Typesetting in LaTeX

A LaTeX document.
A LaTeX document.

LaTeX pronounced (/la:tech/), is a free typesetting system that allows you to efficiently create articles, books, white papers and other technical documents. Most scientific documents and white papers are built using this typesetting system. LaTeX is the opposite of a Microsoft Word, LibreOffice Writer, and other similar programs. (What You See Is What You Get) editor. The key difference is that format is separated from content. Documents are pre–formatted to a specification that the content follows. LaTeX is a markup language similar to HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language).

The separation of format and content allows for the automation of many parts of a typical document. The table of contents, bibliography, page numbers, footnotes, and references are all auto generated. The document, for lack of better term, is “alive” — a living document that is programmable.

Typesetting isn’t a very useful skill in general, at least in my experience, because most people prefer WYSIWYG editors, but it’s useful in large groups if only to eliminate arguments over formatting, positioning, and other The art of the trivial argument is sometimes called bike–shedding. details. Let’s take a look at my preferred typesetting programs and workflow.

Typesetting Workflow

My preferred workflow for typesetting is a combination of the programs TexWorks and ViM. The LaTeX editor texworks acts as a heads up display and gives a general overview of what’s going on. The magnifying glass, jump to source, and jump to PDF (Portable Document Format) are pretty much the killer features of texworks. Honestly it’s the only reason texworks is in my toolkit.

LaTeX Workflow

The editing action happens in vim while texworks polls and updates its graphical display for both the tex source file and pdf, even when external programs are mutating them. Editing can happen really fast as it’s only necessary to keep the current line number inside my head when inter-operating between each program.

If the sense of position is lost, then the line number becomes a guide, and a jump from tex to pdf or from pdf to tex puts me back into the flow. The desktop windows are tiled to maximize use of the viewport and the recompilation commands below are executed on every manual save in vim.

#!/bin/sh -eu

if ! {
      pdflatex -halt-on-error "$1" \
      || xelatex -halt-on-error "$1";
     }
then cat
fi

Conclusion

That’s all there is to my typesetting work flow. Programs in general tend to be either frustrating or slow, but texworks and vim happen to be one of those nice and rare experiences. Gummi is also another interesting LaTeX editor that is used mainly for quick edits.

Updated 31 July 2021
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