Is LaTeX for me? If yes, why should I be shifting from OpenOffice to LaTeX? What does LaTeX offer to the normal user who uses word processing software to make all kind of report documents?
If you have time to learn it, then Yes, you should shift from LibreOffice (or Word etc.) because LaTeX itself decides and enforces the professional typesetting standards you seek, even if you're not writing "research papers" With it, you define the "class" of document you want (Book, Document, Letter etc.) and the sectioning (Part, Chapter, Section etc.) and LaTeX more or less takes care of everything else. There are a whole slew of options and styles (Packages) to use for things like Table of Contents, Bibliographies, Tables, Math Formula, Insets (Environments) for Quotations, Verse, Code, Graphics.
LaTeX is NOT like a word processor. It's all done in script, like html. All you see is Type until you render the results (unless you have your LaTeX Front End automatically render it on the fly). Your LaTeX front end would be one of many potential applications that reads/edits/renders LaTeX code.
Which of the following matches your Type expectations:
- I want to write my Type Content while also modifying it's appearance until it's just what I envision when published.
- I want to send my Type off to a professional publisher for typesetting, to make sure it's properly done, but don't want to worry with minute formatting details.
- I want to write my Type then have some software that can make sure it's properly typeset, but don't want to worry with the minute details.
If you answer #1
then you should continue using OpenOffice, Word, InDesign etc.
If you answer #2 then you should send plain text manuscript off to a professional to have them do it for you, and done right.
If you answer #3 then you should consider LaTeX, if...
If you are comfortable scripting (html for instance) or don't mind adjusting to it, then learn LaTeX. Just know that it's potentially more complex than html because of it's software system of package distribution, documentation and there is other related software in the TeX family. LaTeX is just the most famous part of an entire Typesetting system, and it's really the only element most users need to know anything about.
LaTeX is Powerful: It's easy for an experienced LaTeX user to professionally format a Novel, for instance, VERY quickly ... far more quickly than doing it with a Word Processor. It's very easy for an Indie Publishing Company to efficiently create a standard "look and feel" for their family of books, customizing their LaTeX Preamble (settings for the documents look and feel) like their finger print.
For a Brand New user: It's extremely easy to write a professional looking memo letter to everyone at the company, save a template for it, then every time have YOUR MEMO come out looking Consistent, and have your Signature Look and Feel. Then, every time you need to create a new memo, it's as easy as opening notepad or any text editor, then clicking process and send via email. Suppose you work in I.T. and need to routinely send out a report or instruction memos to many folks you support. With LaTeX, that task is a piece of cake, much easier than a word processor.
Learning Curve: With LaTeX, the software is not ONE program, like html. It works as a set of macro package programs that you use depending on the type and class of Look and Feel you expect from your type. So, due to it's packaging complexity, there will be a learning curve. But, you can start out writing a Professional Looking letter that says "Hello World" about as easily as writing an html page that displays the same stuff. [LaTeX typesets using Set Dimensions, your paper size, for instance Letter, legal, 8x5, whatever you define in the Geometry Package. On the other hand, HTML typesets flowable, dimension-less text that falls into whatever the display size might be, 4" ebook reader or 24" computer monitor, for instance. That's the key output difference between html code and LaTeX code.
With LaTeX, The look and feel Technical Papers is placed by default in the settings for Package Options. So by default, the final Typeset product is a Technical or Academic Publication. Literary projects, like Novels, usually have simple typesetting requirements. There isn't a need for Indexes, Bibliographies, Math Formula, or lots of tables, charts and graphics) Yet in LaTeX using the package defaults for the Book Class, for instance, will result in Literary Projects like Novels being typeset as if it were Thesis or Scientific Book. So, you will to have to add a few options to adjust the defaults for things like Chapter Headings.
Lastly, the one KEY ADVANTAGE that LaTeX has, which Word Processors don't, is it's Professional-Grade Micro-Typography features. Word Processors only have a choice between flexible or monospace type. In Monospace every letter has the same width. Flexible type different letters have different widths, for instance an "i" is more narrow than a "w". That's about it for a word processor. LaTeX on the other hand has a Microtype Package with advanced Kerning features. So depending on the line, it might reserve a different amount of space for a "w" on one line, verses another line that needs more letters to fit. Plus, LaTeX has automatic hypenation by default, and the ability to add custom words and their hypenation points (within the Hypenation Package). And, if that weren't all, LaTeX features a "glue" between paragraphs, that is a slightly different potential spacing between paragraphs so that "orphans" are not left on a page by them self. (an orphan is one or two lines of text at the end of chapter on a page by itself)
Finding all the documentation for setting various options, especially with one set of very powerful packages within the "Koma Script Classes" will seem to be an obfuscation of know-how, but once you learn the few options you need for your document, then you have a keen new advantage in efficiency, after all, you won't have to spend anymore time tweeking fonts and sizes and spacing and the table of contents and the Page Headers and Footers and Page Numbering. You've done the hard work once, and you can easily repeat the endeavor time and again, just as fast as you can type. And you can count on the result being a professional grade of typesetting that you don't have to pay a professional to do for you. Just consider LaTeX that professional, and always at your service.