Word is an application that helps layout documents. Latex is a similar application except that it is not a Graphical User Interface (GUI) application like word. It is a notation that must be transformed or compiled from markup text to a format like PDF or DVI. A markup text is essentially a plain text document with some notation. This blog is written in HTML which is a type of markup notation.
So why would one create a text file and get it compiled rather than thus use Word.
- It is free, in the sense the user does not explicitly pay for the software.
- In raw form it is a text file and occupies much less space.
- Since it is a text file it is more easily searchable
- The modus operandi is in the text. For example I often look at a Word document I wrote a while back and then scratch my head as to how I got something done like say subscript or superscript. In Latex if you do something once, that notation is already written down and repeating it elsewhere is a matter of cut and paste.
- There are some things Latex can’t do like embed an Excel spreadsheet or run macros, although running macros is not a recommended thing to do.
Just like word there are templates for most common purposes such as Resumes, Invoices, APA style academic documents etc.
There are other options to Latex which are also free.
- Pandoc converts from one set of markup notation to another. It can generate PDF or HTML from markdown; hence the Pan prefix.
- RStudio markdown is essentially a markup notation that can have embedded R language scripts. R also supports nice graphics.