Here is my short list of reasons why LaTeX is so much better than Microsoft Word for scientific writing.

  • Function over form. No concerns about formatting as you are writing your document
  • Absolute focus on content in detriment of formatting problems to distract you every 30 seconds
  • You can use your own text editor! Nothing like just your thoughts, your coffee mug, a fully black window and a blinking cursor.
  • Produces the most beautiful documents on this side of the universe…perhaps when I see alien documentation will change my mind
  • All plain text-based, meaning that your text is safe and not locked inside a huge binary file that can become corrupted at any second after a bad crash/recovery
  • Did I mention it is plain text-based? This means versioned documents using Git/SVN(for those stuck in the early 2000s)/Hg, etc.
  • Separation between images and text keeps assets much more manageable instead of being embedded in a huge binary. Want to reuse that great diagram in another? Say no to “Export Image as…”
  • Easy to reuse text across documents because the structure is the same, either for a short paper or a huge document with fancy structure and formatting. This is good if you want to completely change the layout of your document to try different layouts for your dissertation, with the same actual contents. Think like HTML and CSS. You take your HTML with you, and the LaTeX template is like a different CSS. Also, remember that you should not plagiarise, not even yourself! Cite accordingly.
  • Huge number of packages for adding fancy links, formatting, code highlight blocks, managing acronyms and glossaries appropriately (hey, did I expand the acronym the first time? hmmm need to Ctrl+F my Word document)…
  • Open-source (ok, you probably don’t care about this, and frankly neither do I—it is just an added bonus)

Anyway, after this provocative text I hope the advantages of LaTeX are quite clear.