[OS X TeX] TeX and the wild wild world out there

Adam Goldstein adam.goldstein at jhu.edu
Wed Nov 29 11:47:32 EST 2006

Bruno Voisin wrote:
> An observation: I've been taking part in scientific conferences for 
> some time now:
> - About 15 years ago, instructions for authors were provided (paper 
> size, margins, presentation of title, of name and affiliation, and so 
> forth), and that was it.
> - About 10 years ago, a LaTeX style was provided, implementing the 
> instructions.
> - About 5 years ago, both instructions and a LaTeX style were 
> provided, and in addition a Word template was also provided, 
> implementing more-or-less (generally partially) what was already 
> present in the LaTeX style, for those authors more accustomed to Word.
> - This year, for the first time I'm seeing a conference 
> <http://www2.sese.uwa.edu.au/issf2006/papers/paper_submissions.html> 
> in which the instructions are implemented as a carefully crafted Word 
> style, with detailed instructions of use. A LaTeX style is also 
> provided, for those authors more accustomed to LaTeX, but this style 
> implements only partially the instructions for authors and, for those 
> it implements, is largely erroneous.
> Thus, within a decade, it seems TeX has turned from a de-facto 
> standard into an afterthought. This reminded me of the discussion we 
> had some time ago here, about Word being considered more and more as 
> good enough even for academic mathematical prose.
> (The above is in no case meant as a criticism of the organizers of the 
> conference: I know from experience what a frantic job the organization 
> of a conference is, and it's already kind of a miracle when one finds 
> the time to prepare a template for the authors, whatever software that 
> is for.)
> I'm not sure that anything can be done about that state of things, but 
> I thought people might be interested by the observation.
> Bruno Voisin
A few observations--

-Some people seem resistant to open source software. They seem to feel 
assured that Microsoft is taking care of them in some way, and that 
using "unsupported" software entails some risk. I have observed this 
among scientists and also historians. Biologists seem to be much more 
committed to Word, physicists and mathematicians to TeX. I suppose it is 
the use of mathematics that makes the difference, and probably history. 
I don't quite understand, though, because biology has lots of math too!

-I wonder if the move to Word will eventually prove more problematic 
than useful? I have struggled to exchange files using word. *Something* 
always changes. This is a problem when receiving work from students, in 
particular. It has also happened to me on more than one occasion that my 
document has reverted to a past draft when emailed because I used a 
"fast save" option in Word. This was very upsetting because I got back 
page proofs that had parts of an old draft and parts of a new one. I 
wonder how organizers of large conferences and journals cope with this.

-The NSF (US government) accepts uploads in various formats; apparently 
it automatically re-formats the text into a standard style no matter 
what format you use. PDF is accepted, and so is LaTeX source, and Word.

-Regarding ease of use, I have never found Word particularly easy to 
use. As soon as you want to change something that is set automatically 
by Word, there is an endless hunt among the menus and dialogs to 
identify the right setting. Usually the help files only point out what's 
obvious. I usually just end up compromising and accepting something 
close to what I want.

-I try to educate my students about the use of Word as a typesetting 
tool, suggesting that they change margins and other settings to produce 
more professional-looking term papers. They are quite pleased with their 
papers, and also begin to experiment and learn more about font choices 
and layout.

-I wonder if conference organizers do not have the support of a computer 
services department that understands TeX and how to use it? Journals 
should have excuse for this, as publishing is their business.

------------------------- Info --------------------------
Mac-TeX Website: http://www.esm.psu.edu/mac-tex/
          & FAQ: http://latex.yauh.de/faq/
TeX FAQ: http://www.tex.ac.uk/faq
List Archive: http://tug.org/pipermail/macostex-archives/

More information about the MacOSX-TeX mailing list