[OS X TeX] your wiki needs you?

cfrees at imapmail.org cfrees at imapmail.org
Thu Sep 18 15:47:56 CEST 2008


On Wed 17th Sep, 2008 at 21:39, Alain Schremmer seems to have written:

>
> On Sep 17, 2008, at 6:27 PM, cfrees at imapmail.org wrote:
>
>> On Wed 17th Sep, 2008 at 18:01, Alain Schremmer seems to have written:
>
>>> True, but I think that you still vastly the admittedly fear driven lack of 
>>> understanding of people considering a possible alternative to MS Word. 
>>> This is of course not to belittle the page 'Getting Started'.
>
>> It depends on the sense in which they want an "alternative". If they
>> want an alternative word processor, nothing will convince them to use
>> TeX - and nor should it. But if somebody wants an alternative approach,
>> that's different.
>
> I don't see the difference. I have met a number of people who have just 
> expressed interest in LaTeX but said that  they had heard that it was hard to 
> install, that the learning curve was steep, etc and that they were not THAT 
> interested. So, I don't think that dividing the world into "word processor" 
> addicts and people who will not be able to live without an alternative 
> approach?for what reason would they? There are the people who are interested 
> just because it is different, there are those who are interested because a 
> friend of theirs has become a LaTeXite and they want, usually to a very mild 
> extent, to know what it is about, etc
>

Maybe we just have different experiences. I've met people with this
interest, too, but those people have only wanted to know about it -
they haven't been interested in installing or using it. And they
haven't wanted to know much about it, even.

>> Changing from Word to TeX is a lot of work.
>
> It certainly was for me and I came as close to being flamed as is possible on 
> this list when I suggested that I couldn't see why it had to be so. I still 
> recall being admonished that, hey, LaTeX just isn't for "the faint of heart". 
> The reason I am particularly sensitive to this argument is that, you know, 
> between you and I, mathematics is just not for eveybody.
>
>> I think you have to have a
>> burning passion to do it.
>
> I sure didn't and I still don't.
>
>> (The burning passion can be fairly
>> short-lived - a couple of weeks, maybe.) Otherwise, there's not enough
>> motivation.
>
> This may be because LaTeXites had built fortifications around it which force 
> it to be besieged. I must say, though, that from what I read on this list, 
> these times seem to be on the wane.
>
>> Nothing is going to make it less work. You have to find out a lot of
>> things. Then you have to do them. Then you have to convert any existing
>> projects. Time and effort. Something has to motivate that.
>
> You are obviously talking about mathematics and there is no other way to 
> learn mathematics than from Gauss and Bourbaki.
>

What I mean is this: in order to use it, you have to start using markup
rather than applying effects visibly to your text. (I guess LyX is an
exception - maybe others - but typically.) That's a huge shift and you
have to be motivated to do it. If you have projects on the go, you have
to convert them if you want to switch completely.

I'm not thinking of installation or set-up here - that can be, and is
being, made a whole lot easier and more user-friendly. As you say,
MacTeX etc. is a big step in that direction. But even if you use
templates, macros, snippets etc., you still have to get used to seeing
source code rather than formatted text. I think that's a big leap for
most people.

>> If somebody is comfortable with Word - even a little irritated -
>> there's just not enough reason to go through the process of switching.
>
> Again, being uncomfortable with Word is not necessarily what motivates 
> people. You know, some people are just plain curious.
>

I don't mean to underestimate this. Curiosity can be a big motivator.
But I haven't actually met anybody in this category so either I just
don't meet the right people or there are not very many of them. (Maybe
the first - I really don't know.)

>> Which isn't to say it isn't good to make it seem less intimidating and
>> more manageable or to soothe unfounded fears. But some of the fears are
>> well-founded and there's no getting around that, I think.
>
> While these fears had good cause, the causes were often unnecessary and there 
> used to be a "hermetic" side to LaTeX as with Mathematics. A "club mentality" 
> if you would. However, the way I understand it, TeXLive and MacTeX 2008 are 
> giant steps in a direction I like, that of "the rest of us".
>

I agree - some of the fears were - and are - quite unnecessary. But
there is a remainder after you eliminate those.

But maybe my experience is just biased - I know very few people who've
shown any interest in LaTeX and even fewer who use it. So maybe I just
underestimate the potential "market" for it.

Then again, I wouldn't really recommend LaTeX to somebody in my field
as things are. Way too many conferences/journals etc. won't take PDF
submissions. So maybe that's part of it, too. If OpenOffice had been as
good as it is now (on OS X), I'm not sure I would have switched to LaTeX. 
I only really did it because Word kept chucking my work away and I
couldn't find a decent alternative at the time. Which isn't to say that
I would consider switching to OpenOffice now - though I have been
wondering recently if this wouldn't really be a whole lot more
sensible. Turning LaTeX into Word is a real pain.

- cfr
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