Some people have a latex allergy

Fri 24 Oct 2014 09:45 AM

In the Facebook LaTeXoSoPHeRs group, Kevin Timpe links to a webpage where Josh Parsons claims that philosophers shouldn't use LaTeX. I ended up replying at some length. Rather than just bury my rant over on FB, I'm reposting here.

Parson claims that LaTeX is a proprietary format just like the Word doc format. This is just perplexing. I have Word documents from the 90s that current versions of Word won't read correctly. Even though I have copies of the data, I need to look at hard copies if I want to look back at those papers. But LaTeX source is plaintext, and so the files will be readable until I either lose the data or computers becomes very different.

Plus, here are some advantages of LaTeX he doesn't list.

1. The source/document distinction means that you can include comments which don't show up in the document itself. This has lots of uses. For example, comment out a paragraph that you don't want to forget forever but don't want to include in a submission.

2. The source is plaintext, so you can grep it. This isn't just the cargo cult fascination with bells and whistles, but real timesaving functionality for people who know how to use regular expressions.

3. Although the fact that it specifies typesetting can be a downside (with respect to accessibility) it's an upside with respect to producing typeset pages. I have self published two books using LaTeX. Alternative word processors would not have done the trick.

4. The ability to define commands allows for useful modularity. One of the books I self published is a logic textbook. I defined commands for all of the logical notation. Somebody who uses different symbols than I do can redefine the commands, process the source, and have an edition of the book in whatever notation they prefer.


from: alex

Fri 24 Oct 2014 10:28 PM

And he makes so much of the difficulty of converting LaTeX, when, thanks to John MacFarlane, he could just

`pandoc -f latex -t [literallyanything] input.tex -o output`