Is it worth to migrate from LaTeX (with Memoir) to ConTeXt? I think about it, but I have few doubts:

  • LaTeX + Memoir is a well documented team, while ConTeXt not,
  • LaTeX + Memoir is a team that works and simply does things,
  • there are many text editors with syntax highlighting, command completion, UTF-8 encoding for LaTeX,
  • but ConTeXt seams to allow for more efficient work.

And the final question, perhaps most important, does InDesign/QuarkXPress/Scribus can be replaced with ConTeXt? Not theoretically, but practically. Is it possible to do handily and efficiently the same things? It would be marvelous to do all typographic designs with one tool (ConTeXt) instead of using InDesign/QuarkXPress/Scribus + LaTeX. For example, is it convenient to design good-looking books/newspapers (not just for scientists:) only with ConTeXt? I'm aware that WYSIWYG software is more suitable for "uneven, not repetitive designs". But maybe ConTeXt is good enough for that kind of work also?

Please, do not be shy, just answer my question:) I really need to hear some experienced users' opinions. But any help is most welcome!

  • See ConTeXt showcase to see some "good-looking books" designed using ConTeXt. – Aditya Sep 28 '13 at 6:09
  • @Aditya, but what about efficiency? LaTeX is great for scientific papers and simple, repetitive designs. If you want to do something complex and fancy, then WYSIWYG solutions are far more useful. The question is: does ConTeXt can compete with InDesign (or similar) in preparing newspaper like The Guardian? – random.nick Sep 28 '13 at 6:41
  • @Aditya, and the first question: is it worth to migrate from LaTeX to ConTeXt? Can you dispel my doubts? You seems to be familiar with LaTeX and ConTeXt, so what do you think about migration to the second one? – random.nick Sep 28 '13 at 6:49
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    The best tool is the one you're familiar with. If you know LaTeX well and can solve your problems with LaTeX, there's no need to switch. If you're new to both, use either system for a month and then switch and eventually pick the one you're more comfortable with. And, no, ConTeXt can't compete with QuarkXPress or InDesign, at least not in general. ConTeXt is perfectly suited for books, it might be well-suited for newspapers. This highly depends on the design and requirements and it's rather unsuitable for magazine like layouts. – Marco Sep 28 '13 at 7:55
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    Why would you claim that Context isn’t well documented? In my experience, the opposite is the case. The trick to being productive is developing an intuition about what to lookup where. For instance, instead of searching for a derived command (e.g. \placetable), check what facility it inherits from (\placefloat), as well as the corresponding setup and macro generator. – Philipp Gesang Sep 28 '13 at 9:18

I have been using desktop publishing software since PageMaker 1.0 on the original Mac (though not InDesign per se), LaTeX since the 1980's and have used ConTeXt MKIV more than a little. My thoughts:

  • For "one-offs" such as magazine pages, newsletters with variable content or things that change layout or format frequently, it's a lot easier and quicker to use a DTP application (with templates) than TeX and Friends.
  • For something with a slowly-varying format/appearance, TeX and Friends do a better job of typesetting than DTP programs and cope with many-page products with much less work.
  • You have finer control over finished appearance with ConTeXt than with LaTeX + Memoir but there is little or nothing you can do with one you cannot do with the other but how easy it is to do can vary a lot.
  • "Support" for LaTeX is (editor support, format converters from X to *TeX) is much more widely available for LaTeX than ConTeXt but that may or may not mean anything depending on your personal workflow.

Mostly, the choice of LaTeX vs ConTeXt is a matter of individual needs and resources. I've decided to go back to LaTeX + Memoir after using ConTeXt for a couple of years because it is a bit better fit to my individual needs to produce documents in multiple formats, at least with the tools/methods I have available to me and am comfortable with using.

Your mileage may vary. ;)

  • thanks! Your answer is exactly what I wanted to read. And your remarks are very close to mine. I've played with ConTeXt for a very short time and I see that basic problems known from LaTeX also exist in ConTeXt. You mentioned, that you have experience with DTP soft (which is very unpopular here), that makes your opinions very valuable for me. Thanks again. Can you tell me which packages do you use (next to Memoir of course) with LaTeX? I'm curious, perhaps I miss something useful:) I guess: microtype, eso-pic, grid, flowfram, but what else? – random.nick Oct 12 '13 at 13:24
  • There is a plenty of small packages that are very useful and very easy to miss. Perhaps you can list all packages that you use? I know, that I'm asking for tedious thing, but perhaps you can do it. I have also another two questions. First, how do you prepare/arrange pages (many pages on one sheet of paper with trim marks) for printing, folding and cutting? I use Adobe Acrobat, but perhaps is it possible to do it with some smart LaTeX package? Second, is there a package (or free standalone soft), that can be alternative to Acrobat preflight? – random.nick Oct 12 '13 at 13:24
  • The "little" packages vary a lot from project to project. For me, I'm particular taken by using EB Garamond as my primary text font hence I also use the ebgaramond support package. If you use XeLaTeX or PDFLaTeX you will most likely wish to use fontspec and microtype (if you use LuaLaTeX you can obtain the same functionality with "native" LuaLaTeX functionality or use these packages). – Bill Meahan Oct 12 '13 at 17:54
  • Ninety-nine percent of what I write is in US English but occasionally there are phases or brief passages in French or Latin so polyglossia proves very useful. If you are not using the default page size you really need geometry and hyperref has a number of very useful "side effects" in PDF documents even if you don't have a single URL. – Bill Meahan Oct 12 '13 at 17:55
  • Remember, the craftsman (or craftswoman) always uses the right tool for the job rather than trying to force some particular tool to do something it does not do well. "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" is equally true in typography/typesetting. – Bill Meahan Oct 12 '13 at 17:57

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