Why use LaTeX?
- On average LaTeX generated documents have a better layout than those made with word processors like Microsoft Word (e.g. ligatures, variable space, orphan lines, figure placement,..). See this typography comparison for details.
- LaTeX's automatic typesetting routines save you time especially in the last stages of document preparation (cross-references, citations, figure and text placement). For example, there is a clever little routine that thinks about the best possible placement for all your figures in relation to the text.
- It makes reuse of figures, tables and equations across papers, presentations and posters very easy. For some, this is the main motivation of using LaTeX. .eps files scale well so you can just include the same figure in papers and posters and you don't have to (usually) worry about bizarre scaling effects. Equations are even nicer.
- LaTeX is free. Apart from saving you money this has the obvious advantage that you will not be locked into using a type of software. LaTeX offers many import and export features to interface with other pieces of software.
- An addition to LaTeX called BibTeX makes referencing very easy. Again, BibTeX is free unlike Endnote which is a common software package for use with Microsoft Office. The BibTeX database software for OS X, BibDesk, is superior to Endnote in many ways. Also, there's an online tool for creating a BibTeX entry from a PubMed search query.
- There's lots of free online information and help about how to do stuff in LaTeX.
See also Word vs. LaTeX for a comparison of the two typesetting programmes in life science.
Why not use LaTeX?
- There is a large learning curve associated with the language.
- It is not WYSIWYG.
- Often in writing scientific literature, whether an internal report or thesis proposal to publishing a paper, you will be working with people that don't use LaTex. This is the primary disadvantage.
LaTeX on OpenWetWare
A formal disadvantage was that collaboration and editing tools among multiple users was lacking. But now there are tools on OWW to connect wiki technology with LaTeX. Both WikiTex and LatexDoc are installed on OWW. WikiTex allows embedding parts of TeX formatting like diagrams and things into wiki pages. LatexDoc allows collaborating on entire LaTeX documents on the wiki.
more documentation needed here
Some LaTeX related files:
- Bibtex: collection of bibtex style files
BibDesk is a nice frontend for managing your library of references (ie your BibTeX library). It even autofiles your library of PDFs which makes maintaining and searching your collection of papers much easier than before.
Beamer is a LaTeX class that allows you to create a beamer presentation. It can also be used to create slides. It behaves similarly to other packages like Prosper, but has the advantage that it works together directly with pdflatex, but also with dvips.
LaTeX main project sites and repositories:
Writing with LaTeX from OpenWetWare:
- LaTeX template for writing thesis proposals
- LaTeX template for PhD thesis
- Word vs. LaTeX comparison
- Some journals accept papers in LaTeX format. Check ahead of time.
Making Posters with LaTeX:
- Here is a link with a source file for making posters in LaTeX. The cls file can be modified to alter the style of the poster.
Creating Talks/Presentations with LaTeX: