TeX is a typesetting language initially created by Donald Knuth in the late 70's to facilitate the creation of his The Art of Computer Programming series. The beauty and power in TeX lies in the fact that it is a programming language and does not rely on a set of visual tools to create a document. Everything written using TeX is stored in text, and thus not potentially trapped in some proprietary software cage. TeX is the base language, but there is also: Metafont -- for creating new fonts, Latex -- a macro package to simply working in TeX, Context -- a second competing macro package. Then many other sub-languages that allow drawings to be embedded into LaTeX and Context documents.

TeX is supported by a international set of developers and has its respoitory at the TeX User Group website: http://www.tug.org/.

Most people that use TeX actually either use LaTeX or Context. Both macro packages have strong tools for writing mathematical notation. Both macro packages have the ability to generate Postscript, PDF, HTML, RTF, and others. There are only two downsides to working in the world of TeX: a reasonable learning curve that disappears in about 1-year and collaboration tools like those found in Word. Actually, Word's collaborative tools are the only thing it has working it its favor (IMHO.)

Why would you consider using LaTeX or Context?

  • If you are a mathematician at any level: there is no other tool that will allow you to produce mathematical notation as easily.
  • If you are a computer scientist: the text notation allows you to version a document using your normal code versioning tools, its programmable, and it is something of a standard in the research community.
  • If you are someone else: often the greatest comment I hear from non-TeX users is how beautiful TeX documents are. Also, people that use TeX use far less time building biographies, table of contents, and indexes. (Just add a few lines of code and the software does it for you.)

The major stops on the road to TeX bliss.

© Jeffrey O. Pfaffmann (Home Page)
Last modified: 2/8/2011  17:22