LaTeX and Word

How do you control the layout? Does each image come with a bounding box, and you place that with respect to page coordinates? I’m assuming it does vector illustrations as well as raster?

The basic LaTeX packages do not provide such fine-grained control of layout, unfortunately. Each image does come with a bounding box, but you are restricted to placing images at the top of the page, bottom of the page, or “here.” Further, despite the image having a bounding box, LaTeX does not flow text around images by default (and the package that many people use to do this, wrapfig, is not particularly good). I’m sure there are packages that provide better control, though.

Yup. PDF and EPS figures are supported out of the box.

The only suggestion I’ve seen here is yours–that I try it for myself. And nothing I’ve said could be construed as rejecting it.

Let’s just start with a nice, simple example: Can you faithfully reproduce the LaTeX logo in Word?

Sorry if I gave the impression I’m trying to “rebut” anything. I have questions, nothing more. If I have further clarifying questions after the first answers, these are not “rebuttals” but further attempts to understand.

The suggestion that I try it myself is fine, but only goes so far–before I invest any serious time in the endeavor I’d like to have reasons to think it’s worthwhile.

I’d do that in an art program and copy it in, so yes in a sense, but no in the sense you probably mean.

But LaTeX, as far as I can tell, “cheats” to make that logo. There’s a special code specifically for producing that particular logo. How easy would it be for me to produce some other word in an equally stylish looking fashion in LaTeX?

SVG can also be included.

You generally leave the layout to LaTeX to figure out where the placement is best. It has all sorts of heuristics for working this out. You can be more specific by telling LaTeX that you’d prefer the image to appear at the top of the page, the bottom, and so on. You can also “float” figures and have text wrap around them using floatflt.

How can I have a good idea what people are trying to explain if they’re, as you say, only “hinting” at the facts?

What does this mean? What is “best placement” in this context, and what does LaTeX do such that I can trust it to select that best placement?

This is probably the crux of the issue–I’m having difficulty seeing the value of LaTeX because I have never had to generate content that has to be in a precise, controlled format. Basically, anything I write can be suitably formatted with (more than just this, but basically things in the spirit of) tabs and a few interspersed images.

Which may just mean I’m not a good candidate for LaTeX. But people I know who do exactly the same kind of writing I do seem to think it’s awesome, and I still don’t know why.

It escapes me how my typing things here on my laptop at home is wasting anyone’s time but my own.

You can try LaTeX online for free to have a go and see if its for you. You may also enjoy LaTeX for logicians, and drawing maths symbols to find out their corresponding LaTeX code.

I’m starting to get an idea what LaTeX is good for from this example, and from the paper linked to by someone above.

Why my friends should find it useful is still beyond me–they just write, basically, essays with very little notation of any kind, if any at all. Word seems fine.

But above someone said publishers always have LaTeX templates for submissions. I’ve noticed that, but never taken notice of it. I can see how this would make it more convenient for me–instead of formatting the thing myself in Word according to their specifications, I can just type the text, label its parts, and apply their template. Right?

Thanks, I think I’m getting the picture.

What does Word do wrong w.r.t. hyphenation?

Very nice example, exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. Thanks!

What do you mean, it cheats? It uses a defined style which is built out of a series of formatting instructions or tags. The point of this is, once you have designed this style, you can reference it with a single tag. You can change “LATEX” to “BILLIONS OF BIG BOUNCY BALLOONS” and it will apply the same formatting. You can (probably) get the same formatting in Word, but you would have to apply it letter by letter, and if you change the word, you have to reapply the formatting. TeX treats the formatting data separate from the content data, so that you don’t have to mess with formatting while generating content, or mess with content in order to obtain the desired formatting.

TeX will pick the location (based upon the parameters in the LaTeX tags that tell it in general where the user would like the object) to prevent interruption of the text. It won’t lodge it, for instance, where it will break a paragraph or create a line with one word that has to have the letters s p r e a d o u t l i k e t h i s in order to maintain justification. Word has no capability to make these kinds of adjustments; it is up to the user to adjust text and object location to get the desired appearance. Some people describe it as WYSIWYM (“What You See Is What You Mean,”) versus WSYIWG.

I think a lot of the frustration expressed in this thread is similar to trying to teach a desert nomad the benefits of learning to swim. Really, if none of this sounds important or useful to you, then you probably don’t need to use it. For most people, as hobbled as it is, Word is mostly adequate. Even for things that require format control, like resumes, it works well enough to more or less get what you need out of it. But if, like many of us who write technical papers, you find yourself fighting with a word processor like Word trying to make it format things properly and consistently, then you should consider a structured document editor like TeX. If you do want to play with it, LyX is a visual editor for LaTeX that makes it more accessible than handcoding.


That’s one of the feature, yes. “Plain” LaTeX is a system that lets you write a document with structure (headings, chapters, paragraphs, figures, references etc) and some “this figure should be somewhere around here” type indicators and it will lay out the whole document for you completely automatically. You might want to tweak some of the choices it makes (maybe inserting a few page breaks, placing some figure at the top - things like that), but it should take almost most all of the layout work out of your hands and into the hands of whoever designed the particular style you’re using.

Being able to create complex equations, diagrams and tables in a structured way is invaluable when you need it, but not really the core of the concept.

From looking at the actual LaTeX code, it appeared to me there’s just a special keyword for producing that particular logo. (“LaTeX{}”.) But maybe I misunderstood.

So you’re saying if I typed instead “Billions of big bouncy ballons{}” it’d make that phrase look snazzy as well?

Okay, I see what you’re saying.

I don’t think so. You and a couple of other people have done a great job of adducing specific examples that are directly relevant to my inquiries. I had no dificulty in seeing the benefits. I think the frustration comes from somewhere else, but that’s not really relevant to the thread.

I think this is about right. To explain my mystified attitude, it comes from the fact that I see people singing LaTeX’s praises who don’t write anything in the least bit technical (in the sense you mean) at all. But from this thread, I’m learning at least why many people use it, if not the particular people interact with on this issue in daily life.

That was my next question, so thanks for anticipating it. :wink: Do LaTeX users like it generally? Does it do for them what they want LaTeX to do?

No. The point is that many journals require submissions in LaTeX format so that they can dump them directly into their typesetting system without having to completely reformat them. Nobody takes a Word file and just prints it into a book or journal; there is just no way for a commercial publication system to parse that formatting. Something you don’t seem to understand that the text you see on the screen in your Word document is only a fraction of the actual data that is in the file; most of the data, especially in a complex document, are formatting codes and instructions that you don’t (and for the most part, can’t) see in Word, even with the format codes turned on. Publishers need all of that data in order to operate the printing system, in the same way that a computer controlled machining mill needs more than just the CAD model of the part but all of the instructions on how to move the head, where to measure datums from, which bit or mill to use, et cetera.

Really? Do you use hyphenation in Word? Because it is one of the most absolutely broken, piss-poor defects in Word that most other word processors have actually learned to cope with. In fact, sometimes I think that Word has an intentional anti-feature to deliberately orphan hyphenated words. You spend ten minutes adjust text to get the orphan word on the next line, and then it jumps back to the previous one in toto, and then breaks when you try to print it. I can write a soliloquy that rivals Richard of Gloucester about the vengeance I would care to wreck on Microsoft for the lost hours of fixing craptastic hyphenation.


The \LaTeX macro is not a keyword, it’s a macro. It’s defined as:

    \vbox to \ht0{\hbox{	he\scriptfont0 A}\vss}}%

So yes, you can do the same thing with any other word if you so wish.