Why learn LaTeX?


I’m into latex. No, not the kinky kind.

I am talking about LaTeX, a typesetting system that has been around for more than 30 years. You can use LaTeX to write pretty much any kind of document, and the LaTeX community has contributed countless packages and templates to reduce your workload. These packages and resources can be found at https://ctan.org/.

LaTeX for scientists

This series of posts will talk about the philosophy of LaTeX and how it can be incorporated into the scientific workflow. While it may seem overly complex and time consuming at first, LaTeX is actually very simply to use and allows researchers to focus on the content of their writing rather than its style.

The initial fear and resistance to LaTeX is the same as what people experience when they are first introduced to computer programming. People resist learning to program because it seems overly difficult. They don’t know where to start and they feel they can do everything just fine with Excel. What people need to realize is that computer programming is powerful. It allows you to do things in a more reproducible way. Once the basics are learned, computer programming saves you countless hours and allows you to tackle questions that were simply not possible before.

LaTeX is the same. It seems overly complex at first. People don’t know where to start and they feel they can do everything with their wordprocessor of choice (e.g. Word, LibreOffice, etc). Change is never easy, and learning something new requires a certain level of committent and openness to failure and frustration. The good news is that these failures and frustrations will soon turn into successes and inspirations! By learning LaTeX you will learn a valuable skill, one that will distinguish you from your peers and that will unify your workflow and that of your students.

Every tool has its use. By the end of these tutorials, hopefully you will understand that LaTeX has its place in your toolbox. As scientists and academics, we prepare presentations, maintain course notes, keep lab books, write letters, write books, write and revise theses, and write scientific papers. LaTeX can make all of these writing tasks simpler, more visually appealing, more consistent, and more reproducible and transparent.

Getting started

To get started, have a look at our introduction to LaTeX here.

Conclusion

Even if you know nothing about LaTeX or typesetting programs, hopefully your curiosity will lead to to our next post, where we will jump right into article writing using templates provided by publishers.

 

 

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