[OS X TeX] Semi-OT

Gerrit Glabbart glabbart at gmx.de
Sat Jan 22 17:37:52 EST 2005

At 15:31 Uhr +0000 22.01.2005, Jason Davies wrote:
>I have been asked to lead a discussion for students and staff about
>presenting documents. I doubt very much that any will be inclined to use
>LaTeX but what would be useful is an overview of why we use it - in
>terms of aesthetics, readability etc (why those large margins? kind of
>thing.) I think the idea is that people may consider applying such
>principles to (presumably) Word documents (eg choice of fonts, width of
>page, number of lines etc).

There's always Allin Cottrell's classic rant "Word Processors: Stupid 
and Inefficient", available here:
<http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/wp.html >. (You can find the 
TeX source in Mr Cottrell's home directory as well.)

More than five years old and still relevant!

The argument that resonated strongest with me was that composition 
and typesetting ought to be two separate tasks, whereas Microsoft 
Word -- to pick a word processor at random -- muddles them in such a 
way that people do not concetrate on either properly. That, and the 
virtue of a pure (more or less) ASCII source document -- a big plus, 
as anyone who has ever lost data due to a corrupted binary file can 

Regarding width of margins etc.: Another great (La)TeX feature is 
that it puts centuries of typesetting experience, going all the way 
back to Gutenberg, into the hands of users who don't need to have 
*any* typesetting knowledge of their own and who still get 
beautifully typeset pages, even if they have never heard the word 
"ligature" in their lives. The defaults are what they are for 
legitimate reasons, and beginners (like me, still) can do a lot worse 
than sticking with them.

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