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Looking back, what really convinced you to begin writing with TeX or LaTeX?

This question is "community wiki", so there's no reputation to lose or to gain.

Please don't write advantages of TeX and LaTeX or any pros and cons.

I hope to read about something like

  • a drastic experience that led you to TeX,
  • a beautiful book, paper or poster that changed your view dramatically,
  • a first big success with a (La)TeX creation,
  • a person who inspired you.

Anything in this spirit would be great. Please post just a single reason or event in each answer. If you further shared a similar experience that you read here, voting that up would be fine.

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    I think at first it was mostly curiosity. – Caramdir Aug 21 '10 at 10:48
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    I started using Latex because I wanted my school HW's to look really nice since the teacher at the time was adding 10% extra credit for well written reports. I really only wanted that extra credit for the HWs. This is how it all started. But now I use Latex for almost everything, even if there is no extra credit. – Nasser Jul 4 '13 at 3:07

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For me it was the lack of nice typography/typesetting of Math content with other programs/philosophies (20 years ago...)

Background:

I started my studies of Physics and Mathematics at the University of Freiburg in Germany in 1996. In my first year I had the plan of typing some of my notes from the lectures to have it more readable (to others and me too ;-))

I first used MS Works/Word (there was no Formula editor then, if I remember correctly) and had to copy over symbols from strange fonts I found on a shareware CD and was still frustrated that my texts looked not as nice as the worksheets and problem sheets from university we had solve each week in order to credits.

I asked on of assistant of the professors how they were done and his short answer was: "I use LaTeX -- go to our computer pools, it's installed there."

Fortunately, I had an account and went there and tried it, using strange search engines to look after LaTeX (providing other results that I did not searched for ;-)) -- on a very early version Linux, however, my knowledge of both LaTeX and Linux was limited, I bought (!!!!) a 5 CD - Volume snapshot of the CTAN - archive of 1997 for about 40 DM, which would be about 20 € nowadays.

I went home and installed a LaTeX version which I can't rememberhow it was named (emTeX, perhaps) and did my first trials on my last computer that was based on MS Windows only, I had no internet connection at that time, so getting information was much more difficult (especially, there was no TeX.SE or latex-community.org in order to look for advises and solutions)

I found LaTeX fun and the results were much of my liking and definitely better than what I generated with WORD etc. Of course, not everything was typographically beautiful.

Heading towards my Diploma thesis I became tutor of younger students and had to assist professors, it was then my 'job' to provide worksheets with LaTeX, Lab course reports and seminar talks were typeset with LaTeX (that was before beamer appeared) and my final report for gaining admission to the Diploma level before starting the thesis itself was the first 'major' work I wrote.

Of course, my Diploma thesis was written in LaTeX (using book.cls) and all papers/talks later on as well as my PhD thesis.

Graduating a third time with Teacher Seminar I wrote my 3rd thesis again with LaTeX and nowadays 99.9% of my work sheets, formularies etc. and my presentations are done with LaTeX and I get many praises by my students/pupils for providing readable and comfortable texts to them, compared to other teachers that still glue things together before using the copier ...

Nowadays I have gained some knowledge about the internals of TeX etc., but I am no core developer, of course, although I was able to ship some packages to CTAN already.

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For me, it was necessity. My first programming job (working part-time for a research division of my university) required me to edit some documentation, but my computer only had WordPad on it, and WordPad is terrible for absolutely everything so I tried to find an alternative since I wasn't going to buy Word just for that job. I noticed a co-worker using LaTeX to put something together, and I'd heard of it before but never used it. I spent a couple weeks reading the Wikibook on LaTeX before I finally decided to install it on my work machine and convert the original documentation over. It was glorious.

Now, I use it for just about anything that isn't a group project—software documentation, class assignments, and especially typesetting public-domain books (okay, and some non-public domain ones too).

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I wrote a lot of papers and documentation in RUNOFF on RT-11, and nroff and troff on VAX/VMS, Unix System 3, and BSD 4.3, all through the 80's. All the quirky .xx commands never seemed to quite do what I wanted, and the resulting source text would often end up very difficult to read and spell check. TeX was clearly a better way, and when it became available I was quick to adopt it. The big annoyance in that time frame was pushing drafts out of the 200 dpi printer that was a big deal at the time but combined all the good features of a 200 dpi thermal fax machine with an off-brand photocopier. Drafts were charged by the inch, and really had to be photocopied for longevity.

Being pragmatic and needing to communicate (meaning share documents) with the non-academic world Word ate the majority of my day-to-day business and technical writing. But TeX has always been there for those things it suits best. (We'll just ignore the brief affair with the SGML-based monstrosity named Ventura Publisher, and the flirtations with FrameMaker.)

I've recently dusted off my first editions of the TeX book and LaTeX book, and expect to be returning to them as a preferred way to build technical documentation. Especially now that my favorite little language (Lua) has found its way into the TeX family.

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I came via a programming route. Had heard about LaTex over the years, but never taken the time to install all the requirements and get it working. Now, with the bundles that are available, I'm able to easily install on my Mac and Windows environments (primary documentation platforms for me).

As a Python programmer, I was using the Sphinx documentation tool. However, I wanted PDF output and Sphinx did not convert tables to PDF. After noting that Sphinx generated LaTex, I searched around, found longtable, and figured I could write a generator that would build that for me. After playing around a bit further, I determined it was easier to just write in LaText to start off with and then join it with some custom script-generated LaTex output that documents our data structures.

Been using it about a year now; have one 300 page technical manual completed and starting on a second one. Still very much a newbie, but still way more productive than the previous FrameMaker environment.

Also, since LaTex is strictly text files, I'm able to version control the source files and have more than one person working on the same document. Extremely efficient.

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I wrote my masters thesis using MS word and always wondered there must be better tool out there. Then a friend of mine told me about LaTeX, I tried but gave up. After a year or two I took up a job to create pdf document of 6 volumes of Ramayanam, which I could read on iPad. I saw the formatting of Gita press gorakhpur and thought to use that template. Then posted the questions about the template on this forum and finally I managed to create a 6000 page pdf document with best formatting I have ever done in my life. Hats off to the forum and creator of LaTeX / XeLaTeX.

Now I write my notes and documents in XeLaTeX only. I am working on Laghu Siddhanta Kaumudi. The flexibility it offers, I can not explain in words.

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To experiment and improvise.

When I was doing my bachelor's degree in Maths, I used MS Word for my project documentation. My topic was Linear Functionals so I had to face many challenges like equations and references. I know it's not a big deal. But I never did math in Word before. It was hell of a work load. My teacher did tell us all to try LaTex but she said it as if it was something very very hard to learn. So I continued with Word.

Later I was doing my MSc Statistics. I thought why not try. If I like it I will do it. Also in India at that time we had free 4G data from Jio. So I thought to use that data instead of wasting all my time on movies.

And hell yeah I loved it. I loved it more because I had not spent a rupee. And my practical records looks fantastic.

Just loving it.

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I wanted to create a beautiful résumé. So, I downloaded moderncv and edited it to my heart's content.

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When I first started using LaTeX, I wanted to be able to write papers using a text editor rather than word processing program. I was willing to embed special characters using high-bit ASCII codes, and to generate underlines and other simple effects by embedding ANSI codes in the file. The only reason I started to learn LaTeX--rather than just printing raw text files--was that I needed footnotes, and I realized that it would be too hard to code that up myself. That's it--footnotes. Of course, I got a lot more from the bargain and was happy about that, especially later on when my work became more mathematical.

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I wrote my PhD thesis in troff (heavy math involved), a few years later I was invited to collaborate with my advisor on some followup papers written in LaTeX. LaTeX has much more structure (in the sense of structured programming à la Pascal and such), I got hooked. Never really looked at TeX. Almost everything larger than a page or so I write in LaTeX nowadays.

I also dabbled in writing largeish documents in Word (mostly collaborating with a group of people, luckily no math but plenty of graphs and spreadsheet-style tables), not a experience I look forward to repeat anytime.

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I'm just getting started, and haven't actually used LaTeX for a real project yet...

I've had a few projects lately related to programmatically-generated documents, and I'm not satisfied with the results. LaTeX was on my radar, but I didn't have time to investigate until last week.

Some process complex lab data and produce a report that describes the results. Early versions were plain *.txt files; other than using a bit of white space they were difficult to read at times. Lately I've been using HTML output which allows for more complex formatting and is still accessible; but the output is inconsistent between browsers, and prints terribly!

I have also let the creation of some documents which were quote large and repetitive (over 2400 pages on 11x17!). Typically these documents are created by hand in Word, but that clearly wasn't an option due to the scale needed for these. We were able to generate MS Word files in sections, which were manually stitched together, and tweaked to keep it from breaking.

I wanted to include diagrams, but haven't found a practical method of generating them.

At this point, LaTeX looks to be a great fit, as I can generate plain-text files easily enough (even broken across multiple files), then render them to print-perfect PDF files that anyone can view. With Tikz (or the like), I can even include those diagrams!

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In my university, most of the people in Schools of Mathematics & Statistics and Physics (note that they are two schools) are using LaTeX as a primary typesetting. They use LaTeX for typing lecture notes, or assignments etc.

I am a artistic person (although I do Physics), so when I heard of my lecturer that there is something in this world called LaTeX - I instantly write my homework by using LaTeX.

Unfortunately, I am not using LaTeX to write my homework (guess how I do my homework) at the moment. Instead, I use LaTeX to author textbooks that can use semantic decorations (such as Tikz uses programming to draw diagrams). I am a Physics and Information Systems person (did I said I am an artistic person...), using LaTeX can practice my logics with organising the nodes logically and so on...

So my message is...

LaTeX can boost your marks!*

*(Although this is not always true, when I need to write textbooks for procrastination, I can't get rid of LaTeX)

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It was listings, then bibtex, then beamer – and then I just got used to it.

I wrote and edited a couple of theses in Word (up to 200 pages), with dozens of figures and tables, hundreds of references and so on. It was not at all a bad experience. I took the time to really understand Word, its concepts, and also it quirks. I then developed strategies and macro packages to work with them and to automate repeating tasks. In the end it is just the point that you have to know your tool.

I came to LaTeX via LyX during my PhD time. My supervisor used LyX, so I started writing my papers with it. I started to love the easy bibliography handling with bibtex, however, the first thing that really stroke me was the listings package: Beautiful typesetting of listings, the ability to refer to line numbers, and automatic syntax highlighting! I could not imagine how to automate this with Word.

Then I had to prepare a lecture with 500+ slides. I never loved Powerpoint, which has, compared to Word nearly no concepts of semantic markup, hierarchical structure, and so on. So I tried beamer. As my slides tend to be very visual, it was a steep learning curve and I had to abondon LyX, as basically everything ended up to be ERT boxes. So I started with plain LaTeX in VIM. VIM spoiled capability to use any other editor, so I quickly stopped to use LyX for other stuff as well (too many spurious ighjkls in the middle of the text...).

And as I wrote: I just got used to it.

Today, I love it because of the great "programming capabilities" that let me define powerful problem-related concepts for my projects.

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Like many others, my thesis director told me to use LaTeX when I had to write something he had to read himself afterwards (he couldn't bear to read anything written with Word). Progressively I got to use LaTeX for everything to be printed, since the most straightforward letter to the most complicated math paper…

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Stupidly, I never managed to make a handout with Word or Open Office for my students in which I could place the graduation lines with real millimetres. I tried to integrate Geogebra documents into Word in vain: millimetres were no longer millimetres when printed.

I attended a professional training course on LaTeX, which I followed out of pure intellectual curiosity and I discovered all the possibilities of LaTeX.

I immediately adopted it for the quality of its French and mathematical typography as well as for the quality and perfect precision of its geometrical constructions.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator

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I did not even know of the existence of TeX/LaTeX until the end of 2009. At that time, a professor of mine handed out his lecture notes in pdf format.

I was immediately impressed by their high typographical quality, compared to any other similar documents I have ever seen till then.

Moreover, previously, I had had some negative experiences with long documents containing quite some mathematical formulas. Hence, I was wondering how he managed to make such a beautiful text in Word (naively, I thought it was written with that tool).

My curiosity lasted a few days, until I saw a little writing at the bottom of the back of the cover page: "This document is written in LaTeX".

"LaTeX, what is it?" I thought, and a rapid search on the Internet made me discover this wonderful world!

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I was first introduced to LaTeX through LyX, as I was working on some documentation and some long, complex equations. Somehow, I found LyX online and when I tried and entered those equations and saw the outcome. I was honestly flabbergasted. It was so beautiful to eyes. That led me to the journey of learning LaTeX. I have since created many other extensive reports/documentations and I love it every time.

The Source control is one of the most important feature in my opinion. I can go back and look at the history of edits in my LaTeX files. (Imagine doing this in MS Word!) In fact, now is the best time to start on LaTeX with online repo like GitHub and online LaTeX editor like OverLeaf.com.

My biggest gripe is that my colleagues at work are not on board with it. They are missing out on so much. But because of that, I have to keep switching to MS suite.

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