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TeX and LaTeX are widely used in Computer Science. What other academic disciplines or professionals use it?

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Should this be community wiki? –  ShreevatsaR Aug 3 '10 at 21:06
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Yes, definitely. –  EricR Aug 4 '10 at 16:56

44 Answers 44

Economics :)

Notwithstanding economics is a social science, it makes heavy use of mathematics, even if one does not take into account econometrics (a set of statistical tools for economics).

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At my university, I would say that only "ancient" economists use word. Then we have Scientific Workplace and Latex users. I know of one person in the department who uses Word (Bill Griffiths), 3 that use Scientific Workplace and 5 LaTeX. From what I understand in the US LaTeX is even more pervasive than here in Australia. To give you an idea, see this recommendation for authors from the American Economic Review: aeaweb.org/aer/final_instructions.pdf –  Vivi Aug 10 '10 at 20:10

It seems to be used fairly close to universally within physics and math.

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I'm studying physics in Stockholm, and the physics branch of the student union here uses LaTeX for close to everything - even where other word processing tools would probably be more effective - just because. But then again, about half our course literature (and I dare say over 80% of the math textbooks) are typeset with LaTeX... –  Tomas Lycken Aug 3 '10 at 21:13
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@Tomas, I'm studying in Canada and the same is true here. We have one or two profs in our department who use Word, but basically everyone else uses LaTeX. @Joseph, I notice you're in the UK, I guess perhaps common usage varies by region -- I know a fair number of Canadians, Americans, and Germans (albeit in Canada now) who would only use LaTeX for document preparation, but I suppose I can't really comment on many other specific demographics. The physics sections of the arxiv do have the occasional Word-created PDF on them, but the majority of papers there were prepared in some form of TeX. –  Michael Underwood Aug 3 '10 at 21:34
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Same here, I'm a grad student in physics and the vast majority of the faculty I know (and many of the other grad students) use LaTeX for most or all of their academic projects. –  David Z Aug 4 '10 at 0:44
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@Philipp: to be honest, even though I use LaTeX for everything else, presentations and posters are the two things that I don’t do in LaTeX. There’s simply not enough text in presentations or posters to use a typesetting application for and I think LaTeX isn’t well-suited for either. –  Konrad Rudolph Aug 6 '10 at 14:05
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@Michael, I would be very surprised if there are any papers in the high-energy physics, astrophysics, gravity,... sections of the arXiv which use anything else but LaTeX. Notice that the "physics" section is where they deflect the crackpots... and it would therefore not be surprising to find Word documents there. What would be surprising is to find some real physics there. –  José Figueroa-O'Farrill Aug 9 '10 at 1:26

Quite a lot of linguists seem to use LaTeX, at least in the UK.

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Unsurprisingly, LaTeX is particularly useful for formal semantics. In fact, this was one of my motivations for switching to LaTeX. –  BeSlayed Mar 14 '11 at 13:00
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In my experience, this depends a lot on the country you're in. In the US, my impression is that around 80% of the grad students and 50% of the junior professors use LaTeX. In Norway, where I am now, the number is closer to 0-5%. –  Sverre May 23 '13 at 14:59

Well, anything that needs nice typesetting of mathematics.

Beyond that, many peer-reviewed journals accept or require submissions to be in LaTeX- this covers many, many fields.

Personally, I use it for:

  • Documents that contain lots of formulae.

  • Documents that require extensive cross-referencing and a sane system for doing so.

  • Documents that require the output of computer programs. Systems like Sweave (for R) or the more general noweb allow reports and the code that generates the data being reported to be combined into a single file.

  • Documents that must be automatically generated by computer programs. LaTeX is a perfect system for creating high-quality PDF files that are generated from templates. The brew package provides one such templating system for R.

  • Documents where I want to deliver results with as much impact as I can. Good typography is absolutely essential for doing this in a sublime way. I.E. the person reading your report doesn't know why they like it more than they should- but they can't help themselves.

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It's worth noting that what used to be a gulf between the quality of typography between Tex and MS Equation Editor is not so wide anymore, particularly since the rewrite in Office 2010. The Equation Editor team apparently employed Knuth as a consultant at some point. –  Charles Stewart Aug 10 '10 at 13:26
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@Charles Stewart: I still find it clunky to actually enter them into the Equation Editor, compared to LaTeX's relatively simple syntax. No footering about with the mouse required! :) –  Lucas Jones Aug 10 '10 at 17:50
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For those on Mac OS X, LaTeXiT is a great program to typeset LaTeX equations and drag-and-drop them to a word processor or presentation software. –  Bavarious Apr 11 '11 at 10:35

In addition to what has already been said, a couple of publishers use some variant of TeX for the books they release, sometimes as their only typesetting software. I'm aware of a least half a dozen such small publishing houses in Europe and North America; they use it for all kind of books, not only scientific ones. And of course, big scientific publishers like Springer or Elsevier use TeX extensively because they deal with lots of mathematics texts.

But one of my funniest encounters with TeX was when I overheard two staff members in a big Chinese bookshop in Paris discussing how to process documents with TeX; I think they used it to produce the shop’s catalogue (and needed it to typeset Chinese).

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Our micro-publishing house not only uses ConTeXt exclusively to typeset our books. It was founded precisely because ConTeXt and it's huge free documentation was available. –  helcim Feb 24 '11 at 8:38

Some philosophers use LaTeX, mostly those working in logic or in areas where there is frequent recourse to logical notation. Amongst linguists, quite a few semanticists use it, too.

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philosophers of physics also often use LaTeX for similar reasons of having to deal with lots of formalism. Similarly formal epistemologists. –  Seamus Aug 4 '10 at 7:42

Educators! I am a math teacher, so I use LaTeX to make sure my materials look professional. I also love the flexibility, cross-platform compatibility and permanence of writing my materials in LaTeX. No matter where I teach or what technology I have access to, I'll be able to find a computer somewhere that can compile .tex files and display a PDF. Not to mention all of the other things the other people here mentioned.

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Context started as a Tex macro format for use in preparing educational texts. –  Charles Stewart Aug 10 '10 at 13:24
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I know a nice German project which collects lots of Math exercises on a website: btmdx1.mat.uni-bayreuth.de/smart/wp –  Uwe Ziegenhagen Feb 24 '12 at 3:47
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Not just math teachers: I'm an English teacher (lit, not language) and use LaTeX almost exclusively. I'm an anomaly though. (I'm also the only Eng Lit teacher I know who uses math and science concepts to teach literature.) –  crmdgn Jan 4 at 16:06

I'm a minister of religion and I use LaTeX for both sermons and theological papers. I keep all my work in version control and the plain text format just makes so much more sense than a word processor.

I'd love an excuse to put some mathematical notation into a sermon one day, but I'm yet to find one.

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How about "(a+b^n)/n = x, hence God exists"? :-) (Apocryphal story about Euler) –  ShreevatsaR Aug 4 '10 at 6:42
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My favourite goes a bit like this: upon hearing a vicar say "The mathematicians here won't like this, but for God, three is one and one is three." a friend and I looked at each other and said: "So God works in (\mathbb{F}_2).". (more precisely, any field of characteristic 2 would do). –  Loop Space Aug 4 '10 at 7:56
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Do any of your colleagues do the same? –  Charles Stewart Aug 10 '10 at 13:17
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take a look at this proof, which I trust could be very useful! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… –  Yossi Gil Apr 11 '11 at 10:27
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What about this: link –  tohecz Jun 18 '12 at 18:47

Mathematicians.

Background: At this point essentially all math papers are written in TeX/LaTeX. Almost all journals will want you, once your paper is accepted, to send them the .tex source (possibly after making sure it works with their in-house .cls file). I don't think I've ever seen a math paper on the arXiv in anything other than TeX and its variants. I only know of three mathematicians who don't know how to use TeX, and hundreds who do.

(I know this was mentioned in the post by Michael Underwood, but I thought I would separate mathematicians from physicists, for whom there seems to be some disagreement.)

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LaTeX use is very common amongst statisticians. Some econometricians use it, but most seem to use Scientific Word (which is built on LaTeX) instead.

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+1 Funny you say that about econometricians. The two I know use Scientific Word. I didn't know this was a "rule" though, because my sample size is too small and I didn't want to extrapolate... –  Vivi Aug 4 '10 at 11:56
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Reproducible research seems to be encouraging a number of people to write up research in Sweave, which basically ties together Latex and R using Cweb. –  Charles Stewart Jan 26 '11 at 10:43

I use TeX to make (printed) product catalogs commercially. No formulas, no "high quality typography", but fast and efficient fully automated processing.

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It does seem that it’s really catching on in my field (Philosophy); it certainly started with the logicians and philosophers of science, but has definitely spread even to those whose work has relatively little formalism. (I know a few ethicists using it.)

Some of us even started the PhilTeX forums and blog dedicated to LaTeX for philosophy (and other humanities)

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bonus points for mentioning PhilTeX! I keep trying to get people in my philosophy department to use it, but people are scared of "compiling" "code" and non-WYSIWYG nature of TeX. (I refuse to condone LyX: I think it's totally against what LaTeX is supposed to be about...) –  Seamus Aug 4 '10 at 17:15
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I spoke to a philosopher some years back who had switched from Word to Latex for ethical reasons, and asked me about what my opinion was as to the best Linux distribution for a similarly motivated switch. I was taken aback. –  Charles Stewart Aug 10 '10 at 13:14

Depends on the university I guess. Here in University of Hull only a few engineering and maths professors use LaTeX, there are no LaTeX classes for thesis nor assignments. The LaTeX installation on the machine is from 2004 and hasn't been updated since.

Over the past 4 years I haven't seen a single PhD student use LaTeX. =(

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I'm a UK based psychology PhD student. I'm using LaTeX for my dissertation and use Beamer for presentations. The only other person using it in my department trained as an econometrician. I'm forced to use MS Word for journal articles as a) coauthors generally use it, and b) most journals only accept .doc or .rtf.

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At least one art historian uses TeX :) I wrote my Ph.D. in LaTeX and a couple of exhibition catalogues in ConTeXt.

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Literate programmers use TeX for commenting their code, and many more simply use TeX for documentation, especially if the program is math-heavy.

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I'm just curious to know how this works. The same source file is compiled by latex and by a compiler for a programming language to generate binaries? –  donatello Dec 8 '10 at 18:28
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Literate programming has its own file format which is run through two different programs for generating program source code and LaTeX source code. For the original literate programming tool (called Web — that was before the rise of the WWW — and written by Donald E. Knuth himself) those programs are called tangle and weave. Note that TeX itself was written as literate program. –  celtschk Feb 24 '12 at 21:16

I use it for any important, customer facing documentation for our software company. That means, all of our contracts, product catalogs and product documentation. The fact that you can throw it into source control so nicely is huge! It's the only truly cross-platform tool that I know of, outside of InDesign. Also, nothing on earth does cross-referencing or indexing nearly as well.

Finally, for our product catalog, I use the DataTool. I'm able to save the product pricing spreadsheet out of Numbers or Excel and create 12 specific versions our price sheet. We're a small company and there is no way we would price our products or have as many specific kinds of dealers without LaTeX, just because there is no other, efficient way to do what we do with it.

Every now and again, we think, "Is there something easier that the rest of our staff would pick up more readily?" We always come back to LaTeX. Sometimes, it's a little bit hard to do a really complicated and important thing.

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I proofread someone's theology dissertation which was written in LaTeX -- I'm sure the packages it used for displaying Hebrew and polytonic Greek were simpler than entering those characters in a word processor.

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Some computer programmers use it.

  1. Layout from content is separated
  2. It's pure text so you can use your favourite editor (like vim).
  3. Make can be used to bind it together
  4. Easy to create LaTeX files with scripts.

More or less, as a programmer you can reuse a lot of tools...

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Nobody mentioned engineers --- everybody from my research group (optimization-driven design) is using LaTeX for all our publications, reports, compendiums, lab assignments, etc., despite the fact we're pretty much a Microsoft shop up here.

Some journals in the field, however, started accepting .doc or .odf files as well, much to my frustration. But as long as LaTeX is an option, no way we're switching to something else.

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Oh good, Martin, you saved me the bother of mentioning engineers. –  bev Nov 21 '10 at 0:44

Bioinformatics researchers use it.

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There are a few engineers that use it as well. If you count us under "academic discipline" ;-)

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It is also used by some philologists and critical editors, mostly because you can't have multiple footnotes layers with more generally widespread word processors, while it is quite easy to do so with critical edition packages such as Ledmac. It is also easier to typeset parallel texts, to have numbered texts and line references in footnotes, and so on. More generally, and from my experience, LaTeX is becoming more often used in the Humanities.

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I'm an attorney at law in Germany and writing all contracts and motions using LaTeX. Word tried to outsmart me too often; and especially while under stress working against deadlines I found that very annoying. Using LaTeX I can get printed things exactly as I wish it, which is also very important.

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@Sveinung Maybe we should found an international society "LaTeX-Lawyers"!? –  Keks Dose Oct 11 '12 at 9:49

I'm a mechanical engineer working in materials science / materials processing. I had lots of experience (from quite good to extremely bad) with Microsoft Office (versions XP and before, also Office:mac) and consider myself a "power user" (at least concerning the versions until Office XP and 2003. Based on that experience I decided, not to write my diploma (master) thesis with Word, but with LaTeX. And I'm currently writing my PhD thesis with LaTeX also.

Some of my colleagues (mostly engineers and chemists) also use(d) LaTeX for typesetting their thesis, but many that I know use MS Word.

Some "statistical" data of people
- which I know,
- remember their name
- and know how they wrote/write their thesis

LaTeX: 7
Framemaker: 1
MS Word: by far too many (7 + many many more that I know)

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Here is a rule of thumb one of my colleagues mentioned to me about 10 years ago, and I religiously practice since then:

  1. If it is 1-2 sentences, write it by hand.

  2. If it is one page, delegate to the secretary

  3. If it two pages, do it yourself on MSWord. (I use open office)

  4. Anything longer, do it yourself with LaTeX!

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As secretaries are getting expensive to hire (or not everyone can afford a secretary), MS Word might be able to get back some of the lost market share ;) –  Kevin C Apr 7 '13 at 22:55

I am an Earth Science grad student & Chemist. I use it to typeset papers that are single-authored (i.e., by myself) and more than 5 pages. At least one of the Geochemistry Faculty in my department use LaTeX regularly.

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I'm an IT consultant. I use LaTeX for all my text processing. That includes:

  • Proposals (memoir)
  • Technical documentation, including requirements, design, and code (memoir, TikZ)
  • Contracts (memoir)
  • Presentations (beamer)
  • (And where a client shows interest, I also encourage them to wander in the direction of TeX)

And then there's real life:

  • General correspondence (memoir + ryo letter packages)
  • Writing for writing's sake
  • Odds and sods (lost cat posters, etc.)

I find that, in general, people do react positively when they see a nice bit of typesetting.

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I'd love to see some examples of your work! Especially requirements documents. –  Mark Richman Mar 18 '12 at 19:54

I produce work --- essays, poetry, broadsides --- using both digital (LaTeX) and traditional letterpress (lead type, ink, mechanical press) technologies. LaTeX is invaluable for trying layouts before the time consuming effort of letterpress work, especially for books consisting of several signatures.

LaTeX is also used (by others) to create critical editions of texts in many languages.

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Welcome to TeX.sx! You don't have to sign with your name since it automatically appears in the lower right corner of your post. –  Werner Feb 24 '12 at 20:47
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A warm welcome to Peter, trusting that he will give valuable contributions to the community. –  egreg Feb 24 '12 at 20:50

I've just started to use LaTeX. After many years of disappointments with word, open office and google docs, I started to use it to write technical manuals for analytical equipment. I found the pgfplots package really amazing and I also love the package chemstyle.

I'm only a bit sad because I've never tried LaTeX before. It would have saved me heaps of time and I would have produced much better looking reports and manuals.

I definitely recommend it for technical manuals!

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