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Anyone using TeX, LaTeX or another variant?

Martin Vajsar

Joined: Aug 22, 2010
Posts: 3717

In my company, we're growing more and more tired of the MS Word and its little adversities, such as persistent inability to number chapters correctly. We are therefore considering some alternatives. While I understand there are some nice open-source Office packages, I'd like to use this occasion to explore a more advantageous route - switching to TeX or a derived system.

I presume it must be a perfect tool for project documentation (which is one of the main concerns), since it should be possible to put the documents into version control, and even branch and merge them. I'd love to hear opinions and experiences on this.

I'd be grateful to hear from whoever is writing in TeX, how difficult it was to switch and what caveats to expect - thanks.
chris webster

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 2168

Can't help with LaTEX, but if you are trying to solve the problem of storing office documents in version control, it seems you can save LibreOffice documents in an uncompressed XML format which would be suitable for version control:

Might be easier than getting everybody to use LaTEX.

No more Blub for me, thank you, Vicar.
Martin Vajsar

Joined: Aug 22, 2010
Posts: 3717

We're a really smallish company. There would be about two people learning the new technology

I have considered the XML formats before. Even MS Word's new formats are a compressed XML internally and can be somehow stored in Mercurial (which we use) as such. There are still some binary files in the ZIP produced by MS OFfice, though. Perhaps LibreOffice would work better in that regard. I'm still afraid, though, that some editing actions might cause "global" changes to the file, making merging (yes, I'm aiming at merging) really difficult. Writing in LaTex, on the other hand, resembles programming (or so I've understood) and one has direct control over the content of the document (in a GUI editor, the control over the content is indirect). One could even pay special attention to make changes that would be easy to merge.

Additionally, our documents are loaded with formulas and equations. If we learn to use TeX equations, copying, editing or even searching them would be much easier.

Thanks for the pointers to the LibreOffice, though. If we don't switch to LaTeX after all, perhaps the LibreOffice uncompressed XML format would serve us well.
Tim Cooke

Joined: Mar 28, 2008
Posts: 2005

I used LaTeX to write up my Masters dissertation back in the mid 00's. I haven't used it since but that's just because few companies work with it and insist on struggling through with Office.

I think you might get some traction with it if only for dealing with formulas and equations. I know those are a particular pest in Office and the like, but in LaTeX, I wouldn't say it's particularly easy but it is predictable. Once you've got your equation right, then it's right. I find it's a fine balancing act in Office and the smallest format change sends the whole thing off. Very frustrating. LaTeX was designed primarily for documenting mathematical equations so it's pretty good at it.

LaTeX also has good separation of content and style. The idea was that authors can concentrate on writing content, then editors can do the styling both dealing with separate files. Section numbering is always right, footnotes always appear on the page from where they're referenced, and using BibTeX for your bibliography is a dream.

If it's just the two of you then you could try it out easily enough. There's plenty of info at and the book by Leslie Lamport is very good too.

Tim Driven Development
Campbell Ritchie

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 43381
Since I have dissertations to write, I have to use LaTeX. I recently found this website which seems to have useful articles, etc. on, but haven't used it a lot yet.
I would suggest you may like a LaTeX IDE e.g. TeXMaker or TeXStudio.

It takes time to learn, but probably no longer than it takes to learn a WP properly, and it can be awkward to find the obscurer symbols or features. And there are so many fora about it that I hardly ever ask a question. And you don't have to pay for LaTeX.
It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
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