[OS X TeX] Getting students to use LaTeX (and apa.cls)
bvoisin at mac.com
Fri Aug 18 16:42:26 EDT 2006
Le 18 août 06 à 12:23, Nick Black a écrit :
> I guess some people aren't willing or dont see the benifit in
> investing time in the short term, so people like MS make inferior
> products that are quick (not easy) to use.
There's another factor which may get people want to use WYSIWYG word
processors instead of LaTeX: the lack of flexibility of LaTeX
Several times in the past couple of years I had to write non-
scientific documents (i.e. specifications of web site design, first
with general site layout and navigation and then page by page for
page organization and layout). This had to be written very rapidly,
and needed to use a certain layout in order to make the content
immediately usable by its intended audience (i.e. web programmers).
Whether the layout of the document was typographically optimal or
simply correct was minor in this respect, the usability being the
definitive criterion. Ultimately, the document was finally presented,
and written, more or less as a collection of separate cards.
The first version of the document was written with LaTeX, and it
turned out to be a nightmare: every ten lines or so I stumbled onto a
page or list layout which had to be different from the standard LaTeX
one, or wanted to get a tabular layout distinct from the standard
LaTeX one. Hence the need to identify, in the LaTeX internals, the
definitions responsible for these layouts, and to modify them in the
document preamble. As a result, the preamble for the final document
was several hundred lines long.
Such a time investment, which turns out to be precisely adverse to
LaTeX's philosophy: concentrate on matter, and forget about
presentation. This was exactly the opposite: because of constant
interruptions for tweaking LaTeX's defaults in order to get the
intended layout, it was very difficult to write the matter
continuously. Probably also because I didn't know exactly which
layout I was needing before actually writing the document; this
layout sort of grew in the making.
And using external packages isn't much better in this respect: with
packages you don't have to study LaTeX's internals, somebody has
already done it for you and make the required redefinitions/
enhancements. But because there are generally several packages
offering nearly equivalent functionality, you first have to study
each of them to see which one suits your needs better and select it;
then you have to learn how to use this package, and sometimes find
bugs and report them, turn to comp.text.tex, etc. Again, a
significant time investment interrupting the workflow.
Finally for the subsequent versions of the document I turned to
iWork's Pages, and didn't regret it: for sure the result wasn't as
typographically satisfactory as it would have been with LaTeX, but it
was obtained much more rapidly, with less stress; eventually it was
more efficient, in that more attention had been paid to content in
its preparation and less attention on presentation.
Sorry to have been so long, but I hope that may exemplify a situation
in which IMHO a WYSIWYG editor is better suited than LaTeX for
focusing on content vs. presentation. On the other hand, there is a
situation in which LaTeX is unbeatable: when you are using a LaTeX
class written by someone else (typically when you are writing for a
scientific journal, and and provided a home-brewed class by this
journal). In this situation, you can totally forget about
presentation, and only think about content. Which is exactly what
LaTeX is about.
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