(La)TeX, 10 years later

tex-lion 10 and more years back, when I studied mathematics, I was an active user and promoter of the (La)TeX typesetting system. Since then, I almost did not use it, but kept the warmest memories of this creation “by mathematicians, for mathematicians”. Yesterday… I can’t say I changed my mind, but I’m not so sure any more about my attitude.

I had to remake a one-page document, for which I already had an old LaTeX template source. Edit the source, “make”, and a nice PDF is ready. Well, now the text which I inserted contained the @ sign. And of course (pdf)LaTeX did not compile.

I did not remember what should one do to typeset ‘@’ literally. I certainly remembered it 10 years back, but that’s not the kind of knowledge which stays alive when not used. It took me about 15 minutes to find the answer.

And now I’m not sure whether I shall promote TeX at all. From my viewpoint, this 15 minutes is unacceptably too much for such “problem” (actually, the very fact that this made a problem, is unacceptable in my current view). I expected the first link in Google search to give the solution, but the reality was very far from that. And – unfortunately for the others – I consider myself as a quite experienced (La)TeX user: I followed news:comp.text.tex, created own document classes, which were also used by other people, and so on. I knew well how it works. I knew where to look for documentation, and what kind of documentation I need. And still this thing, which should never be a stumble at all, took me 15 minutes. I can easily imagine that it takes full day from a person new to the TeX world.

Conclusion: sorry, none at the moment…

One thought on “(La)TeX, 10 years later

  1. Let understand your post as “TeX is not excellent”. But it’s still good. Otherwise what’s better? Let see.

    Compiler based tools (like TeX iŠµself). Most of them are more difficult to use (like DocBook with its complex SGML tags). And none of them has a notable part of TeX typesetting features. WYSIWYG tools again seldom have as much features as TeX has. And they newer produce the same quality printed output as TeX do (because TeX is a compiler). And their usability is often an illusion.

    Use simplicity. I newer seen a non-interactive typesetting system that is so easy to use. Years ago I and my sister wrote our diploma thesis’s . Simultaneously, sharing a single computer. My sister used touch typing professionally and took 70% of our computer in MS Word. I (half-year TeX user) got remaining 30% in LaTeX. Obviously my paper was more complex, looked better and was ready first.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *