Linked by Andy Roberts on Mon 6th Jun 2005 18:19 UTC

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Linked by Andy Roberts on Mon 6th Jun 2005 18:19 UTC

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To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.

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I remember taking the course on systems/network performance. The first assignment was to write lots of formulas and to include some charts/graphics. This is where I had a hell of the time using Microsoft tools.

1. Setting up the math formulas can be pain in a neck. Suppose you need a greek letter. You have to find the menu option, select that greek letter. How about making sure the font is appropriate, the size is correct? Difficult!

2. Including the graphics: what if the graphic doesn't fit at the remaining space of the page? So it will be moved somewhere. But how can you control it? Difficult again.

So I had a hell of the time, and fortunately instructor told us to try LaTeX. I've tried and got hooked immediately, and been using it ever since. The beauty of LaTeX is that it is a mark-up language. You just put all the staff into the ascii file, and compile it, as described in the article, to get DVI.

So, for instance, to put nicely spaced formula for, say, the law of sines I write

[

sin (alpha + beta) = sinalphacosbeta + cosalphasinbeta

]

Here the pair [ and ] delimits the 'math mode'. Math mode uses different spacing. Next note that alpha and beta will be typeset as a greek letters alpha and beta. Finally, note that I don't write 'sin' and 'cos' but rather 'sin' and 'cos'. LaTeX will use different fonts for 'sin' and 'cos' and put some small amount of space between, say, 'sin' and 'alpha'. The formula is centered in the middle of the line, and there is some space left at the top and bottom. The end result is nice and readable formula.

A second example is incluing the graphic. In LaTeX you need to save your graphic as EPS (extended postscript) file, and then include it into the text, with the syntax --- somethin like this: (not precise, I don't remember exactly right now):

begin{figure}[htbp]

includegraphics{parameters like file name, and resizing}

title

end{figure}

Parameters [htbp] means 'here, top, bottom, page'. LaTeX try to include graphics 'here' (that is, where it is defined), next at the top of page, next at the bottom, and finally move to next page. LaTeX has very sophisticated algorithm to figure out the most appropriate location of the graphics, and also provides some knobs to tweak that algorithm to your liking. Since this is EPS format, you can provide resizing parameters on a fly, like make the end result 1.5 larger than the original EPS file.

So the bottom line: if you write some documents which involve lots of formulas and lots of graphics/charts you have to include, give LaTeX a try.