[OS X TeX] R, paradigm to bring into the LaTeX world?

Claus Gerhardt gerhardt at math.uni-heidelberg.de
Sun Oct 22 10:06:59 EDT 2006

Latex requires a certain amount of learning, but given the results I  
consider the user's efforts minimal. To have special commands or  
formatting instructions available when I need them, I have a small  
collection of templates containing these commands and I assume that  
anyone else has a similar collection.

Nobody is forced to use Latex, and as far as I am concerned these  
occasional cravings for a Latex light are unfounded, and I would hope  
that they will come to end for good.


On Oct 22, 2006, at 15:43, Denis Chabot wrote:

> Hi,
> Many posts have been written lately about LaTeX Lite and in general  
> more user-friendly LaTeX. I am in the unfortunate position of  
> having to use Word most of the time because of the necessity to  
> often, almost daily, exchange documents with colleagues, all using  
> Word. Already I am a (lucky) black sheep, being the only Mac user  
> in the group. This sometimes creates problems with illustrations  
> (despite all the Microsoft bragging about 100% compatibility  
> between Word on both platforms).
> Often here and in the LaTeX sites in general, it is assumed WYSIWYG  
> users do not write structured documents and switching to LaTeX will  
> bring them into this mode of writing. It is not true of me: as soon  
> as Word offered styles, I started using them for every document.  
> When the outlining mode came about, I often switched to this as  
> well. Yet I'd gladly to without Word if it was not for my  
> colleagues because Word has become way too huge, complex, and buggy  
> (the optimum version has been 5, around 1990, if I remember well).  
> How often do I add or move a figure in my list of figures  
> (typically on a separate page at the end of a document in a  
> scientific article), and half of references to figures in my  
> document are changed from "(Figure X)" to (Figure X Relationship  
> between length and mass of...)", i.e. Word starts adding the legend  
> to the label and figure number. Fixing this requires killing the  
> reference and inserting it again. If you want figures in the  
> document instead of at the end, you are constantly fighting Word as  
> to where it will end (with no final answer, Microsoft knows better  
> than you and moves them around from day to day).
> Thus I like that in LaTeX things work as expected. On the negative  
> side, especially when you may be forced not to use it for a few  
> months, it is difficult to remember what some of the switches  
> you've used do from one time to the next. And although I can write  
> and let LaTex do the formatting (bliss), other times I spend hours  
> trying to figure out how to obtain a relatively minor change which  
> would have been easily done in a WYSIWYG environment (styles are  
> easily edited). Especially if this requires getting a new package  
> installed.
> Maybe I should have tried LyX a bit longer, but I did not quite  
> like its interface, and I like the idea of more "universality" of  
> straight LaTeX files (I just wish more journals in my field, marine  
> biology, accepted LaTeX manuscripts).
> But I can think of one way LaTeX would be a bit more user friendly.  
> I don't think it is up to the people on this Mac list to make it  
> happen, it would have to be a more generic effort. I'd like LaTeX  
> (and especially LaTeX frontends like TeXShop  to behave more like  
> the open source R statistical system does.
> http://cran.r-project.org/
> A basic installation of R (there is one for each of the main OS)  
> includes the "base" R and a good selection of the most often used/ 
> requested packages. But you can easily view the available packages  
> and install them. Especially if you use a frontend (in my case a  
> Mac R.app): a menu allows you to look at which packages you have  
> installed on your computer (and at the same time view the  
> documentation for them). Another one allows you to go to CRAN and  
> view which packages are available, either as binary for your own  
> platform or as source which the frontend will compile for you). You  
> can see if you have the latest version. You can update if you  
> don't, or install any number of new packages you want. You can  
> select if you want them installed for all users or for your account  
> only. This makes it quite a bit easier to see what's available that  
> might solve a particular need.
> I do not know if the lack of this way of doing things in LaTeX is  
> due to a greater difficulty in execution because of differences  
> between LaTeX and R, or simply because it has not occurred to  
> people it would be "a good thing". More likely I suppose, since  
> nobody is paid, it is the result of lack of time or synergy between  
> volunteers to implement such a system.
> But it seems to me it would be a good move. Anybody else has found  
> this a good idea in R? Do you think it would also be nice in LaTeX?
> Denis
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