[texhax] learning tex vs latex

John C Frain frainj at gmail.com
Fri Oct 30 13:05:50 CET 2009

I came in on this conversation late.  If I am doing computational
mathematics I use various libraries.  I have been known to make some
minor changes to source code in numerical recipes or gsl but, in
general, I do not want to reinvent the wheel.  My attitude to LaTeX is
similar.  I may fine tune something occasionally using a bit of TeX
but I have produced many papers and reports using LaTeX and I am very
happy with what I have done.

Most of the people that I have introduced to TeX would not have the
patience to use the original TeX.. Most of these people would be
working in quantitative economics and would interact with computers
using various specialist packages.  They would have little or no
experience of computer programming languages such as C, Java etc.
LateX would be the only option for them

I have no experience of the Plain TeX format.

Best Regards


2009/10/30 Susan Dittmar <Susan.Dittmar at gmx.de>:
> Quoting Reinhard Kotucha (reinhard.kotucha at web.de):
>> On 28 October 2009 Susan Dittmar wrote:
>>  > But I do not know much of my car and drive it nonetheless.
>> But you attended a course in order to get your driver license, right?
> Of course I did.
> I think this is getting way out of hand. This discussion started, if I
> remember correctly, with someone who wanted to start using the TeX
> machinery. He asked whether he should start with LaTeX or plain TeX.
> For my taste there were far too many responses stressing the importance of
> the underlying TeX. I do not disagree with the authors of those posts
> concerning TeX's importance, but I wanted to shed light on the approach of
> *starting* with LaTeX. Not even to tell them wrong, just as another
> opinion. LaTeX, in my eyes, allows good results with less effort and less
> learning than using plain TeX.
> I work in a very small firm, and all our correspondence is done using some
> kind of TeX. I did the coding for most of the stuff that is used now, and I
> chose LaTeX, because I could reuse the work of a lot of people who know
> more of the TeX innards than me.
> My boss is an assembler type guy. So the plain TeX commands appeal to him.
> But he never invested the time to learn about typography. He thinks "I want
> to start a new paragraph here and I want it to have some vertical distance
> from the previous paragraph" and adds a macro he once created with some
> fixed vertical space, without any thought about which kind of vertical
> space would be typographically correct at this place.  With his
> non-willingness to learn about the underlaying typographical concepts, I
> wish he used a more LaTeX kind of approach -- allowing the engine to choose
> the correct kind of spacing.
> Looking at him, I would tell any beginner to start with LaTeX. You *can* go
> into depth (and deep into the innards of TeX) then, but you need not. And
> you are less prone to falling into bad programming habits -- especially if
> you have to learn from books and internet alone, with no one looking over
> your shoulder from time to time.
> Believe me, I did not learn much from my theoretical driver's lessons. It
> was the practical part, with a real person tutoring me, that taught me how
> to drive. Something I sorely miss when learning programming languages...
>        Susan
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John C Frain
Economics Department
Trinity College Dublin
Dublin 2
mailto:frainj at tcd.ie
mailto:frainj at gmail.com

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