Working with Word and LaTeX

Some observations whilst working with Word and with LaTeX.

This is not a LaTeX vs Word post.

Lately, I’ve been LaTeX-ing everything that I’ve been doing from the drafts that I’ve been sending back and forth to my supervisors down to the slide presentations that I do for my tutorial classes, and here are some of the observations that I have encountered whilst working with the two. I’m a recent convert to LaTeX—the complete ins and outs of the whole thing isn’t still quite clear to me as yet, though there are a number of online resources out there that help me whenever I struggle with certain issues—the reason for which was my references were wiped out whilst trying to finish my proposal, and I nearly had a heart attack because of it. Hence the search for a more stable solution.

I’m using Word 2013 together with EndNote 7 to organise my references. EndNote is at best fiddly when you have 200+ references sitting there and you try to use it in a Word document. Don’t try it. What I did after the initial heart attack was create a new EndNote library sans the attachment files, so the only references that show up there are the ones I put in my paper. It’s troublesome, since every time I have a new reference to insert I had to copy it from my main library, and only then I shall insert it to the Word file. Also, because of the heart attack it gave me, I always insert references using unformatted citations. And I have to convert and reconvert every time I send and edit the documents to my supervisors. Fiddly and frustrating though it may be, I cannot completely ditch Word since my supervisors have to print out the PDFs every time I send it to them, and they do like the track changes thingy in Word.

I’ve then decided to use Word, with my drafts, and transfer the stuff with finality to LaTeX. The thing I like about LaTeX is that it is pretty straightforward. Your hands wouldn’t have to leave the keyboard, and you can edit stuff by just typing whatever it is that you want. Since my paper has numerous equations, it is also a plus to use LaTeX. With Word, I have to use MathType. Before, I get frustrated even with MathType around since I have to punch and click buttons to enable the formatting. But lately, I’ve discovered the Toggle TeX option in the MathType tab in Word. So now, I just type in the math LaTeX codes and highlight the stuff, press the button or do Alt-\ and voila, no more MathType equation editor popping out of the screen. At times it’s not able to read some of the LaTeX codes so I still have to edit them in the equation editor but, these are just minor issues.

LaTeX is also very handy with the cross-referencing. You just type them, and they update by themselves—figures, tables, equations, what have you—so you really wouldn’t have to worry about the figure number in a certain chapter if it’s updated or what. Word also has that capability though I hate to use the mouse and press the insert caption thingy under the references tab.

Some of the things that I had to finagle though with LaTeX are the tables, and shapes. I’m still trying to figure out the numerous table environments and which works best with what kind of table. With Word, it is pretty straightforward I daresay. I also struggle with some of the figures which can be easily done in Powerpoint, and or the add shapes feature in Word.

But one thing I love about LaTeX is the absence of that infernal blank page at the end of a document or chapter. I always struggle with that when using Word. And the file size. (Okay, make that two. Two things I like about LaTeX.) Word has a larger file size originally, and when converted to a PDF, has an even larger size. With LaTeX, the converted PDF file is generally smaller.

And oh, it looks more professional as well. LaTeX I mean.