -> compile -> pdf
    • Maybe draw parallels to programming / scripting / a markup language (e.g. HTML) if your colleagues are familiar with these.
  2. Think about your colleagues (or ask a few of them beforehand): What's most annoying with MS Office for them? What's their fear on using LaTeX? Design your examples to meet these issues.

  3. Show the examples live and, most importanly, use a good editor from which compiling and viewing is easy.

  4. Make the examples production-ready (i.e. good looking) by using appropriate styles and packages, but hide the complicated preamble stuff either by code-folding or by an \input.

  5. Consider to propose the usage of LaTeX only for the part of your works where its benefits are most aparent. Other usecases can be added if people are comfortable and happy with LaTeX. Manuals are usually a good starting point for several reasons:

    • Beauty has a certain value for these (but don't overstress this fact. Maybe consistency in layout is more important)
    • You don't exchange them with clients except for the final PDF
    • You'll use images with captions and references
    • You may have table of contents, list of figures, list of tables, glossar etc.
    • Splitting up in multiple documents makes sense (even though I wouldn't mention this because of the restricted time.

Beware that MS Office is better for certain cases. Even though I have a strong LaTeX background I use either one depending on the situation. So don't be dogmatic.

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My personal opinion is that LaTeX is always the best tool for writing, and learning it is never a waste of time. I learned it some years ago, just trying it. That is the most effective way. There are a lot of tutorials online, but I would recommend the guide I used myself while learning:

http://www.ctan.org/tex-archive/info/apprends-latex

It is in French, and there is an Italian version of it, but I cannot find an English one. Anyway, if your co-workers understand the language, I would suggest it to them, because it is funny. But I seem to understand that the problem here is about convincing them to learn it. Well, I would say that the best idea here is showing them the beautiful results you can obtain using it! It takes just a couple of hours to get familiar with the basics. You should try the argument that a beautiful result is worth the trouble learning a new tool.

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Welcome to TeX.sx! –  Jubobs Mar 19 '13 at 20:54

I have found that two (make that three) key things have helped tremendously in my organization, in addition to, of course, writing the style/class for your organization's report product:

1) Write a compilable stencil that uses the prescribed class/style (that you have written) with words like "REPLACE THIS TEXT WITH YOUR ABSTRACT", "YOUR REPORT TEXT MATERIAL GOES HERE", "\includegraphics[scale=1.0]{YOUR-IMAGE-FILENAME-HERE}", etc. In this way, they see not only where in the original document these things go, but by looking at the compiled version, they see where and how it will appear in the final product. Put all this infrastructure on one of the organization's network drives.

2) Not only make yourself available to hold the hands of new users (literally walking them through it the first time), but advertise (for example, at the top of the stencil or class files) to call your name at your phone number or @your_e-mail for assistance (and be ready to drop what you are doing to honor those requests).

3) Be prepared to write support styles to automate certain nuanced features of your organization's way of doing things. For example, the boxhandler package was written to support our organization's "interesting" way of doing figure/table captions where the caption is offset with respect to the "Figure XX." identifier and everything is flushed to the figure/table image width (see example figure below).

In my case, our organization's IT people will provide, upon request, standard LaTeX installations on people's machines, so I don't have to concern myself with that, though some may have to in other organizations.


Here is an example of an organization quirk where it pays dividends to write automated routines for new users. Note the caption style below. It would be very difficult for new users to conform their figure definitions to this style. So, write them a style to assist them.

enter image description here

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I think your question is very interesting because it is true that in most academic environments the use of MSOffice dominates, despite the facilities of typesetting and editing that LaTeX provides.

Therefore, I think it is important that people who have at least a little experience in LaTeX share information about this amazing tool.

To answer your question, I think the best way to convince people is doing a presentation (using LaTeX of course) showing the multiple advantages, such as:

  • multiplatform
  • free
  • high quality typesetting, especially math formulas
  • etc.

But it is also important to explain the basic structure of a document and to talk about the several document classes supported by LaTeX, thus showing the incredible amount of possibilities that the use of LaTeX offers us; and trying to keep explanations simple, to avoid the reaction that LaTeX is complicated, when it is actually not.

It is also helpful to provide some documentation and some links so that those who decide to begin using LaTeX can easily find anwers to their questions.

Then, it is useful to include images to show the results of using LaTeX.

Finally, to answer your other question, I have given such a presentation at the National University of Honduras.

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Sorry, I've only just seen your answer. Is your presentation available on the Internet? If so, could you edit your question to add a link to that presentation? –  Jubobs May 27 '13 at 21:51

The easiest way is to reduce the learning curve.

Set up a system and configure everything perfectly so that you can produce radically different results of some given text (let's say a technical manual that you have already laid out and filled with lorem ipsum) by changing a few commands.

If anyone sees you struggling to install libraries or "it won't compile!" or other real-world LaTeX problems, your argument is dead in the water. That's my opinion.

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protected by lockstep Mar 20 '13 at 22:57

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