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From the Editor: In this issue; Next issue: LaTeX-niques; Editorial: Teaching LaTeX and TeX

Paul Blaga and Lance Carnes

In this issue
Next issue: LaTeX-niques
Editorial: Teaching LaTeX and TeX

In this issue

This issue marks the completion of the third year of The PracTeX Journal. One of the Journal's original objectives is broadening the base of TeX and LaTeX users. So it is fitting that this issue's theme is Teaching LaTeX and TeX.

Two of the ten papers from this issue (that of Paul Blaga and Nicola Talbot) directly address the problems related to the teaching process. Here we should also mention Jonathan Fine's article describing a new approach to learning TeX through a web service. Several other papers, by Rohit Kumar, Lapo Mori and Maurizio Himmelmann, and Keith Jones, are devoted to related subjects (writing a thesis or a curriculum vitae using LaTeX).

The remaining three papers are more technical and describe how to use packages for handling tables (paper by Wybo Dekker), construction of a conference proceedings (Vincent Verfaille), and drawing scientific graphics (Senthil Kumar). Wybo and Vincent are also the authors of the respective packages.

Finally, the paper by S. Parthasarathy is about using lists in LaTeX.

Thank you and enjoy this issue!

Next issue: LaTeX-niques

For the next issue we invite readers to submit articles on how parts of documents are constructed. Let us know how you deal with figures, tables, bibliographies, indexes, tables of contents, or any other document part. Your article can be a short note on a technique you have used successfully, or it can be a full-blown survey of some particular aspect, such as indexes. Send your article idea to the editors.


Many people have collaborated directly or indirectly to the success of this electronic journal: the authors, particularly the ones who have worked with me in the revision process, the production editors, and the readers.

Thanks to Production editors Will Robertson, Yuri Robbers, Francisco Reinaldo, and Keith Jones; reviewers Jon Breitenbucher, David Auslander; and to others who proofread the articles and provided useful comments and feedback.

Editorial: Teaching LaTeX and TeX

TeX and its various extensions (LaTeX, ConTeX, ...) are without doubt among the most important contributions to the digital typesetting landscape in the last three decades. It is, therefore, somehow strange to discover that, although many people learn TeX, there are only a few who teach it. The emphasized learn is significant. How is LaTeX actually learned? Well, in most situations people just apply the learning by doing paradigm. They begin with a sample document, found online or from a colleague, and modify it. What this method misses, though, is a lot of the richness of LaTeX. As we have discovered more than once while editing this journal, many authors rarely use automatic citations, lists, numbered equations, and other basic constructions.

Many users either don't understand the philosophy of LaTeX or are perhaps reluctant to venture out and discover some of the finer points. To use LaTeX in the same way as an ordinary text processor, using only centering, boldface fonts, italic fonts, is like owning a deluxe car and using it only for trips to the neighborhood market. By not using more of LaTeX's rich set of formatting capabilities the user is producing only ordinary-looking documents and is missing out on a lot of the fun.

One of the offerings of The PracTeX Journal is downloadable source files of the articles. Readers continually ask for these, in order to study them and learn, and many authors consent to make them available. But some authors do not want to make their source documents public. The reasons for this vary, but one excuse often heard is that the author is afraid that he or she has not used LaTeX correctly, and of course doesn't want this made public. What is this elusive LaTeX correctness? Is it an esoteric game only for a handful of the initiated, or can anyone learn it?

These are some of the reasons we think the TeX community should offer as many teaching opportunities as possible. It would be ideal, of course, to offer long courses, providing the students the opportunity to learn about LaTeX's richer constructions. But short courses are also welcome, teaching a range of topics from the introductory basics to the more specialized areas such as beamer for producing slides, or on a particular subject like tabular material, graphics, and commutative diagrams.

Another area where the TeX community can assist in teaching is through reference materials. There are many excellent LaTeX and TeX books on the market, and many web sites with useful material. However, only a small number of the books are suitable for classroom texts, and few of the web sites are targeted to the beginning or intermediate LaTeX user.

We are confident that only through teaching LaTeX can we broaden LaTeX's user base and help people produce better, nicely-formatted documents. If you are an experienced LaTeX user consider teaching a LaTeX class or session at your organization &mdash it has high job satisfaction. The user will get more out of the hard work of composing a document, and those of us who must work with these documents, such as journal editors and publication production staff, will have an easier job.

So, happy teaching (and learning)!

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