I was surprised to learn that some users, as show in this post, stil insist on working exclusively in plain Tex, as opposed to LaTeX.

I most certainly understand the benefits of occasionally resorting to plain TeX commands, but it got me wondering…

What are the reasons, aside force of habit, perhaps, why one would want to use only TeX commands all the time and eschew LaTeX altogether, these days?

Are there definite advantages, perhaps under some very special purposes, in using exclusively plain TeX?

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    How does this question differ from tex.stackexchange.com/q/7278/15925 ? – Andrew Swann Mar 18 '13 at 13:23
  • @Andrew My question is: "why use plain TeX exclusively?". By contrast, the question you refer to is rather: "why use plain TeX occasionally?" or "why should I learn TeX format?" – jub0bs Mar 18 '13 at 13:28
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    your question isn't completely clear. do you mean "exclusively" as in "never use latex", or as in "only tex commands in a document". there are many reasons to use only plain tex in particular documents, but that's quite different from eschewing latex entirely. – barbara beeton Mar 18 '13 at 13:34
  • What about this question? (Marked as duplicate of the first suggested duplicate) – Matthew Leingang Mar 18 '13 at 13:35
  • @barbarabeeton I mean "eschewing LaTeX altogether". I'll reformulate my question. – jub0bs Mar 18 '13 at 13:36

The definite advantage of using plain TeX exclusively is longevity of the document code. I expect that any document written exclusively using plain TeX, will print correctly on any future machine and if stored properly will outlive its creator.

One user that uses plain TeX exclusively, that I know of has a very good reason for using it: he created it, D. Knuth.

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  • Don Knuth isn't a person. At least not what you'd call a normal one. – vonbrand Mar 18 '13 at 19:54

I'm not sure this is a real question but I will try to answer. Plain TeX allows (requires, even) total control over the document, whereas LaTeX requires a class which sets up the document with certain values to fonts, margins, etc.

I've only known one person in my 20+ years of TeX-hacking who used plain TeX only and refused to use LaTeX. He called himself a "technological traditionalist" and prided himself on doing things the simplest way possible. If you were to ask him why he wouldn't use LaTeX his answer might be "because I don't need to." When we were all tinkering with our XWindows setups he just wanted white-on-black.

I don't know if he has ever come around or is still bucking the trend. He went to law school where it was common practice to write emails in Word and send them as attachments, much to his chagrin. His current CV looks like it was written in plain TeX, though, guessing by the font size.)

I don't know of anything that can be done in plain TeX and can't be done in LaTeX.

Since your question seems to be inspired by a single user you might just ask him. :-)

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  • “I don't know of anything that can be done in plain TeX and can't be done in LaTeX.” — Try output routines. ;-) – morbusg Mar 18 '13 at 14:30
  • @morbusg: Does LaTeX preclude output routines? I confess I'm ignorant of the subject. – Matthew Leingang Mar 18 '13 at 14:51
  • Oh, I didn’t mean preclude, just more in the sense of Alex Plotnick’s answer on the question linked in the OP. – morbusg Mar 18 '13 at 20:48

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