I have had to update my resume lately and a while ago I wrote it using LaTeX which is a typesetting program. Typesetting programs are different then word processors as they allow you to focus more on the content rather then laying everything out on the page. A few cases where LaTeX trounces Microsoft word is when you are writing anything that uses a predefined layout that must be adhered to such as a paper written in MLA format or a book. While it excels in some areas it fails miserably in others, for most use cases anyway. So you are going to have your work cut out for you if you are trying to make posters, fliers, banners, and any other type of thing where you really want to focus on layout while writing.
While I don’t write many MLA papers anymore, LaTeX is still the de facto standard for writing papers in academia and it is great for writing anything that contains a lot of math equations. If you have ever used Microsoft Word’s equation editor, you can see that it is time consuming and using LaTeX markup is still not going to be faster then writing on paper but the convenience of dealing with files makes it worth it.
Having justed installed LyX which is basically a mode targeted GUI for LaTeX, I wanted to test it out in one of my classes today to take notes. It worked pretty good, but I have to admit, I had trouble keeping my notes up to date with the teacher’s presentation since Gleb’s just too fast. In the end though, I could see how neat my notes looked and I am much more likely to refer to them later due to their well printed equations and general legibility.
In the future I might want to put some of my notes online since a lot of the stuff I am learning isn’t well documented on the net. LaTeX has the capacity to do this, but the tools that shipped with the Windows’ version of LyX couldn’t handle the math that I was writing. It tried to convert the math code into HTML4 which has various math symbols which are not very portable among different platforms and web browsers. At this time I could still publish the documents as PDFs but I don’t want to force people to use a viewer application.
There are plugins for converting the math parts into image files and then embedding those images inside of the html that I have used in the past but this has a few problems of its own. One glaring example is not being able to resize the document. I take that back, you still can but your images are not going to scale very well since they are raster based and they will be hard to read at different sizes.
So I don’t think there is distribution one solution that fits everyone needs, but by providing choices I should be able to overcome both limitations by having a PDF option as well.