The Benefits of LaTeX
When I do any mathematical writing, or even any non-mathematical writing of a
substantial size, I use LaTeX. There are many
reasons for this:
- Beautifully Typeset Output.
LaTeX is designed by mathematicians
for producing beautifully typeset mathematics. Not only are the equations and
mathematical symbols beautifully rendered, but LaTeX also does an exceptional job at
handling visual components such as fonts, spacing, and line breaks.
- Structured Files.
LaTeX has the author specify various elements of
the document, such as title, authors, chapter and section headings,
environments for theorems and proofs, appendices, and the bibliography. This
has a number of advantages. For one, it forces the author to
organize the document in a logical way, which often has the beneficial side
effect of producing exposition that more organized, clearer, and more coherent.
Additionally, it allows the author to focus on content rather than layout during
the writing process. In LaTeX, the author produces the
words in a text editor, while specifying the
document's structure. This allows the author to focus on what they want to say and
how they want to say it while they are writing. When the document is compiled,
LaTeX handles the typesetting, and the author can worry about the
appearance at that stage. For particular types of
documents (e.g., a scientific paper, thesis, or book), there are
usually default LaTeX styles as well as several professionally designed
templates that are freely available. Moreover, if you use one style and
later decide to change the layout (for instance, at a publisher's request),
this is often as easy as cutting and pasting your
content into a different template.
- Management of Internal References.
LaTeX elegantly handles numbering and
internal referencing within a document.
- Management of Citations.
As with internal references, LaTeX handles citations elegantly.
If you use BibTeX, which is compatible with most reference management software, it
is also easy to change bibliographic styles.
One can easily create macros
for use within a particular document. Moreover, LaTeX has a coherent
package system that makes it relatively easy for users to write extension
packages to provide additional features. Since LaTeX is so popular, there are
a very large number of such extension packages already freely available online. This
means that you will often be able to achieve special effects by finding and using
a package already in existence, instead of having to create it yourself.
Despite an initially steep learning curve, a
novice can very quickly get to the point where
they are comfortable producing their own documents and can look
up answers to many of their questions online. Most LaTeX programs have a very
user-friendly interface. Moreover, since LaTeX has existed for so long, there
is a great deal of good documentation.
- Commonly Used.
LaTeX is hands down the document format most commonly used
among mathematicians at the present time. This means it is easy
to share documents with others and to collaborate with co-authors.
- Easily Converted Files.
LaTeX files contain markup language that
enables them to be readily converted to other outputs (e.g., PDF or HTML),
allowing you to change or share your document
more easily than if it was in another format.