LaTeX is a markup(typesetting) language typically used to typeset books. It has got a huge collection of classes and packages to work with. Now, obviously, LaTeX cannot be compared to Adobe Products(like Photoshop), but using TikZ or pstricks, drawings under the engineering domain can be drawn with ease and perfection. LaTeX also provides many other features where Microsoft Word Lacks or rather it becomes tedious to implement like IEEE template. Now my question is, taking into all these considerations, where does LaTeX lack?Is there something that LaTeX misses out?Or becomes too tedious too implement?I am posting this question, on a thought based on my professor's quote: "What ever you do, there is always a room for improvement!"

closed as primarily opinion-based by cfr, Adam Liter, Peter Jansson, Sean Allred, Jesse Mar 11 '14 at 6:20

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    I wouldn't say it is 'typically used to typeset books'. It is very widely used to typeset articles as well. (If it were confined to books, its use in academia would be much more limited!) Also, beamer is fairly widely used for typesetting slides. – cfr Mar 11 '14 at 2:17
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    It lacks in not being able to output a Word document for submission to any of the myriad persons and organisations who require me to provide such things. Though this might more accurately be described as a lack on the part of the remainder of reality rather than one properly attributable to that part of reality which is LaTeX. – cfr Mar 11 '14 at 2:19
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    I think there are some assumptions in this question which are somewhat suspect. For example, is the fact that tikz or pstricks cannot produce engineering diagrams really a lack in LaTeX or TeX more generally? Usually, when software tries to 'miss nothing out', it ends up a horrible, complex mess which is difficult to maintain, even harder to use and incapable of doing even one thing well. This is not to say that the system is perfect but the fact that it cannot do X is insufficient to establish a lack. It may be that X is the sort of thing it ought not try to do at all. – cfr Mar 11 '14 at 3:19
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    Photoshop is an image processing software not a typesetter. TikZ is for producing vector graphics in a PDF!! I want to see a book typeset in Photoshop please before you start criticizing. – percusse Mar 11 '14 at 10:00

(La)TeX does many things extremely well. It is excellent in typesetting beautiful text, but I think it lacks in areas of larger-scale design. For instance, I have long desired to put all of my recipes into a cookbook format, yet have been hung up on finding a way to do this that looks "good" not only for a small recipe (3 ingredients and steps), but also medium (many ingredients, but still only 2-3 steps) and big recipes with many ingredients and steps. Each recipe ends up needing to be custom tailored so that it looks good on the page. (Or maybe my standards are too high!)

True graphic design (think magazine layout) is tedious (it took 11 days and a 925 rep bounty to wrap text to a shape!), and it seems like the balance of quality vs. speed of implementation is better managed by programs like Publisher or Illustrator. Even "designs with graphics" (tikz and the like; not unlike complicated engineering drawings as the OP alludes to) seem like they require much more effort to create with text than they would in a GUI based program (like Inkscape or OmniGraffle).

These are things that (La)TeX doesn't do easily -- which isn't to say things shouldn't be improved or that it doesn't look great once it is implemented. But there is something to be said also for using the right tool for the right job. I would agree with @cfr when she pointed out that ...

Usually, when software tries to 'miss nothing out', it ends up a horrible, complex mess which is difficult to maintain, even harder to use and incapable of doing even one thing well.

  • I quite like cuisine. – cfr Mar 11 '14 at 3:48
  • @cfr I haven't been super impressed with the overall artistic feel of cuisine or some of the others that are out there. A cookbook in particular seems like it should have personality, not just a standard form. – cslstr Mar 11 '14 at 3:50
  • But then would you want somebody else's personality for your cookbook? This isn't an out-of-the-box solution but have you looked at flowfram at all? Although it is in some ways a workaround rather than a solution, your answer made me think of it. – cfr Mar 11 '14 at 3:52
  • I have seen this at one point, but hadn't thought of it in this context; I might have to revisit the idea. – cslstr Mar 11 '14 at 3:55
  • Do you know A cookbook in LaTeX? – Speravir Mar 11 '14 at 4:46

LaTeX is particularly focused on certain presentation and cultural styles. For example, if you want to use english, rather than american formatting, you need to load packages, rather than configure a defaults page.

Likewise, it supposes a particular set of functions like \sin, and it's only due to the AMS package and its unwealdly \operatormame function that you can break out of Knuth's rather limited set of functions.

The construction of paragraph styles is still behind the word processors. You can use the tabbing environment, but this is stuck in the days of left justified fields.

It's not very good at handling non decimal bases. For example, I do work with base 2.618033, using f as the digit 1.618033. It's rather hard to suppress ligitures in areas. Likewise, a good number of calculations are done in a historic base 120. You can't tell it that V and E are digits, and that the radix is :.

It's very frustrating to set up numbering straight through of sections, as one sees in older books, although this can be done.

One thing that is useful is to have a tabular format, with ordinary text paragraphs within it. I got around this on part with the tabbing environment, and preset strings. But selecting from a set of para styles is still a long way behind ami pro. You can't just say \para1 and have settings set for that.

Text emphasis is patchy.

Writing glossaries and dictionaries is nigh on next to near impossible. You can't create objects of connected fields, for example.

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    While I realise that some are sceptical of the claim, American is generally considered to be a form of English. – cfr Mar 11 '14 at 2:42
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    You are confusing 'British English' with 'mainstream English'. British English is used by more than the English, of course, even we confine our attention to the British Isles. But it is no more 'mainstream' than American English or any other widely-used variant. Note that OED generally prefers '-ize' to '-ise'; Collins the reverse. I don't know what you mean about creating a setting in 'a stock latex package'. It is easy enough to automate this stuff if you wish. – cfr Mar 11 '14 at 3:45
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    I won't jump into the British/American debate, but I will say that I don't think the necessity of packages is a downfall of LaTex; it is how things were designed to operate. AMSmath is a part of LaTeX at this point, like it or not. Just because it isn't built-in doesn't diminish the capability of the core program in my opinion. The fact that things are so extensible is really an asset unto itself. – cslstr Mar 11 '14 at 3:47
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    @wendy.krieger -- The modularity of LaTeX can be a strength if you choose to work with its design principles. Create your own package, say, mainstreamenglish.sty and make the necessary defintions and load the necessary packages there. Then it is just \usepackage{mainstreamenglish}. It could contain, e.g., \def\today{\number\day\space \ifcase\month\or January\or February\or March\or April\or May\or June\or July\or August\or September\or October\or November\or December\fi \space\number\year}, and now \today will say 10 March 2014. No need for a package for something that simple... – jon Mar 11 '14 at 4:03
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    Well, indeed: finding the right package can be difficult, and certainly not all documentation was created equal. But I never found figuring out how to do something by clicking through dozens of menus to be a superior system. How do you remember which sub-menu feature X was stored in..? And what do you do when clicking X makes all the Y clicks go squirrelly? I like my magic to be impossible-seeming twists of code that I can look at and hope(fully one day) to understand, not hidden in an expensive shiny box (that I'm not supposed to look inside of). – jon Mar 11 '14 at 4:34

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