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May 03, 2006



When you do Part 2 of this article (wink), I have some suggestions.

* Don't use a bunch of carriage returns to move something to the next page. Insert a page break.

* Don't use extra carriage returns at the bottom of a page to keep paragraphs together. Use Orphan and Widow Control.

* Don't create tables using tabs and spaces. Use a TABLE for goodness sake! You can turn the lines off.

I see these (and the ones you mentioned) all the time. In a quick, throw-together document, it's not a big deal. If you ever plan to reuse or share, doing it right will save you a LOT of time and sanity.

Gotta love the Slashdot crowd. They posted about your article and the discussion over there immediately devolved into why LaTeX is better than any word processor. And people wonder why Linux isn't more popular on the desktop.

LaTeX is actually cool, but there is definitely a learning curve. A few readers there pointed out that it boils down to preference. I mostly agree. LaTeX was intended to be used by people who will eventually submit a document to be formatted by layout designers. If this is you, then LaTeX will save you time. If you do your own formatting (like most of us non-publishing business types), then I don't see how LaTeX really benefits you versus good doc design practices. TeX and its offspring do have some loyal supporters, though, and this debate is old and ongoing.

BTW, Desktop Linux has plenty of Word Processor types! On my home PC, I have OpenOffice.org Writer, AbiWord, and KWord. All are great word processors that came FREE with my Linux distro (openSUSE). All three are actively maintained and continuously updated. KWord fully supports Open Document format, and is rapidly gaining ground on MS Word and OOo.

Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater, Scott! ;-)

Hi Louis,

>> When you do Part 2 of this article (wink)

The article is rewritten from part of my book, which as long as my editor hasn't snatched it from my hands yet, is still in process and I can add your items. These are great suggestions--I was focusing on the basics to refrain from overwhelming but I should definitely add these.

I do have a section somewhere in the book saying that a good way to an early grave or rest home is to do spacing with tabs that should be done, instead, with tables. You're right, I need to reference that in this chapter.


Hi Scott,

I saw I was slashdotted again, whooped, then decided not to go over to see the comments since Slashdot is a....vigorously opinionated crowd. ;> Funny, but perhaps logical, that it would go into a LaTeX conversation. I've been on the receiving end of quite a few "LaTeX Is Grrreat!" speeches and I think it really is a great tool....but perhaps not for the masses.

It's too bad that so often the best tools are the most difficult to get going with, though perhaps it's just what we're used to. I think my parents would actually probably do better with a markup environment than a GUI, though--haven't tested the theory, however.

I could be way off base here, but I think that most of these formatting problems stem from a "typewriter mentality." I think the average person sees a word processor as nothing more than a fancy typewriter with easy error correction. Most never delve into the cool artificial intelligence that has been provided for them. Many don't even seem to want to know. I often get the, "I don't have time to learn; just fix it this time," directive. If you can find a way to convice/coerce people to learn new things, I'm ready to buy! Anyway, I was just babbling.

Solveig, good again as usual (and good follow-up comments, too!). I find I'm using mostly four different tools to creaate text these days: Emacs for nicely formatted plain text, LaTeX (done using AUCTeX inside Emacs, of course) for high-quality typesetting when appearance counts (proposals, final reports, and the like), DocBook (Emacs' nxml-mode, of course) for stuff that I might want to subset for various audiences or for which I haven't decided on a target format (Web, print, etc.) yet, and OO.o Writer for efficient creation of shorter formatted text. To some degree, that's picking the tool for the job; to some degree, it's purely personal preference.

You're doing a good job of showing me new things I can do to format OO.o documents well. Thanks!

I remember learning to use my first real word processor - Word Star. I spent an inordinate amount of time learning all the formatting commands and formatted as I typed.
Then one day, it dawned on me that I could just type, then edit, then edit again, THEN format. It was an incredibly freeing moment. I found I could just get ideas down as they passed through my head, then spend time cutting the crud, moving stuff around, fleshing out concepts all without worrying about format.

The use of auto formats and styles forever frees the author from trying to get it all right the first time through. I can't believe the number of people I know who still insist on trying to create the entire document at one go and the amount of time they waste. Toss in the 'spaces for tables' and they just dig themselves into a huge hole when someone suggests that block of text A would look better if they just did X.

Good stuff.


"Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater, Scott! ;-)"

I'm not doing that by any means. LaTeX is a great program. My point was that the Slashdot crowd, rather than commenting on the merits of the article, took it off on a tangent (as usual) and never looked back. They missed the whole point of the article.


By "Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater," I was responding to the "...people wonder why Linux isn't more popular on the desktop." I simply meant, "Don't assume that all Linux supporters are the likes of those Slashdot zealots." :-) I could go on about how MS's bullying is what's acutally keeping Linux off the desktop, but I won't. And, of course, I was just having some fun.

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