TeX/LaTeX : Art of writing your own PDF files!


Tex the Lion

Joy of TeX

Digital typesetting is a very interesting field which not much of the general folk is aware of. I’ll tell you.

Whenever you are composing some document in some word processing software that labels it’s use as WYSIWYG (What you see is What you get), you are irked/irritated the most of the time you open the document as  inevitably some new spaces have cropped up, words have displaced tables have ran away to a different page, pictures have taken up strange locations. More over you have to dance around with spacings, tabs etc. to get the proper formatting of your documents, they just seem to disobey you or over-obey you or try to show every possible thing that can be done from any position, which you very well don’t need as you are quite knowledgeable and not just a stupid End User! All these Microsoft words, Open star offices ,etc. are all so called WYSIWYG editors… but in reality they are all WYSIMBWYG editors (What you see is may be what you get!).

I’d bet all of you like the PDF files, as for me whenever I send documents I send them in PDF format as these files don’t throw tantrums, and show themselves as is… in each and every computer setup! These files are as constant as the velocity of light is! But the problem is you cant create PDF files … generally most will go online, and convert their .doc files to PDF, but that’s tedious and requires giving out mail ID’s in any and every site which certainly may be misused ( Who knows…! With internet everything is always possible!) . That’s why I am writing the article, open your mind, the truth is here!

The solution to this is digital typesetting& the  name is TeX or it’s derivative LaTeX. These are free soft wares, with TeX being the original language designed by Donald Knuth in 1978 and latest stable release for TeX is 3.1415926 on March 2008. Knuth used WEB for writing original  TeX , which itself was designed by himself. TeX/Latex and other derivatives are all cross-platform and come with Permissive License( A variant of GNU licenses). Enough introductions, let’s see why I am a fan of TeX/LaTeX.

TeX/LaTeX is actually a type of language where we are describing how we want the text to display along with the display- content, i.e, we are writing the data as well as data about data(meta-data) in a single file much like it’s done in HTML albeit with robustness and  flexibility! Complex mathematical formulae, table constructs, image placements, spacing etc. are just words away. And biggest ease of work is you are creating PDF files on the fly, much like  you do with word files (no more hankering in various sites to convert some 10-12 page documents into PDF)! Other formats like DVI is also supported, which is device independent format. But the biggest advantage is the cross-platform feature, just take the .Tex/.LTX file with you to any OS that has a TeX/LaTeX distribution installed and you will get the original PDF/DVI file as good as new… and same asthe original by every pixel known to man! If you have a thing for Learning, and you are interested by the discussion here, give it a try! This knowledge comes in handy if you are composing project/research documents (LaTeX/TeX being the universally accepted format for submission), also if you want to impress your friends/girl-friends by showing hand composed complex scripts in PDF, this is a thing for you!

The internet is teeming with TeX/LaTeX resources, Google it to see. There are multitude of Tex-user groups(India too has one) all over the world who pursue TeX/LaTeX typesetting as a hobby, and there is always me quintessential good-for-nothing , mr. know-it-all. Give it a try, experience will be enriching!

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