LaTeX forum ⇒ Community talkShould I Use LaTeX or MS Word?

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Should I Use LaTeX or MS Word?

Postby SharK » Fri Mar 07, 2014 5:16 pm

First of all sorry that this is a very basic Q. I just figured I could spend hours trying to work this out myself - or I can just ask people who have more of an idea!

I have not formal background in coding - I have self taught myself a little to do statistics and graphs in R - I enjoyed learning that but it did take me a while and I can only study part-time. On top of that I have a 10 month old daughter who is a major attention seeker so my part-time is very part-time!

I will need to be able to create journal articles - I know that LaTeX can create great bibliographies - but can I cite while I write - as I can with EndNote in a word document? I do not want to have to do something too involved every time I insert a citation.

Also as previously mentioned I use R for graphs. I may also need to include a few pictures etc Can I insert these easily?

Also as I am in the field of Plant Biology - not a physics or computing background I am unsure as to whether or not using LaTeX will be suitable for what I will be asked to do.

Here is an example of some instructions to authors from one prospective journal (Functional Plant Biology)- no LaTeX template currently exists for this journal that I know of:

Preparation of manuscript for submission
Format your manuscript with 1.5-line spacing throughout, using Times New Roman 12 font. Word for Windows is preferred, but most packages (e.g. other versions of Word or WordPerfect) are acceptable. If you have none of these, please submit an RTF (Rich Text Format) file.

But then ....

Include all tables and embedded figures at the end of the main document, and submit the whole as a single MSWord, RTF or PDF file. Word and RTF files will be converted to PDF before sending for review.

So considering it doesn't seem to be standard in my field - should I take the time to learn to use LaTeX now - or not bother?

Thank You for your time and I appreciate your honest responses :-)

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Postby hugovdberg » Sat Mar 08, 2014 1:54 am

Would you please stop using that foul language, only hearing 'word-document' makes me shiver :lol:

Although LaTeX is widely used within the more mathematics and physics related areas of science, that doesn't mean it can't be used outside that area. In fact it can be used to typeset any text you like.

Citing is something that takes a little getting used to, but I really like the way latex does it. You assign each reference a key in a separate bibliography file, and in your text it can be as simple as using \cite{<your key>}, and process your document with bibtex/biber, and all your references are updated automatically. In more advanced cases you could use biblatex, this gives you more control over the way your references are typeset, and more styles for your citations.

I'm not very familiar with R, but I guess if it produces graphics files or data files you can definitely include them in your document, including a figure can really be as simple as \includegraphics{<your filename>}.

Since in the end all they ask is either a PDF or something that's easily converted to a PDF I think it would be definitely worth learning it, especially if you plan on writing more than this one paper. Once you know the basics it saves you a lot of time thinking about how to get how it should look like, and it helps you focus on what you really want to do: write a decent paper and spread your new knowledge :)
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Postby SharK » Sat Mar 08, 2014 2:26 am

OK Thank You,
I will give it a shot then.
I appreciate your reply and will endeavor to keep the foul language to a minimum in the future. :-)

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Postby Johannes_B » Sat Mar 08, 2014 10:29 pm

I completely agree with hugo on all the advantages of LaTeX, it is great.

But in your case: Be careful and do not waste your time.

Sound to me like the standard workflow of journals. Get the text raw (as raw as possible, most journals don't even allow bold-face or italics), get the figures and tables and put everything together themselves. You should ask them first, i don't want you to be disappointed when your article looks completely different when published.

But nonetheless, you should give LaTeX a try ;-)
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Postby ubuntu2014 » Fri Mar 06, 2015 4:59 pm

LaTeX will give you many features over Word, but it will also snatch some.
For example, if your title is a little long, LaTeX will automatically break it into two lines (which you may not like) and there will be no option to envoke the title in one line (unless you stop using the \title command and adjust the font size or adjust borders). It is you who needs to decide what is important for you and what is not. Is formulation more important for you or ease of use ? And there can be many questions like this. Nothing is right or wrong. If you're having difficulty in making a decision whether to switch to LaTeX or not, first see how much time you have. Can you give 1 hour per day to LaTeX ?

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Postby Williammbrooks » Tue Jun 16, 2015 1:34 pm

LaTeX is a typesetting system, not a word processor. LaTeX uses source code to generate a document, you edit one file and typeset it to a generate the output.
Last edited by Stefan Kottwitz on Tue Jun 16, 2015 1:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: unrelated link removed

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Postby andrejones » Tue Mar 07, 2017 10:00 pm

I've been using Word since I had my first computer, so I have to confess that learning how to use LaTeX is demanding a lot of effort. For basic and quick projects, I'd recommend Word, but if you want more customization and give a more professional look, LaTeX is a great choice.

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Postby jdiogenes86 » Wed Apr 05, 2017 7:56 pm

I am at a somewhat unique position. I, myself, wrote all my articles in Word and had never even heard of LaTeX (I thought it was rubber). I have since started working with Authorea ( and now know the many advantages that LaTeX affords to researchers.

I wrote a blog recently on this that highlights our approach to use the best of LaTeX and Word, together. I share it here as I think it's relevant.

Bringing the power of LaTeX and Git to all researchers

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Postby cgnieder » Fri Apr 07, 2017 10:35 am

This is in German and actually compares LaTeX with LibreOffice and not with Word, but anways:

Warum LaTeX? Ein Vergleich mit LibreOffice.
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Postby Cham » Tue May 02, 2017 11:21 pm

Just my opinion : I hate Word to a point you can't even imagine ! At my work place, I very unfortunately have to use Word from time to time, but I avoid it as black death ! I converted myself to LaTeX about 7 years ago, and will NEVER GO BACK ! 8-)

I laugh loudly alot at my work colleagues, when I see them raging against Word for all of their problems (especially with figures and equations), and yet they still didn't gave a try to LaTeX despite my efforts in showing them the huge advantages of LaTeX ! What a gang fools ! :mrgreen:

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