What is the issue with Word vs LaTeX in the past days?

Visual comparison between LaTeX and Word output

LaTeX vs Word

Does LaTeX really perform worse than Word

Is there some upcoming event, and one which I'm unaware of? Is Microsoft taking over?

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    I think TeX is gaining some popularity unnecessarily fast and this Word vs LaTeX is becoming a nerd thing which is always Internet's favorite thing; Comparing two irrelevant things: from guitar players to favorite ice cream flavors.
    – percusse
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 13:39
  • @percusse hopefully so...but there are two types of controversies, and two outcomes, one with good faith and the outcome has an unintended consequence, and one with an ill-suited motive and an intended consequence. if memory serves me right (I'm not going, right at this moment, to recheck this fact, ....
    – doed
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 16:11
  • ...so hopefully my remarks are just speculative in nature), plos has a penchant nonetheless, for looking into issues that have been closed before, as not constructive, and reopening them. The sad part about it, is that the authors are known academics and not just popularizers. One needs not to read an entire paper, to know beforehand, when a journal has a pattern, again (if memory serves me right), of selling something, usually by reiterating that there is no interest behind it, other than research, and without a connective bias with a particular company or an individual.
    – doed
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 16:12
  • @percusse But there must be an interest behind it, either the paper needs to resuscitate topics that have long been forgotten, or have not been exploited enough, and the outcome may have the intended consequence, one of bringing attention to the paper, or having the unintended consequence, one aimed at asking other journals to consider the possibilities of agreeing with their statements. Nonetheless, someone must be making the decisions behind plos, in the last few years or so.
    – doed
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 16:22
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    I think paper's motivation is pretty OK. This is a pretty interesting topic. It is the methodology and far reaching extrapolation that makes it terrible. I wouldn't really think that there is a conspiracy. That's one thing; the other happening here is that people like to jump on questions that doesn't need TeX code. Especially casual TeX.SX users. That's why when these Word related questions are linked to each other, people can't resist to the temptation. So I guess it's all OK, a little bit of adrenalin doesn't hurt.
    – percusse
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 16:30
  • @percusse no no. I didn't imply that there is a conspiracy and if it was interpreted like that, my apologies. And I wouldn't say that the company microsoft is behind it either.
    – doed
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 16:35
  • @percusse, let me just go over a few things, related to the last comment. In the question, I also asked: "..is microsoft taking over?", but it was asked from the perspective of the controversy that was created here in tex.sx, with the three questions linked in my question. But I never implied that microsoft is, officially, behind it.
    – doed
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 19:33
  • Now, the fact that a paper was published, a paper which consequently will be cited accordingly (months from now, a year from now, three years), which, as a result, may or may not have consequences. The only thing which makes sense, is the paper's clear conclusion in using Word over LaTeX. Whether this is a call for funding agencies to stop the use of latex, as beeton pointed out, (which makes sense to me), remains to be seen.
    – doed
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 19:34
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    This is not the first stupid paper that is published. A publication is not conclusive and anyone/institution who treats things as such deserves the consequences.
    – percusse
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 19:35
  • I agree, I just wanted to clarify what I asked earlier, lest misinterpretation. At no point, a conspiracy crossed my mind.The money issue? Mm. Perhaps. I personally found the question about the comparison between the two incomparable, as @wipet pointed out. It wasn't until after, when I read the famous paper. And I never said that Lamport, is behind it. So the conspiracy alarm shouldn't be set off. Because I said earlier that a paper, even if it was written in good faith, could have unforeseeable consequences. (Just wanted to clarify, that's all)
    – doed
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 19:45
  • 1
    Here's another good comparison. Maybe you can add it to the original question: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/5414 Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 16:54

1 Answer 1


the last question cited was triggered by the appearance in a reasonably well known open access journal regarding the relative efficiency of latex vs. word. it contains a clear call for funding agencies to stop the use of latex, in favor of word, since latex allegedly wastes time that should better be spent on research.

although the experiments on which the article was based are flawed, the conclusions not (in my estimation) presented even-handedly, and the "last word" inflammatory, the article may (since i don't know of any other on the subject) be given wider "authority" than it deserves, to the detriment of scientists trying to use latex to prepare their work for publication.

i'm surprised that some of these points got past the referees; it certainly downgrades my opinion of the value of the journal in which the article appeared.

  • 2
    thanks for clarifying it, that "it contains a clear call for funding agencies to stop the use of LaTeX", surely comes as a surprise. In one of the answers provided, Yannis Lazarides mentioned the funding issue, but it never crossed my mind that, that it would be the underlying issue. In a further comment to another answer (I can't remember which one), @percusse mentioned that one of the scientists, who perhaps aside dek and others, Lamport, has been one of the most influential in this turing complete language, was employed by this conglomerate, which made me wondered...
    – doed
    Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 14:28
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    The conclusions are aimed at journal publishers rather than funders: not sure how realistic such a call would be under any circumstances!
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 16:23
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    @JosephWright -- in the chat, it was also pointed out that this argument might affect local decisions, say in a case where someone wishes to institute a latex "course" for students (i'm assuming something informal, at most "extension" level, not a course for credit); this could well be cited as demonstrating that it's a waste of time and resources. Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 16:32
  • @JosephWright but whether aimed at journal rather than funders, it becomes a gray area, in which I'd rather just 'observe'. But I don't doubt for a second, the truthfulness in the savvy remarks of beeton, that "since latex allegedly wastes time that should better be spent on research", is perhaps a pervasive position, incorrect nonetheless, implied and asserted by non scientists alike. One must crawl before learning to walk. And it would be a disastrous decision to tromp any scientific advancement by taking shortcuts in others. I would be sorry for my children and the children of my children.
    – doed
    Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 16:41
  • @JosephWright It would be akin to say to undergraduates and graduates in the field of say, applied mathematics -one that is close to me, not by training, but because of loved ones involved in it - that they are better off, to forget about learning to typeset, in a turing complete language, because here is one, in which the learning curve is not necessary, or time consuming as TeX or LaTeX, and in 'fact', could be prove detrimental in the real research. Which makes poor sense, but how many decisions out there make sense? A few, only a few. And that's the reason I'm optimistic at times.At times
    – doed
    Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 17:27
  • ...Only during brief intervals.
    – doed
    Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 17:28
  • There are good reasons to be skeptical of the review process involved with the plos one journal, as evidenced by this paper.
    – Sverre
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 15:46
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    Interestingly the journal in question has a LaTeX template from 2014-12 (!) that advises the use of latex&dvipdfm (instead of pdflatex etc.) and uses the geometry package but then sets \textwidth/\textheight... :-( Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 1:07
  • 3
    This journal has a different publication process than most other journals. Upon submission, only one member of the editorial board checks the paper for technical things, but not on the content. Then the paper is published and afterwards, the scientific community should discuss and evaluate its impact. In case the paper deserves it, it might become a post-publication. Since this article was published on 14.12.2014, it is definitely not a post-publication and no peer review as in most other journals has taken place yet. BTW: I also doubt that this journal's publication process works in practice. Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 3:11
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    @cryingshadow, your description doesn't match the fairly explicit explanation of the review methodology provided on the PLOS ONE website. I was a coauthor on a PLOS ONE paper in 2011, and we received two very thorough reviews and one that was less so, plus the editor's summary of all three. That being said, the process may well vary across submissions and I certainly don't mean to defend the quality of any particular PLOS ONE articles -- I've seen several, including the one under discussion here, that have made me question the review process. Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 16:50
  • @JasonZentz Ah, ok. I was referring to the wikipedia article en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PLOS_ONE (section publication concept). But yes, following the link to the journal's own website, it seems that the pre-review is not necessarily restricted to technical control (but might be). Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 16:58
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    I am more concerned how much momentum such a paper can gain among undergraduate students that might not be able to judge the quality of the paper. Before the introduction of a mandatory EDP course in our bachelor of physics, latex was something students learned when a supervisor wanted a report done like this or when they had arrived at writing their first paper. Sadly, a lot that is taught now is terribly outdated and incomplete. So students end up having more problems than necessary and either set out to relearn latex on their own account or shun and hate it forever (as loud as possible).
    – Valryne
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 12:11
  • I agree with what Barbara says, and we have discussed this out-of-band. I was one of the referees, and in my own experience, some authors would indeed benefit from using Word, since their training or experience has not equipped them with a sufficient knowledge of LaTeX, document structure and automation. I have for many years urged better training in both Word and LaTeX, as this makes it clearer to users which they should choose. We do also badly need more and better research in this area. Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 23:23
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    @PeterFlynn: The paper neglects the problems of closed vs. open source software (Word vs. LibreOffice); and fails to compare Word to Lyx or Scientific Word, which would be more appropriate. Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 11:14
  • One of the key advantages of LaTeX is the ability to integrate your statistical analysis into your document using packages such as knitr or sweave. Just think about the process using Word. You have to run the statistical analysis and copy and paste it into your document. Even worse, packages such as SPSS don't seem to allow simple copying and pasting (NB not an expert here) so all transfer of data needs to be done by hand. This process is extremely error-prone. In short if you want REPRODUCIBLE RESEARCH LaTeX is surely the way to go? Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 7:39

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