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My dad's an author (English books with some Arabic) and until recently has been using WordPerfect for DOS for all his writing. He's been moving to Word and hates the lack of control he has compared to WP. I'm looking for options and LaTeX seems to be a good one. Here are the things I'd like to be able to do:

  • Arabic inline text
  • Support for chapters (as separate files)
  • Support for ebook output (epub/mobi)
  • Cross platform environment (Mac and Windows)
  • Some way to move from WP and Word

Is this realistic with LaTeX, and what would be the best way to start for a newbie?

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+1 for WordPerfect for DOS. Nostalgia. – Seamus Nov 5 '10 at 17:21
epub/mobi is going to be difficult unless you have some really good PDF conversion, but I haven't seen on that works well. – Mica Nov 5 '10 at 17:26
I think the problem with ebook conversion is that TeX can do far more formatting than ebook files can (as the ebook formatting should depend on the output device). – Caramdir Nov 5 '10 at 19:14
up vote 9 down vote accepted
  • Arabic inline: absolutely. The XeTeX mailing list has a number of correspondents who use RTL languages.

  • Support for chapters as separate files: absolutely. You can even control which chapters get included when writing to speed up things.

  • ebook output: don't know. epub has been discussed here.

  • cross platform environment: even more than Mac and Windows. :-) The source files are plain text and can move freely between operating systems. The programs are open source and have been ported to everything under the sun.

  • move from WP and Word: Welllll, that depends. Are you talking about the user adjusting to a different system, or exporting the files. If your dad likes WordPerfect and is still using it maybe he's the kind of guy who can learn LaTeX and enjoy it. If you're talking about converting files, that's probably going to be tedious. You can import from WordPerfect to OpenOffice and export from OpenOffice to LaTeX.

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Good answer. Two notes: First, most LaTeX tutorials do not cover XeTeX (because it is quite new). Should you decide on using LaTeX, just ask here how to typeset documents with arabic and latin scripts. Second, OpenOffice seems to be able to open Word Perfect files (I don’t have any files to actually try it). – Caramdir Nov 5 '10 at 19:10
@Caramdir thanks for looking that up. I edited my answer. – Matthew Leingang Nov 5 '10 at 20:03

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