[texhax] learning tex vs latex

Torsten Wagner torsten.wagner at fh-aachen.de
Wed Oct 28 08:04:28 CET 2009

Dear Pierre,

thanks for your post that is an really interesting aspect. I would be 
interested in some examples 1 to 1 where LaTeX is somehow more difficult or more 
complex to use compared to TeX. Really, no offending just like to see where is 
the differences.

> Finally, the advantage of plain.tex over LaTeX is that you remain in 
> control.  With LaTeX, you are left in a position that is far too like 
> what Microsoft Word offers you: "We know better than you do what you 
> want"---again with the important proviso that you are always free to 
> read all the source macros of LaTeX, but that is never the case for the 
> source code of Word.

Beside the fact that I believe it is pretty unfair to compare LaTeX to MS Word 
;) you self said LaTeX based on TeX thus, even if you are right and it really 
makes things more "out of control" ... finally it is still TeX right ?! ;)

Let me add another point....

you said you work with TeX since 1984 (impressive date to start with some 
computer skills :) the big brother is watching you). Maybe during your 
education people were still concerned about type-setting and layout-rules. 
Together with your really impressive time of experience with TeX this might 
result that you are very well aware of all kind of typesetting rules and 

However, we have to face that most newcomers had to grow up with MS-Word in 
school. There is no need to say that this is a very very said situation. 
School should teach generic typesetting and layout rules and not using a 
proprietary product sponsored by an aggressive lobby with million of dollars 
to bring it down into the schools ready to make the rest of the world forever 
depending on there products.

However, I believe that if you use, as a absolute beginner, LaTeX you might 
loose some of the fine grains of TeX but it also takes a lot of burdens away 
from you. Mostly things a beginner can even not answer if you point him to the 

Here and in other lists, there are more and more questions of this type
In MS-Word the .... but in TeX/LaTeX it is .... why ?
And mostly the answer to those questions has to be... because MS Word is doing 
it wrong resp. ignoring it whereas LaTeX/TeX is taking care of it.
This depict that many beginners have absolutely no idea about a proper page 
layout and proper typesetting rules.  

Would a beginner's pure TeX file not violate many general type-setting and 
layout-rules ? If so, the final result would be no better then a MS Word file 
created by a beginner, right ?

Just my two cents 


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