I am just beginning to learn TeX. Coming from web-development, I find separating content from style very sensible, and I like the logic behind it. To me it looks that having control over formatting is very convenient and it makes TeX superior to other Word processing programs like OpenOffice or Word, even when making 'simple' documents. As I am just a beginner, I am wondering what the experts do when having to write a simple letter, or any small document that really does not require any advanced typesetting. Do you fall back to a Word processing program, or do you stick with TeX, even though it might implicate a bit more hassle to get your final document?

In other words, do you find TeX can replace any type of document creation in everyday use, or is it overkill for simple documents?

  • 7
    Since you qualify your question with the phrase "(nearly) any kind of document", one would have to mention that TeX and friends aren't widely used for music (i.e., musical note notation). While there are TeX formats called musictex and musixtex, my personal impression is that other open-source packages are in far greater use. That said, I wholeheartedly concur that TeX is a fabulous tool for nearly all other types of documents, including documents written with non-Latin letters.
    – Mico
    Commented Jan 22, 2012 at 21:33
  • 4
    @Mico - Lilypond is very similar to TeX and I'd happily use that for typesetting music.
    – CJBrew
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 9:37
  • 2
    @CJBrew: Agreed. The fact that Lilypond was written (mainly) by people who were very well versed in musixtex makes the point: TeX is not the method of choice for typesetting music.
    – Mico
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 9:48
  • 2
    In addition to all the "No!"'s, I'll just add that as an academic, sometimes internal proposals - those that are handled within the university itself - are required to be in a .doc format.
    – cm2
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 17:55
  • 2
    I think that in fact beamer encourages good (academic) style : focus on the information and forget the shinny effects. And if you need some visual support, it's even possible.
    – PHL
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 14:47

20 Answers 20


For my personal documents, I use LaTeX for all purposes, since

  • It's easy if you are a routine user, you know the common packages.

  • Basic page layout is quickly done with typearea or geometry.

  • After some time you've got a lot of documents to use as a template or as a start for a similar document.

  • My 16 years old documents still work, such as older articles, letters, CV. If I would have used a word processor with any format other than plain text, I'm sure they wouldn't be usable for me today.

On rare occasions, where I never made a certain kind of document, I take some minutes to create one, such as recently a leaflet for my girlfriend promoting an event. It took an hour, but looked great - with all the implicit advantages of LaTeX, such as nice justification even in narrow columns, also thanks to microtype.

I don't like to install the huge OpenOffice or LibreOffice suite, or Abiword, for a small purpose. And I don't buy Word - and don't copy it. I must admit, that I have to use it at work.

A TeX distribution is also not small - but I already have it installed, and the experts you asked for sure have it as well. I run it on my netbook, a laptop, a desktop, and have a TeX installation on a server where I can access it via SSH and FTPS from everywhere.

  • 7
    You mean TeXLive and MikTeX are not small. teTeX used to be moderately large (I would say small comparing to TeXLive) distribution. There is a new exciting distribution for Plan 9 and Unix called KerTeX kergis.com/en/kertex.html and it is really tiny comparing to TeXLive. Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 4:46
  • 4
    "I don't like to install the huge OpenOffice or LibreOffice suite, or Abiword, for a small purpose." ... of course, if you communicate with other human beings, chances are that you'll need to install an Office Suite anyway to open the stuff they send you :-)
    – Martin
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 13:47
  • 1
    @Martin Why do you need an Office Suite to open the stuff? That is why we have things like antiword, docx2txt and similar. Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 19:01
  • 3
    @PredragPunosevac: But KerTeX doesn't include pdfTeX/XeTeX/LuaTeX and most likely never will (due to it being BSD-licensed). Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 10:59
  • 1
    Too all: kerTeX supports already latin1 fonts, because of PostScript core fonts handling. Same can be true with CM via virtual fonts---planed in the future, as well as Unicode via utf-8. Since kerTeX has put the needles out of the haystack, it is now easy to understand how things work---for fonts look at the adm/pkg_core.sh to see how tfm are generated from PS AFM with reencoding. PostScript system fonts could be used too etc. This is the purpose of kerTeX to ease the understanding by simplifying. [BTW, hello and thanks to Predrag for his mention of kerTeX!] Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 18:09

Yes, I use TeX for generally anything that it can be used for. The reasons include:

  • Typing a letter is just like 20 TeX commands added to the text.
  • You get the best hyphenation ever possible. (I'm Czech and Czech language is really complicated considering word-breaking etc., TeX deals it correctly and if not, it can be manually reset)
  • My letters look professional, I get the correct, nicely placed, and consistent header and footer.
  • I can easily make automated texts. (combining MySQL, PHP, linux shell and LaTeX is extremly powerful weapon! And my friends who do not know anything about LaTeX can use it.) Example of automated plot and table
  • I don't have Windows and I don't like OpenOffice very much.
  • Templates do work very correctly and can be easily set up and modified.
  • The "automated texts" sound interesting. What kind of things do you create for instance?
    – user
    Commented Jan 22, 2012 at 21:46
  • 2
    I generate: 1) programme for a scout group, 2) plots and tables for the data on their progress: link
    – yo'
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 0:10


I do tend to have to look up how to do letters, as I do so few of them, but I'd have to look up how to do them in a word processing package anyway so I don't view that as anything extra. Even without the control that TeX affords, just the familiarity means that I'm so much faster writing any document in TeX than anything else.

I even do my kids birthday invitations in TeX.

Having read the other answers (so far), I thought I'd clarify one point. I took the question to mean "Is there anything where you would use a word-processor (or maybe DTP) instead of TeX?". I also use Lilypond for music, and bare text (ie no markup) for emails and text files that will never see the light of print, so I don't use LaTeX for absolutely every text document ever. But I do use it for anything someone else would use a word processor or DTP for, and I also use it for producing webpages and blog posts, so my rule seems to be: if I'm going to have formatted text and my document is not music, then I'll use LaTeX.

With 17 votes (at time of counting) for Stefan's comments, I feel I have no choice but to post the following picture:

Pink birthday cake

  • 23
    We already got New Years fireworks and Christmas trees in TikZ for use in TeX - I look forward to seeing TikZ birthday cakes from your kids invitations. ;-)
    – Stefan Kottwitz
    Commented Jan 22, 2012 at 21:23
  • The recipe for the cake: tex.stackexchange.com/a/42617/5701.
    – N.N.
    Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 12:11
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    TeX has the immense advantage that you could compute the number of candles required from the system date, giving reusable cake code. Try that with a word processor.
    – mabartibin
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 8:16
  • Never thought of that! Neat. Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 8:40


You can not and you should not use TeX for everything. There are two things from the top of my head for which TeX should not be used.

  1. The first one is Unix man pages. Please use mandoc (BSD systems) or use Groff (System V Unix and Unix like including Linux).

  2. Although possible to type music in TeX (MusicTeX and MusiXTeX) LilyPond is just more beautiful due to inheritable antisymmetry of music scores. People who developed LilyPond used to work on MusicTeX as developers.

Disclaimer I have been using TeX since early 90s but I could not be considered an expert by any stretch of imagination!

  • 10
    I don't really consider the 1) being a real "document", similarly to a HTML page, but I agree, TeX isn't a tool for that. And I completely agree on 2) because LilyPond is really great.
    – yo'
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 0:12
  • 1
    +1 for Lilypond. I love it... Do you know, is Lilypond actually based on TeX or just inspired by it?
    – CJBrew
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 9:43
  • As far as I know just inspired by it. It is written from the scratch by former MusicTeX developers. Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 12:20
  • @CJBrew LilyPond has two keywords in common with TeX: typography and backslash-braces-syntax. However, notice that LilyPond uses this syntax only in the user layer, the programmer layer uses parenteses and apostrophes.
    – yo'
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 10:28
  • 1
    @tohecz I feel that it's worth mentioning that the programmer layer is in fact a LISP variant Scheme; see lilypond.org/doc/v2.19/Documentation/internals/backend Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 6:02

When creating a one-off document, you should wonder whether it is really one-off. I continuously recycle existing TeX documents for new scenario's. You will find that it gets easier once you have already produced a number of documents, because you will have encountered more and more typesetting scenario's and problems.

There is one very good reason NOT to use TeX. This is the case when you are producing read-write documents. And this happens more than you think. Suppose you are documenting the website you have developed. If your colleague takes over this project, he will have to learn TeX to be able to correct/adjust your documentation.

There is one very good reason to use TeX in this scenario: when collaborating on a document. The ability for a TeX document to be stored in Subversion is just awesome, and there is no comparison to any binary WYSIWYG editor document.

  • 3
    Writing a CV in (La)TeX? You'll have a beautiful CV in a PDF file. But then you'll find you still have to convert it to HTML and then to a Word document, or recruiters won't touch it (since they can't remove your personal details, introduce spelling errors, etc... ;-)
    – CJBrew
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 9:40
  • 3
    Yes, TeX is indeed awesome for folks that know TeX. But you're right on about collaboration... unless you're an academic, you may be the only one in your team who can maintain TeX documents. Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 17:44

No. I use it (well, LaTeX, actually) for any document that needs to look good, and that includes letters and any technical documents. But I use the markdown format for simpler documents that may also be used in pre-formatted form. Prime among these is the README document that exists in pretty much every working directory in my computer. Markdown is useful because it provides some formatting (lists, font changes, images, etc) but without adding very much in the way of formatting codes. If I wish to expand a markdown format in more detail, I just use pandoc to create a LaTeX file from it, and then proceed with that.


I'm a bit late to this party, but here are things that I use my TeX distro for:

  • CV: Yes, I send people a PDF; tell them I don't provide source code; and offer to do whatever they want to it (like including their logo and excluding direct contact details). I've generally met with a very positive response, but this is not for internet bodyshops.

  • Proposals to clients: as contractor, but also as subcontractor, with requests for tailoring from prime contractors. Again, very positive feedback, in part because "Oh, how did you do this with Word" leads into interesting and engaging conversations.

  • Design documents: again very well received, especially the TikZ diagrams.

  • Software architecture manuals: cross-referencing and indexing is very productive, and, again, TikZ rules.

  • Presentations, with beamer; PDF presentations, projected with Impressive, are, and beamer's facilities for adding and subtracting things-on-a-slide are highly effective. Of course, one still has to be careful of replacing "Death by PowerPoint" with "Death by Beamer".

  • Letters and envelopes of all shapes, sizes and natures.

  • Personal and business cards. (OK, I know that's a bit old-fashioned.)

All of this (except for beamer, of course) is built on Peter Wilson's incomparable memoir document class.

TeX needs some investment of your time, but it will be a lifelong friend (though sometimes a little irritating). Of course, in this modern world, largely managed by elderly teenagers, everything is "urgent", but join us all in restoring a bit of elegance to modern document production.

  • You can write letters using the "memoir" class? Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 21:06
  • 1
    Well, I do. I knocked together a few commands and built a special-purpose document class which does a \LoadClass{memoir}, and another one for envelopes. They're a bit too "Brent-ish" for CTAN. Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 21:34
  • Ok, I see, you created a custom documentation class. Thanks. Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 21:39
  • Yes, but using facilities from memoir (for example, the page layout controls, so I can write on 229x178mm stock). So memoir does most of the heavy lifting. Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 21:45
  • I'm even later to the party, but luckily this party shows no sign of ending. For SE documentation (design docs, architecture manuals, etc.) do you use any particular document class, or do you start from scratch? I'm trying to develop something similar for my company (with little anticipation of them actually wanting it, but still), and am having trouble defining any sort of logical structure for documents such as these. Commented Jun 5, 2013 at 17:55

I'm by no means an expert, but for me it's pretty situational. I'll use TeX for nearly everything if I can get away with it.

I'm still in school, so if a professor/TA requests that I complete an assignment and send it in .doc(x) format (which is rare), I'm going to be restricted to Word. Of course there are TeX to Word conversion tools, but this usually isn't worth going out of my way for. But if a professor/TA says .pdf is also fine, TeX it is---all day, every day!

Being in science program, there are usually a lot of abbreviations, numbers, units, figures, reaction schemes, citations, etc. that I deal with when I'm writing, so TeX and Bib(La)TeX are more than infinitely useful here. I'd probably drop out of school if it weren't for both of them (hah).

In the rare case that I want a WYSIWYG environment (though LyX provides this, which I do not use), I'll usually open Word and work in there, but 99.9% of the time I'll just translate that to TeX anyway.

Using TeX for even the most simplest documents is fine in my book, because everything just works. If there's a formatting issue or error, you can either find it and fix it right away or turn to great communities for support like we have here. :-) With Word, fixing a formatting issue usually leads to me slamming my head into a wall repeatedly.

  • 10
    If a professor asks for a .doc document, I pretend he really meant .pdf and send a pdf. Since a pdf is the same as a .doc in the sense that you can click on it, and the prof's computer can open it, PDF is always fine ;-)
    – Unapiedra
    Commented Jan 22, 2012 at 21:36
  • That's certainly true! But in my experience, profs/TAs want .docs so they can use Word's commenting functionality so they can leave comments at certain places in the document. But then again, I guess they could do that in Acrobat or any other reader with a .pdf!
    – user2473
    Commented Jan 22, 2012 at 22:23
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    I am an assistant professor of mathematics and I and most of my colleagues will immediately dismiss any documents (in particular job applications) which were not typed in TeX. The point that I am trying to make is that every field has its own standards and preferences and if you are going to be a good citizen you will have to conform to the rules of the community. For example my wife is a Biologist and in Biology 99% of all documents are written in Word. You can like it or not but if you are going to be a Biologist you will have to use it. Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 0:02

I'm far from being an expert (I'd rather call myself an enthusiastic user :)) and my relationship with LaTeX wasn't love at first sight. In the early days, I was typesetting formulas with MS Office and that was a real pain. Then I discovered OpenOffice, which has some (limited) tool for typesetting formulas that is similar to LaTeX. Somebody saw me do that and said: 'Hey, that's like LaTeX! If you prefer typing your formulas, why not use it anyway?' So I gave it a try. In the very beginning I was frustrated with the (seemingly) odd way floats were placed, the various packages I had to load, and so on. So I abandoned it for the time being. Then I had to write a paper in LaTeX anyway and thought I might as well do some research. That's how I discovered the logic behind floats placement and became fascinated. As I dug myself in deeper and deeper, I realized that you can indeed do almost anything with LaTeX. Maybe that's not good enough. (For me in any case it isn't. ;)) But then there is Lua(La)TeX and the upcoming LaTeX3, so if there is anything you can't do with LaTeX (and friends), there already is someone bound to be working on a solution. :D

As 'further reading', I'd just suggest this question.


Of course asking such a question on a TeX site will give you a pretty biased view.

There are several points in favor of using TeX as a general purpose typesetting tool and a pretty good replacement for programs like MS Word. The main advantages are in my opinion:

  • Division of structure and layout
  • Typesetting quality
  • Classes that provide you with professional formats within minutes
  • Mathematical and other special typesetting is well supported
  • Automation (this is hard to explain, as a TeX document is based on plain text files it is relatively easy to connect it to other tools or programming languages)

TeX on the other hand is not as user friendly as a more visually oriented program. In MS Word, OpenOffice, Adobe InDesign I can press buttons or have menus and can learn the basic functionality within a few hours. In LaTeX I often struggle to find the right "word" to describe what I am trying to achieve and then I still have to google for a minute or two to find out how to change the page footer that it contains the total number of pages on every page.

In the end the final document is often worth the effort but with a lesser focus on quality I could have hacked together something often faster in Word.

Another limitation is that you can only exchange your documents within a relatively small group of people. Most computer users can somehow edit a MS Word document, this is unfortunately not true for anything TeX-related.

In the end just try to use the tool that is best for the job. For professional typesetting I can recommend LaTeX and also Indesign but just throwing together something will often be faster in MS Office, OpenOffice, etc.

(Background: I am familiar with LaTeX and have used it to typeset letters, books, lecture notes and posters but not consider myself an expert by far.)

  • 3
    +1 for a balanced answer. A few points, however: 1) Word and Writer both have good separation of content and style, it's just that very few people use it (and it's not forced on users, which is probably a bad thing). 2) Typesetting quality is a function of the renderer, not the format. It's conceivable that OO might implement tex-quality rendering for odt->pdf.
    – naught101
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 3:25

Yes, definitely.

Aside from the fact that, as you mention, you separate form and content, which is both wise and effective in most cases, you also have to consider the fact that you can write LaTeX on nearly every text editor (I say nearly because I usually prefer having syntax colouring on when coding a layout… but pretty much anything is fine for regular text). And dedicated editors usually have just one button, one that works when you click it – which is perfect for dummies like me. Word processors have so many buttons and menus everywhere, so many options to tamper with, and behave in such an unruly way that I feel like banging my head against the closest wall whenever forced to use them. Some of them are even evil enough to randomly swallow your footnotes (or is it just me they hate?).

If the alternative is MS Word, all documents require "advanced" typesetting. One can usually spot a document written in a word processor in about five seconds, mainly because of the default layout and of the horizontal and vertical spacing. As has been said by others above, as long as you define your own basic templates for most texts, writing a LaTeX document will basically require you to copy a file that contains the preamble / layout, or load a package you created for such use. This is not much of an effort and certainly does not take more time than using a word processor, in which most things cannot be automated.

Regarding automation, as has been said above, Bib(La)TeX does a great job at citations, and I don't know how I would manage to write anything if it weren't for it – writing up bibliographies yourself and making sure they are somewhat consistent is just awful, writing indexes would simply be out of the question. And you can use all sorts of default or custom commands for bits of text, with the advantage that you can redefine them at any time, should you need to. One can even automate most language and punctuation related things, and this really saves time for most languages.

That being said, I admit that I do not use LaTeX for everything. For one thing, I do not send my emails with an attached .pdf file because most people would not read them, and it does not really make sense anyway except for very long or very formal emails (in which case I do use LaTeX). I do not use LaTeX syntax either when writing up to-do notes and lists of things, because I would never process them anyway and just read the text as it is (but then again, I usually write these by hand on a piece of paper). And I have some old text documents that I have been too lazy to convert, but that's definitely a mistake on my part.


It certainly depends on the content. For instance, I use TeX for almost everything, that is mostly text. Everything from info posters to business cards. However, when the text is a message in itself, such as price lists or signs, I use vector graphing programs, like Inkscape. I don't see the point in using TikZ for making the entrance sign of a pub. I much rather use graphing programs for that.

There is one thing in using a tool just because you can, and another thing in using what makes the most sense.


Another thing to keep in mind is that TeX (any macro package) is designed for static typesetting. It works best if your desired final result is a pdf, slides, or ink on paper. It does not work quite as well if you also want to target reflowable formats like HTML.

There are packages to do that, but they have limitations, and not all other packages work well with them. If reflowable formats like HTML are part of your target, you might be better off using some other tool as the basis for your document, such as DocBook.

I'd still suggest writing an XSLT sheet or similar to create LaTeX from the original for the typeset verions.


I wish I could do everything with LaTeX! I agree with the other contributers that it is hardly over kill. Once you've typeset one letter or CV, you can make a thousand more with very little time investment. And with XeTeX multiple languages and fonts are no longer major issues.

Unfortunately, one common situation that TeX handles poorly is collaboration. When I have to interact with coworkers or family, I find myself collaborating on docs via trac or Google Docs. Often, I'd prefer to be working in TeX but the system is ill-suited for such exercises--continuously recompiling? broken syntax not rendering at all? I am not aware of a production quality online collaborative service for editing TeX documents. For more conventional "edit and return" collaboration also, TeX is limited. Aside from the interoperability problem (because the person you're collaborating with may not know TeX), I don't know of any straightforward way to "track changes" the way you can with Word or comparable software. I applied for a technical writing job in which I would have had to write scientific text in Word so that the team could use "track changes." I'm kind of glad it fell through. :)

So my answer is, any document that I control from start to finish, I do in TeX. But it's rare that I collaborate on a TeX document.

  • 3
    The right tool for automatically tracking changes is a version control software. The bonus is that it works the same on all purely textual formats, be it LaTeX source, XML documents, program source code, or just plain ASCII text files.
    – celtschk
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 13:47
  • 3
    One might note that LaTeX can actually be superior when collaborating, namely when you put the plain text sources into a source repository (Git, Hg, Subversion, ...) because you then can just merge the differences of concurrent edits. Obviously, this isn't always the case.
    – Martin
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 13:50
  • Regarding Google Docs and TeX see this paper and this software. Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 11:10
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    @MartinSchröder, I'm intrigued but I can't access either of those links (not a TUG member and 404, respectively)
    – mmdanziger
    Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 8:59
  • @mmdanziger: Please contact the author. Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 11:48

Generally yes. One case when I could use LaTeX, but I don't initially, is when designing a new document with a very different layout (such as a poster, or a flyer). I find it easier to do the initial design using Pages (on a Mac) since I need the visual feedback during the design stage. The typographic output of Pages can be very high if you are careful, and by making good use of styles, you can quickly explore changing fonts etc. (The latter can be done very well in XeLaTeX too, but changing layouts is not quick in TeX.)

Once I have answered to myself the design questions, however, then I will try to make a LaTeX style that reproduces that for future use. I find that it is much easier to separate the design from the implementation, and so use Pages as preliminary step. For one-off jobs, such as time-sensitive posters that are high on graphics, transparency etc., I often do not bother with the conversion to LaTeX, but for long term or repeated use, LaTeX all the way.


I use LaTeX for everything unless I'm directed otherwise. Since I'm still in college, I suppose I have a little more freedom. Most of my professors love how nice my documents look, especially papers, since they are usually typeset using the IEEEtran documentclass. The most positive feedback that I receive is in my math classes, where LaTeX really shines. Sure it takes about an hour or two longer to typeset my homework in LaTeX rather than handwriting it, but I feel that the process really helps me internalize what I'm doing as I'm doing it.

I have found that typing notes during class with LaTeX is difficult. Even when using vim with a bunch of plugins (SnipMate for example), I can't really keep up with the lecture. I think my biggest problem is that I focus too much on formatting during class that I fall behind. I'm sure that if I took the time to develop some sort of template I would be able to pull it off. I also could use more practice.

Here's a list of documents that I've used LaTeX for:

  • Homework
  • Resume
  • Cover Letter
  • Notes (Sometimes I take notes while reading through a textbook).
  • Business Cards
  • Presentations (Beamer)
  • Various graphics with Tikz
  • Papers (Bibtex is enough to make me want to use LaTeX for this)

This semester I'm taking a software engineering course where I'm going to attempt to do UML diagrams and a Software Requirements Specification with LaTeX. I'm sure my professor will be very impressed. This is why I try to use LaTeX for everything.

  • Out of curiosity, how did your SRS turn out? Would you be willing to post it as an example? Commented Jun 5, 2013 at 18:24
  • Unfortunately the rest of my group preferred Microsoft Word... I did find a nice template that I was going to use. I'll see if I can dig it up.
    – user2485
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 13:12
  • I'm sorry to hear that :-( my condolences XD Your chances get better by leaps and bounds if you have a TeXnically-inclined friend, though. Might want to find someone to stick close to XD Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 13:51

This is not a real answer, and I am not an expert:o)

I believe that if the document is to be made sufficiently quick and dirty, LaTeX would not be the choice. e.g. a landscape sign saying noting but 'WC' in huge letters, would be easier and faster to do in some office program.

  • I'd use a rattle can ;-)
    – Psirus
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 15:02
  • 1
    @Psirus: I think that my girlfriend will be plenty mad, when she wakes with a piece of paper taped to her forehead. Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 8:27

I would not recommend TeX for any document that requires arbitrary layout, lots of graphics, e.g. magazines or presentations, or for ad-hoc one-off things. I know about beamer and prosper, but IMHO they encourage bad style (boring slides with lots of text and no real visual support of the talk). If you need arbitrary text blocks and flowing around images, a nice headache awaits you.

(La)TeX really shines for a few kinds of documents:

  • complex structured documents with lots references, math, index, deep sectioning, etc (the typical example being textbooks, scientific works or technical manuals);

  • long texts where you want some sort of version control during the writing process, be it for recording changes or collaborating with several authors;

  • fine typography: for novels, there should be minimal markup required in the text itself, so the typographic design can be developed independently of the content;

  • small, regular documents (e.g. I use it for letters); the style took some effort to get right, but now making a new letter is just filling in a template.

(answer expanded from my comment on the question)

  • That's an interesting point about beamer. I actually like latex+beamer for presentations more than I like it for documents, because it discourages visual distractions and guff. But I can see how it might make some communication more difficult. Would be great to get some good examples of that.
    – naught101
    Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 2:03
  • It depends what sort of presentations you like to do, and I'm probably suffering of death-by-beamer, having suffered through too many bad talks with too much text and the default blue theme with these useless header/footer decorations. I tend to have many one-off slides, sometimes with contrasting colors or 900pt size characters just because, annotations or highlights that appear as I discuss a point, and ad-hoc placement of stuff is vital for me. Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 13:07

Everything I write at home is written in LaTeX. I mostly use the KOMA classes, which follow European typesetting guidelines. I mostly write letters nowadays, of course I wouldn't want to use Word for that.


For documents like:

  • spreadsheets
  • notes / general text files <-- more work
  • music <-- better alternatives exist
  • videos <-- (????)

using TeX is more work or in some cases, impossible!

  • 8
    I guess the OP means writing text oriented documents, not calculations or videos. From the question text: "Do you fall back to a Word processing program, or do you stick with TeX?"
    – Stefan Kottwitz
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 15:00
  • 2
    This answer seems a bit @Harsh. I would say that, for the writing of music, tools could be written (I'm thinking Python or LuaTeX) that would even ease the composition of music. And certainly for spreadsheets, TeX shines in data formatting---although it is worth it to maintain data manipulation in some other plain-text context (again, LuaTeX and Python come to mind). That said, I totally would have written this comment just for the pun. Commented Jun 5, 2013 at 18:54
  • 1
    :D I'd have made it too, had I been not the poster :P
    – kumarharsh
    Commented Jun 5, 2013 at 19:23

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