Writing and LaTeX

Rod Lakes
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Why LaTeX
Add a new figure? Figure numbering is handled automatically and correctly by LaTeX. Add a new equation? Equation numbering is also handled automatically and correctly. Further benefits include cross platform compatibility, and flexibility sufficient for writing highly structured reports, journal articles, theses, or books.

Problems with word processors
Here is an equation group written with a popular word processor and viewed with the same version of software on another computer.
equation in word

The following linked word document was written with a prior version of word. Try opening it with a recent version. try do it
If you have any difficulty, that means your present word documents will present similar problems in the future; it is not forward compatible.

At best, with a recent word document opened with an earlier version of word, there may be an opportunity to recover some parts of it with formatting lost.
compatibility

Here is a recent word document opened with an earlier version of word, converted to gibberish.
compatibility 2

Here is a prior word document in which one attempts to open with an recent version of word.
word compatibility block

Using LaTeX
Such frustration can be eliminated by using LaTeX. The software is free for popular platforms such as Linux, Mac, Windows. The LaTeX file is a text file with formatting commands embedded; when typeset it generates a pdf. The text can always be extracted. LaTeX is particularly appropriate for writing journal articles, technical reports, theses, and books. There is a non-trivial learning curve. That is less of an obstacle now that popular word processors involve a non-trivial learning curve as well.
If your time horizon is short, as for an undergraduate report or homework that you will not need to read in the future, it is sensible to continue to use word.

Where to get LaTeX
TexShop front end (user interface) for Mac, and LaTeX links, TexShop
for Mac, Mac Tex
for all platforms including Windows, Linux, Tex Live
Tutorial the not so short introduction to latex, pdf by Oetiker


Converters and equation writing
The pdf generated by LaTeX can be converted into Word. One way is to select the contents of the pdf and paste into a blank Word document.


Open Office (free, cross platform) can read Word, write LaTeX.

Writing equations using a graphical interface on a Mac
Open Grapher Mac utility from Finder, Go menu, Utilities
Write equation. Use templates or examples or just write it; use caret symbol for power.
Select equation, control click on it, window on right.
Option appears Copy LaTeX expression, put arrow on it, release
Paste into document.
Keep in mind that equations embedded in LaTeX text must be between $ symbols
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