LaΤeΧ

...and ΤΕΧ, and ConTeXt and XeTeX and TeXleMeElmo, and other ways of peacocking legacy media

The least worst mathematical typesetting system. A crunchy chunk in the academic writing workflow. De facto standard for mathematicians, especially those who are not so impertinent as to insist in writing in non-English languages, or are so shallow as to not not take simple delight in the painstaking and noble handicraft of manually setting line breaks, or have grad students who will deal with the corner cases for free. That is, a tool that meets the needs of the Tenured Academic admirably, and that the rest of us live with.

Other alternatives include

1. using MS Word, and
2. stabbing your eyeballs with a pencil

… each of which I regard as similarly undesirable, and, to be clear, both marginally less desirable than LaTeX itself, despite my qualms.

Addendum: Yes, I am aware there are differences between ConTeXT and LaTeX and TeX, and that they are all refreshingly different in their choices of pain-points in formatting, interoperation, character set handling, compatibility, and community support. However, standards lock-in being what it is, I believe I can avoid arranging the deckchairs on this sinking boat. I will discretely wait over here, near the HTML lifeboats, for some amped-up scholarly version of Markdown to come save me.

History

Eddie Smith, From boiling lead and black art: An essay on the history of mathematical typography.

Documentation I frequently need to find

Death-or-macro definition

Death-or-macro that force macro definition redefinition even if there is no definition to be redefined - handy if you are rendering latex from some tricky source such as jupyter or where you don’t have much control over the document, but don’t care because latex is just and obstacle in your path and hasn’t earned your regard.

\providecommand{\foo}{}
\renewcommand{\foo}[1]{bar: #1}


Algorithms/pseudocode

Confusing profusion of options.

tl;dr: use algorithmicx inside an algorithm float.

Minimalist TeX

MacTeX wastes your hard disk space if you install the whole gigantic thing. 5Gb for a 1980s typesetting system is cheeky, especially from people who delight in claiming that Microsoft Word is over-engineered, and that they are keeping it real with their svelte little elegant alternative. That’s not “serious typesetting”, any more than driving a Panzer to work is “serious commuting”. It might be hand-made, but that ain’t artisinal type crafting, that’s tin hat survivalist type prepping.

However! You can install what you need via the package manager tlmgr using the minimal version, basictex. Then you install the things you need.

For example, to render jupyter notebooks, you’ll need:

tlmgr install \
collectbox \
collection-fontsrecommended \
enumitem \
logreq \
ucs \
xstring


To handle fancier jupyter notebook via ipypublish, we also need

tlmgr install \
latexmk \
translations


To handle biblatex:

tlmgr install biblatex


To handle modern referencing:

tlmgr install placeins \
todonotes \
chngcntr \
doi \
mdframed \
needspace \
cleveref


To handle pandoc:

tlmgr install biblatex \
biber \
xstring \
logreq


To handle Anki flashcard rendering:

tlmgr install bbm-macros \
dvipng


You keep it up to date in a similar way:

tlmgr update --self
tlmgr update --all

• How to take lecture notes with LaTeX

• Robert Kosara has an excellent rant:

The tools of the trade for academics and others who write research papers are among the worst software has to offer. Whether it’s writing or citation management, there are countless issues and annoyances. How is it possible that this fairly straightforward category of software is so outdated and awful?

Grad students, Robert. Grad student labout. The same labour undervaluation that keeps slave economies from developing the steam engine.

• The hideous and expensive but practical Mathtype shoves struggling, screaming equations into maws of word processors for you.

• knitr, and its poor cousin Sweave, integrate statistical graphs into your paper.

• Mathjax allows you to put LaTeX equations online easily

• Katex is a faster competitor to Mathjax, but is not as widely supported. The major penalty is that you can’t define macros inline

• jupyter can be made to ease some of these pains.

• git-latexdiff is a a LaTeX-aware diff