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During a conversation with one of my friends who is a die hard user of MS word, I had to face this question-

Why LaTeX and not MS word?.

Though I gave usual reasons like quality of typing and ease of typing mathematics etc.. my friend did not seem to get convinced. Hence I thought I would get some help from here.

My queries are:

  1. Kindly point out some (main) differences between LaTeX and MS word i.e., the advantages of LaTeX over MS word (even providing the links to some good articles would help).

  2. What are the main disadvantages of LaTeX over MS word.

Kindly excuse me if this question does not sound like a technical one.

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closed as not constructive by qubyte, Leo Liu, Roelof Spijker, Stefan Kottwitz Feb 17 '12 at 9:18

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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This is a common topic which has been discussed on the web many times. Read this article, for example: nitens.org/taraborelli/latex As for the disadvantages, there is a question of mine with some great answers here. –  Harold Cavendish Feb 17 '12 at 8:49
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Easiest way to convince of the advantages of LaTeX, give your friend your best article and ask him to reproduce it in Word. After a couple of months ask him what's up? –  Yiannis Lazarides Feb 17 '12 at 8:55
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Voting to close as not constructive. Please see the faq. –  qubyte Feb 17 '12 at 8:56
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Well, MS Word is a word processor, while TeX is typesetting system. However, LaTeX makes TeX easier to use but usually with fewer professional typographical features. Anyway, I think the question is subjective. –  Leo Liu Feb 17 '12 at 8:58
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I agree that this is kind of an endless discussion. So I add my two cents as a comment. 1) I just read a report my girlfriend put together, 48 pages, group work. took her a day or so to get the formatting right. clash of word version, people did not stick to the word master etc. Sometimes spacing between words is just wrong=too large. try writing several long words in one lie, word will break a word ans stretch the rest... 2) However sometimes I wonder if I waste a lot of time making things look nice in tex. –  Martin H Feb 17 '12 at 9:02

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Things that always jump to my mind:

Advantages:

  • Superior cross referencing and bibliography management. This is a must for any lengthy work such as an academic paper or research report. Just three commands, \label, \citep and \autoref cover 99% of the use cases. The night before term projects are due, the groups who used LaTeX are sleeping soundly at home while the groups using Word are burning the midnight oil in the computer lab trying to get their cross references straightened out.

  • Everything that affects the document layout is written down in black and white in a plain text file. If I want to know how to skip numbering the title page and begin page numbers at i starting with the contents pages and restarting with 1 for the main matter, I just look at a previous paper. With Word, I have to remember which sequence of menus and button clicks get me where I need to go---and then they change everything in the next major release (remember the first few months after the Office 2003 upgrade?). With TeX you only go through the learning curve once. With Word, you go through the learning curve every time Microsoft decides to "freshen things up".

  • Superior typography. If you go through all the trouble to write a lengthy report, then deliver your ideas with as much impact as possible. This is comparable to the difference between taking a shower and getting a haircut before an important interview or just showing up looking like you rolled out of bed five minutes ago. TeX produces some of the finest typeset material short of hiring a professional to set your paper.

  • Mathematics. Just flip through Herbert Voß's Mathmode manual and ponder how long it would take to recreate one of those formulae in Word. In LaTeX it takes a copy and a paste.

Disadvantages

  • Collaborative editing. Word really does have us here with its "track changes" and commenting features. The only way to compete is if you happen to be fortunate enough to always be working with a group of people who are skilled with both LaTeX and version control systems. Even then, packages like todonotes are still a poor substitute for Word's commenting system as the notes are woven into to text and must be manually selected and deleted. You can't just click a checkbox to dismiss a comment when something has been taken care of.
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I agree on the whole, and it is sometimes difficult to convince your co-authors to use LaTeX & (D)VCS. However, I don't really see the effective difference between clicking a checkbox or deleting a line, which is just typing dd in vim or Shift+End Del at worst. Then again, I don't really see the point of todonotes. –  Psirus Feb 17 '12 at 9:45
    
@Psirus It is not so bad with one or two notes. But when you have several pages marked up in editing annotations, having them separated out onto a sideboard is miles ahead in terms of usability. –  Sharpie Feb 17 '12 at 10:00
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Collaborative editing can also be seen as an advantage for LaTeX thanks to its plaintext nature: use Subversion, Git or any other versioning system. Recently, there are also online LaTeX services simplifying collaborative editing. –  fheub Feb 17 '12 at 10:36
    
@fheub Right. But as I pointed out, it is a miraculous occurrence to be working with a group of people where everyone from the research assistants to the principle investigators are fluent with both LaTeX and version control. When this isn't the case, collaborative editing gets much harder compared to using Word. –  Sharpie Feb 17 '12 at 17:01

protected by Martin Scharrer Feb 17 '12 at 9:18

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