I am currently writing my bachelor's thesis about symbol recognition. In my introduction, I have the sentence

[LaTeX] offers to many people the possibility not only to create texts themselves, but also make them look beautiful without knowledge of typesetting algorithms.

My advisor thinks I should remove / change "beautiful" because it is subjective.

I think the statement itself is true (comparing the output of some example texts of OpenOffice and LaTeX) and I am sure one can objectively measure it (number of widows and orphans, word breaks, grey-value of an image, inter- and intra-word spacing, and eventually even more).

Do you know if some studies were made that compare (La)TeX with OpenOffice Word / Microsoft Word / something else?

(Don't get me wrong: If there are studys that compare (La)TeX with something else that show that there is a better option, I am interested in it, too.)

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    I would consult Bringhurst's book "Elements of Typographic Style" (I hope I remembered it correctly). While he doesn't plug LaTeX or any other product, he provides concepts and quantitative distinctions on what makes good vs. bad typography. Whether he uses the word "beautiful", I do not recall, but I am thinking (extemporaneously) that you should be able to make the argument that LaTeX satisfies many criteria ignored by other typesetting methods. – Steven B. Segletes Nov 3 '14 at 19:14
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    I think your advisor is right at the limit but only at the limit. Convention is often confused with beauty however we are so used to it we can't think otherwise. I wouldn't object to it but if he insists then replace it with professional. – percusse Nov 3 '14 at 19:21
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    I think beautiful is indeed a subjective word. Personally, I'd suggest you to go after ergonomy and some sort of pleasant feeling towards reading a material produced with LaTeX in comparison to another similar output. In the worst scenario, you might need to create your own control group and evaluate the feedback. Also, an important note: beware of font impact, this could surely be misleading. :) – Paulo Cereda Nov 3 '14 at 19:21
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    I doubt it. For one thing much of latex typesetting isn't beautiful by any definition of beauty that "the man in the street" would recognize. Especially in earlier years when there were less fonts available and more or less everyone used standard article with computer modern, latex typesetting really aspired to high standards in legibility, typography, and archival usefulness, but boring, very conventional American (rather than European) influenced design, rather than beauty would be the main design aim. I'd change "make them look beautiful" to "typeset them to a high standard" – David Carlisle Nov 3 '14 at 19:33
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    See also tex.stackexchange.com/questions/1319/… – John Kormylo Nov 4 '14 at 1:33

To answer your question about studies: As far as I know there are no studies.

Instead of "beautiful" (beautiful is not objective indeed) I would say that LaTeX has a build-in typography which is based on the rules used by printing companies. That results in a layout of the printed document that is different to the "usual" Word looking documents.

  • "LaTeX has a build-in typography which based on the rules used by the printing companys". With all due respect dear Kurt, I think that statement, somehow, bring downs the whole awesomeness of LaTex that OP is trying to emphasize on. – Pouya Nov 3 '14 at 22:34
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    @Pouya My english is not very good so there is a chance that I missunderstood something. But I'm teaching MS Word and LaTeX for students. If you use without extras the document class article, report, book or for german language for example scrartcl, scrrprt or scrbook you get an result you can't reach with Word (even if you work hard) because Word has a bad (build in) justifiying but LaTeX not. Students do not want to learn one year typography to get better looking word documents. With LaTeX you can concentrate to write a good content and get the good (build in) typography of LaTeX. – Mensch Nov 4 '14 at 12:06

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