*HCS* Re: hcs-discuss digest, Vol 1 #122 - 6 msgs

Brendan Connell bdconnel at fas.harvard.edu
Fri Jan 18 14:02:17 EST 2002

On Fri, 18 Jan 2002, Greg Westin shaped the electrons to say:

> I get the digest version, so I'm a little behind on this discussion,
> but why do you use TeX for papers, anyways?

A few reasons:

(1) Papers can be easily accessed and edited from any terminal on campus.
    This greatly simplifies last-minute corrections--just log in, edit,
    and run lpr.  (The alternative:  find a computer that runs Word and
    has an FTP/sftp/scp client, download the document (assuming it's
    accessible), hope it converts OK, edit, print, upload it back...

(2) Papers are saved as plain text.  So you can:
    - edit them with vi, emacs, etc, which are much more powerful than
      Word's built-in editor
    - process them with standard Unix text utilities
    - keep them around in an archive that will remain easily viewable and
      searchable for years to come

(3) As you say, the formatting of a typical paper doesn't matter much...
    which is why (IMHO) an instantaneous preview is at best unnecessary,
    and at worst distracting.  Writing a paper in TeX lets you focus on
    what really matters: the text.  Once you've done it a few times, you
    don't even have to THINK about how the document looks, because you
    know it will basically look fine.

Freshman year, I used Word, but I soon switched to using LaTeX for all my
papers and never looked back.  For serious page layout, I do find
graphical tools much easier... but in papers that's not usually an issue.


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