I am afraid that this is close to be "off topic" of the site. If so, I will gladly close it.

I need to popularize LaTeX for a class. There will be a special (non-optional) class about LaTeX basics to attract students to this wonderful way of creating documents and I need to promote this class via e-mail.

In your opinion, what would be the most attracting(-ive) effect(s) I can show in one slide to the people? The students are musicians. The effects and formatting don't need to be unconditionally practical. It could be just beautiful.

If you want me to be more specific, then please: fonts, working with positioning, background and other easily visible effects. No macros etc.

Note: I am not asking about the text of the promotion, just the LaTeX effects.

Edit: It does not have to be only about music in LaTeX. The class will be about LaTeX basics.

  • 2
    If they are musicians, I would definitely show them lilypond. There is no more beautiful way to include music engravings in a document. Oct 13 '15 at 12:22
  • 1
    From my personal experience: forcing students to use LaTeX for assignments seems to be the most effective way to popularize LaTeX. Forget about the attractiveness though.
    – Francis
    Oct 13 '15 at 12:28
  • I strongly believe that it would be effective. But I can't do that. It must be volunteers only... Oct 13 '15 at 12:29
  • 1
    I also try to enforce use of LaTeX among my students (engineering) and I've had some success providing them with .tex sources that they can use to write answers. Classmates that use word or similars must type again all questions and final documents are not so nice.
    – Ignasi
    Oct 13 '15 at 13:47
  • 1
    Show them Gregorian chant done with gregorio.
    – Thérèse
    Oct 13 '15 at 14:17

It is not easy to convey this in a single slide, but I believe one of the strongest points in favour of LaTeX are precisely macros and how they allow you to structure your document in a semantic, manageable and portable way. Nice typography is great but wouldn't be enough without macros.
Think about software like Encore or old versions of Finale: you had attention and control on the details but music structure was not exploited so much in the interface. In Sibelius music material was represented in a much more semantic way but then typographic detail was more difficult to tweak. LaTeX can offer both advantages. This is from my limited and admittedly outdated experience.

One approach is to show two pictures side by side. In one there's a MS Word window with a document opened showing some of the common pitfalls: sub-optimal/non uniform typography, pixelated and/or misplaced pictures, difficult cross-referencing, poor portability. On the other side, the same document typeset in LaTeX and maybe a snippet of the code that generates it with some hint indicating that the pdf is generated by the code.

The main takeaway would be: if you feel frustrated with how things are done with MS Word and co., come along and learn a more structured and portable alternative!


You should try to write music with LaTeX, as they are musicians. See http://martin-thoma.com/how-to-write-music-with-latex/, it explains the differents manneers of how to write music with some examples (use musixtex, LilyPond [much more difficult to understand], doc : http://lilypond.org/pdf/reinhold-LAC-2010.pdf). It will show them positionning and effects.


As much I'm pro-TeX (which I hope I don't need to elaborate the obvious), this is just a torture for people who are not using TeX for other matters.

I would even claim that writing music in TeX is one of the least effective way of doing things. In any other software, they would accomplish the same task in orders of magnitude faster, even with guitar pro.

Would it look nicer is another story but still noone would care if the notes are circular enough.

And yes, I do write some music occasionally with TeX (drums).

  • 3
    There is composing music, which should be done in specialized software. But there is also writing about music (history, musicology, etc.), where text predominates but some snippets should be included. LaTeX is the best tool for this kind of document. Oct 13 '15 at 12:56
  • @gregmacfarlane That's not a musician using TeX. That's somebody typing a document with musical content which is the regular TeX argument. And I think on tex-sx we don't need to discuss that. I can still save them as pdf images and include. There is no specific extra added value to the musical content by TeX.
    – percusse
    Oct 13 '15 at 12:57
  • ahem lilypond-book ahem.
    – yo'
    Oct 13 '15 at 13:22
  • @yo' torture, torture grande!
    – percusse
    Oct 13 '15 at 13:30

You shouldn't. LaTeX is not really capable of two-dimensional typesetting needed for typing music. There are other, much better tools for this, such as the already mentioned LilyPond.

Note that LaTeX is doing all breaking in one dimension only; first, the paragraph is broken into lines, then the lines are broken into pages. For music, you need some very good care in both directions; the score consists of several parallel lines (staffs, lyrics, ...) that need to be optimized globally during the line-breaking phase, and this is something TeX can't really do. (Well, it can, because it's Turing-complete, but that's not what I meant.) The output of MusixTeX is just horrible for anything slightly more complicated.

  • To it's not the output of musixtex that's horrible but the input :) . (When I typeset scores I never use musixtex or lilypond. I instead use musescore – but that's another question)
    – cgnieder
    Oct 13 '15 at 13:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.