More Than Word(s)
As I have mentioned repeatedly, the information contained within the majority of documents is plain text. At times some fancy formatting may be nice, but it's optional. The main interest of the person writing the document should be to communicate the information.
Simple, plain ASCII text is usually sufficient to send information from one person to another—that's exactly why e-mail, for example, is still a text medium. HTML in e-mails does not add anything to the content. ASCII text can be read from anywhere with any editor (and not just with “any editor, including Microsoft Word...”). By structuring the text clearly, by using paragraphs and horizontal lines constructed out of hyphens, maybe even by using *bold*, /italics/ and _underlined_ text as used on Usenet, one can write clear, easy-to-read and understand and, most importantly, portable documents.
While plain ASCII text should be the choice for most cases, it cannot be denied that occasionally one might need or want more formatting. Well, no need to dig out the old word processor again. Just use LyX, the graphical front end to LaTeX.
LaTeX is an astounding typesetting engine derived from TeX. It takes a .tex file as input and typesets it, generating a .dvi file. It is available for a large variety of platforms, and documents typeset with LaTeX look incredibly professional. Yet, you can use your favorite editor to create the input files because LaTeX is a command-line tool.
When using LaTeX, one can concentrate on the content of the document instead of the way it looks because the typesetting engine will take care of the layout. A .tex file contains a few tags (which may remind you of HTML) to determine the way the text will be displayed.
This is a completely different way of writing a document from word processors; no more pointing and clicking and highlighting and reconsidering and so on. But, it may be daunting to someone who is used to using a GUI.
Now this is where the good guys from LyX come into play. They developed a GUI for LaTeX, enabling the inexperienced user to take advantage of the power of TeX without having to learn it from scratch (yet).
Upon first glance, LyX may look similar to your average word processor, but if you follow the tutorial, you will quickly see the difference and how you can increase productivity by concentrating on your work and material, rather than on the visual representation.
If you often connect to your machine remotely to get work done, you don't always have the ability to export your display or to forward X. This is when you learn to appreciate the power of the command line—you find that everything you will ever need is right there at your fingertips. By using your favorite editor (vim, in my case) and LaTeX, you can get all your work done easily through a single terminal to your machine.
Another advantage of LyX and LaTeX is that you can easily export your files into platform-independent formats such as PostScript or PDF. By combining the power of make with the power of LaTeX, this can be done with just a few commands. Take, for example, this document—I turned the input file into a beautiful PDF (Figure 4) simply by using the command make pdf.
Even though the Makefile itself (see Listing 1) is simple, it allows me to convert my document easily into a large variety of output formats using several different command-line tools, such as ps2pdf and latex2html.
Finally, LaTeX is extensible—you can write your own styles to achieve different results depending on the kind of document you are writing. But most likely, someone else has already done so and uploaded it to the Comprehensive Tex Archive Network (CTAN, TeX's equivalent to Perl's CPAN).
In brief, whichever way you choose to handle your word processing, the importance of conveying the information in a portable document format needs to be expressed. Just try to make it clear to the people with whom you correspond, to the people who continually send you MS Word documents and then insist that you “fix your computer” when you tell them that you can't open them or that some formatting got lost. I have found that if one explains in a friendly way how a PDF or a PS, for example, can be read by anyone on almost every platform, occasionally one can educate all but the most stubborn citizens of Winworld.
Personally, I'm sure you will find that LaTeX is far superior even for these little everyday tasks when it comes to creating professional (looking) documents. In order to take advantage of LaTeX, however, it is necessary to free your mind from what you may be used to. This may take awhile, but don't be afraid, there is a lot of helpful documentation out there. Maybe the most important document for a LaTeX beginner might be “The Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX2”, available from Comprehensive TeX Archive Network (www.ctan.org).
After a short time of going through a tutorial and, most importantly, giving it a try and taking a look at some examples, you will never want to go back. You can take my Word for it.
Jan Schaumann (email@example.com) was born in Iserlohn, Germany. He grew up in Altena, Germany and studied for two years toward a Master's in Modern German Literature and Media and American Studies in Marburg, Germany. He moved to New York City in 1998.
|Designing Electronics with Linux||May 22, 2013|
|Dynamic DNS—an Object Lesson in Problem Solving||May 21, 2013|
|Using Salt Stack and Vagrant for Drupal Development||May 20, 2013|
|Making Linux and Android Get Along (It's Not as Hard as It Sounds)||May 16, 2013|
|Drupal Is a Framework: Why Everyone Needs to Understand This||May 15, 2013|
|Home, My Backup Data Center||May 13, 2013|
- Linux Systems Administrator
- New Products
- Senior Perl Developer
- Technical Support Rep
- UX Designer
- Designing Electronics with Linux
- Dynamic DNS—an Object Lesson in Problem Solving
- Using Salt Stack and Vagrant for Drupal Development
- Making Linux and Android Get Along (It's Not as Hard as It Sounds)
- Have you tried Boxen? It's a
2 hours 44 min ago
- seo services in india
7 hours 15 min ago
- For KDE install kio-mtp
7 hours 16 min ago
- Evernote is much more...
9 hours 16 min ago
- Reply to comment | Linux Journal
18 hours 2 min ago
- Dynamic DNS
18 hours 36 min ago
- Reply to comment | Linux Journal
19 hours 34 min ago
- Reply to comment | Linux Journal
20 hours 24 min ago
- Not free anymore
1 day 26 min ago
1 day 4 hours ago
Enter to Win an Adafruit Pi Cobbler Breakout Kit for Raspberry Pi
It's Raspberry Pi month at Linux Journal. Each week in May, Adafruit will be giving away a Pi-related prize to a lucky, randomly drawn LJ reader. Winners will be announced weekly.
Fill out the fields below to enter to win this week's prize-- a Pi Cobbler Breakout Kit for Raspberry Pi.
Congratulations to our winners so far:
- 5-8-13, Pi Starter Pack: Jack Davis
- 5-15-13, Pi Model B 512MB RAM: Patrick Dunn
- 5-21-13, Prototyping Pi Plate Kit: Philip Kirby
- Next winner announced on 5-27-13!
Free Webinar: Hadoop
How to Build an Optimal Hadoop Cluster to Store and Maintain Unlimited Amounts of Data Using Microservers
Realizing the promise of Apache® Hadoop® requires the effective deployment of compute, memory, storage and networking to achieve optimal results. With its flexibility and multitude of options, it is easy to over or under provision the server infrastructure, resulting in poor performance and high TCO. Join us for an in depth, technical discussion with industry experts from leading Hadoop and server companies who will provide insights into the key considerations for designing and deploying an optimal Hadoop cluster.
Some of key questions to be discussed are:
- What is the “typical” Hadoop cluster and what should be installed on the different machine types?
- Why should you consider the typical workload patterns when making your hardware decisions?
- Are all microservers created equal for Hadoop deployments?
- How do I plan for expansion if I require more compute, memory, storage or networking?