Latex for Humans

Your Thesis is Research Finding + Typesetting.

Preparing printable text effectively forces you to conflate two tasks that are conceptually distinct and that, to ensure that people’s time is used most effectively and that the final communication is most effective, ought also to be kept practically distinct.

The composition of the text itself.

By this I mean the actual choice of words to express one’s ideas, and the logical structuring of the text. The latter may take various forms depending on the nature of the document. It includes matters such as the division of the text into paragraphs, sections or chapters, the choice of whether certain material will appear as footnotes or in the main text, the adding of special emphasis to certain portions of the text, the representation of some pieces of text as block quotations rather than as the author’s own words, and so on..

The typesetting of the document.

This refers to matters such as the choice of the font family in which the text is to be printed, and the way in which structural elements will be visually represented. Should section headings be in bold face or small capitals? Should they be flush left or centered? Should the text be justified or not? Should the notes appear at the foot of the page or at the end? Should the text be set in one column or two? And so on.

Type Setting Software

What is Typesetting?

Typesetting is the composition of text by means of arranging fonts.

Pre-Digital era Type Setting

  • Manual typesetting
  • Hot metal typesetting
  • Phototypesetting”

Digital era

  • SCRIPT variants
  • SGML and XML systems
  • Troff and successors
  • TeX and LaTeX

But unfortunately most of today’s thesis and self publish houses uses Microsoft Word or another word processing program as type setting software.

  • Which is not a typical Typesetting Software

Problem is that word processors are direct descendents of typewriters, not typesetting systems. They were originally meant to mimic the “look and feel” of the familiar typewriter.
The original word processors typed with mono-spaced fonts—where each letter or number or punctuation takes up exactly the same amount of space

Type Setting Programs

The typesetting programs are descendants of early professional-level computerized typesetting systems that had taken over from film-based typesetting machines. Typesetting was an expensive business, and the people who bought type for books and magazines were skilled professionals who expected a quality product.

Job of typesetter Includes

1. A selection of appropriate fonts in different sizes and styles;

2.paragraph and character styles, assigning uniform values to text (font, size, colour, alignment, etc.) that can be globally changed in an instant;

3.hyphenation, character spacing (kerning) and line spacing (leading), allowing fine adjustments to how much space an amount of text actually fills; and

4. much more (e.g. alignment and rotation, linking to external files,
layering, use of colour, etc.) Such is the world of the typesetter.
But, as shall be seen in my next post, this esoteric world about
to impinge on your own.

Most widely used Word Processor

Free and Open Source

Open office

Commercial Software

Microsoft Word

Most widely used Type Setting Sofware

Free and Open Source


Commercial Software

Adobe Indesign

Focus will be MS word and Latex

What is Good about MS Word

  • Your grandmother/ Kids can probably use it. (You may sneer, but not every human is a computer expert. Some of them are salesman or piano tuners.)
  • It’s highly compatible. (I.e., almost everybody has it — especially in a commercial setting.)
  • You can instantly see what the final document is going to look like. You don’t have to “compile” it first.
  • It’s easy to quickly throw together trivial documents and make them look approximately how you want.
  • It has a spell-checker! (And a grammar checker that erroneously tells you to reword everything in the active voice.)
  • Lots of programs that aren’t Word know how to import or export it.
  • It’s trivial to paste an Excel worksheet or chart into a document, or indeed to insert lots of other external content.


  • Final output looks ugly. (Newer versions have improved this, but the defaults still look pretty ugly.)

    We Will Focus onto it.

  • Doesn’t handle large documents well.
  • Virtually impossible to separate content from style, or to change styles without manually applying them to thousands of pages one at a time by hand.
  • Equations are just painful.
  • You dont have true version control system, But still can manage with options.

Why Latex For Humans

Birth of Latex

In the late 1970s, Donald Knuth was revising the second volume of his multivolume magnum opus The Art of Computer Programming, got the galleys, looked at them, and said (approximately)

“blecch”! He had just received his first samples from the new typesetting system of the publisher’s, and its quality was so far below that of the first edition of Volume 2 that he couldn’t stand it.

Around the same time, he saw a new book (Artificial Intelligence, by Patrick Winston) that had been produced digitally, and ultimately realized that typesetting meant arranging 0’s and 1’s (ink and no ink) in the proper pattern, and said (approximately),

“As a computer scientist, I really identify with patterns of 0’s and 1’s; I ought to be able to do something about this”, so he set out to learn what were the traditional rules for typesetting math, what constituted good typography, and (because the fonts of symbols that he needed really didn’t exist) as much as he could about type design.

He figured this would take about 6 months. Ultimately, it took nearly 10 years,

What is good about Latex?

  • Superior typographic quality.
  • Output device independence.
  • Compatibility with revision control.
  • Portability.
  • Document longevity.
  • Macros and other programmatic features.
  • Mathematical typesetting. Typesetting mathematics is why Tex was first created, and Latex – continues to excel at this task.
  • clearly separate the content from the format of your document.

Why not LaTeX?

What is bad about Latex?

More moving parts.
Difficulty knowing/remembering markup commands.
Previewing delay.
Possibility of syntax errors.
Adding new fonts.
Lack of support for newspaper-style continued columns.

We Know MS Word – But to little extent

What is Latex

  • Separation of content and style
  • Portability
  • Flexibility
  • Control
  • Quality
  • Output
  • Scalability
  • Stability
  • Cost
  • BiblioGraphy Support

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