LaTeX documents for me07 October 2010
I have been learning to use LaTeX so that I can use it for my thesis. Knowing how to use it earlier could have make so many previous reports so much easier to put together. (Thinking of my fourth year group project where they "lost" the formatting not long before the midterm report was due to be turned in. Thankfully, I was not involved in fixing it.) I also wish I had started this last year when I was writing a final paper for a course that had long arrays of equations. It is the natural order of things that one discovers a better tool right after being finished the job it would've simplified.
As a test project, I made a new resume by modifying a template, and I like the result. Of course, the first place I wanted to send my resume to wanted plain text or un-formatted Word, but that's their, strange, choice. I'm still not sure why companies want applicants to send them word files, as PDFs are much better for keeping the author's intended formatting across platforms. Though, I read on the Office 2011:Mac blog that they were working hard on that. Any deviations when printing the same document on Windows and Mac and overlaying the sheets was considered a bug to be fixed.
The last large part I figured out how to use was BibTeX and I quite enjoy not having to manually check that I have included all the references I used. And being able to reformat it simply by selecting a different style and re-making the document. No need to change the entries individually or risk corrupting your word file by having it convert incomprehensible macros into correct references. Thankfully, I was able to export my refworks database to an appropriate file to easily convert my reference collection.
It seems that in the Civil department, most people still use Word as the default for all work. A friend's supervisor even suggested that not doing a thesis in Word would be undesirable because the industry uses it. This view doesn't exactly surprise me because most students I talk to do not even know what cross-references are in Word, let alone how to use them to save time and frustration. Styles, other than 'normal' and 'heading 2', are not well understood by most, who still manually type out their tables of contents, tables and figures oblivious to the capabilities of Word.
However, over in the Mechanical and Industrial department there is a tutorial run to give grad students the basics they need to get going with LaTeX. I imagine that its use is more than a niche because the School of Graduate Studies provides a LaTeX template that conforms to their thesis requirements. Anyway, I am thus far happy with my plan to use it and am enjoying discovering new capabilities all the time.