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Why I Design Books with LaTeX

Last Updated: Friday, 09-Jan-2015 12:32:39 PST

Why I Design Books with LaTeX

LaTeX is a lot like HTML plus CSS and is not any harder to learn. It is actually easier because you don't have different interpreters of the language like in web browsers. It is not a real computer language. It is what is called a markup language for document formatting and is a free and open file format.

It has a limited set of very simple commands and great documentation you can get on the Internet or in book stores. It hasn't changed in a long time, so chances are any documentation you find will be for the same version.

It is very fast even on old computers, free, and the latest version works on almost any operating system. It is of the highest quality and will make you look very professional. It makes great PDFs and can be converted to almost any format.

Recreating the Same Design for Another Document is Easy

Have you ever created a design one day with a program like Microsoft Office and then upgrade the program and then you have to learn where all the commands went to and you have to learn all over again how to do the same design with a new version of the same program? Then have you tried to teach someone else using a different version of the same program or write up how to do the design and find out later that an application update has rendered your write up obsolete?

That is the beauty of coding your document using a markup language like LaTeX. Once you create the design you like, you just copy the first few lines of code of the previous document and paste that code into the new document and all the settings remain the same.

Easy to Keep Formatting Consistent and Professional

Have you ever completed half your book and then realized that you need to change fonts for all your headings or update your table of contents? Have you changed the main font for your body and then add a few lines and have to reselect all and change the font? Have you ever had trouble making your document look consistent by forgetting which style you had for your chapter headings or having your fonts change on you in different parts of your document unpredictably?

If you are using a structured document approach, you can just specify in one place what style you want to have for all your headings and after changing that setting in one place, your entire document will be the updated consistently. Also, tables of contents can be auto-generated when you mark what are the headings instead of just formatting them manually, visually, and individually.

This is another thing that is built into LaTeX. With LaTeX, you are not going to accidentally forget to make all your headings in the same style, because you specify the heading level in the content and in another central location, you style all the headings at that level to be the same. Another thing about LaTeX is that all its default settings look professional and are consistent, so you don't have to plan everything down to the smallest detail.

Wide and Long Lived Support of the Same Format

Have you ever tried a certain application on a certain computer and then have to switch to a different program or to a different operating system and then have to start from scratch in an entirely different interface? Have you had a program fail to load due to the activation process being screwed up or the license file corrupted or have you had a hard drive crash and lost the copy of your license?

This wouldn't be a problem with LaTeX. You can use a wide variety of different programs, many free and open source and the code will look the same. LaTeX also runs on almost every operating system you could imagine and the versions don't change very much at all even over a period of 10-15 years. All the documentation you find on the Internet is for the same version, because it has been kept the same for so many years.

Speed, Adaptability, and Fine Grained Control

Have you ever tried upgrading to the latest supported version of an application and not be able to run it because it was too slow on your computer? Have you thought that you needed the book to be put in a certain format and then have to make a version in another format or re-styled for a different medium? Have you ever had a section where no matter what you do you cannot change the style of the text or the font?

One of the greatest things about LaTeX is its speed. It was designed to run on computers that were produced 10-15 years ago, so LaTeX is very efficient. LaTeX also has free converters for almost any common format. You will never run into a time where you cannot find exactly what is changing the formatting to a given element and be able to remove the unwanted formatting code.

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