Why is it so normalized to make snarky side comments about LaTeX?

Actually I wanted to write about something different today and had a post already prepared. But then I came across yet another instance of people making negative comments about LaTeX (for apparently no reason and without explaining why they think so) and I guess that made me angry, so here’s today’s post about today’s topic: Why is it so normalized to make snarky side comments about LaTeX? Both in the DH community and otherwise. What is people’s problem with LaTeX? So the offending post, in this case, was this – but I really don’t mean to shit on it because it’s a great post otherwise (I have actually written something similar in Where can I *actually learn* programming? (as DH and otherwise). I guess that’s part of the reason why it makes me so angry. It’s an overall great post by people who are influential in the DH, with a considerable audience and otherwise doing great work. And then a

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Preparing your literature review and excerpting: My workflow in LaTeX

It’s Halloween and while for me, this is a holiday which usually pretty much passed me by unnoticed, I know that many of you probably care and celebrate. So I thought: What topics in Academia or academic writing especially are spooky? The honest anwer is probably: Way too many. But one stood out in particular and that’s the dreaded part of the writing process which lends itself to procrastination like no other: The literature review and excerpting process. Without it, not a lot of writing can happen (except maybe if you start working on a case study or use our Article Outline Template to sharpen your argument). So anyway, I thought this counts as a sufficiently scary activity for Halloween 😉 Info: I think I might end up not having proper code formatting in this post. Sorry for the inconvenience but it seems that the backtick on my keyboard is broken and WordPress has long since removed the keyboard shortcut

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How to get started using LaTeX for academic writing? A book review of “S. Kottwitz, LaTeX Beginner’s Guide (2nd ed., Packt 2021)

Many prospective LaTeX users wonder: How do I get started? How to find my way in the jungle that learning LaTeX often seems to be to a first time user? Today I wanted to share my review of Stefan Kottwitz, LaTeX. A Beginner’s Guide (Packt 2021) with you. This book can help you find your way and get started using LaTeX after just the first chapter. Acknowledgement: I was sent a free reviewer’s copy of this book and asked to write a review about it which I happily agreed to do. Disclaimer: My book review policy Probably related to my upbringing in Germany, I don’t think a review can call itself a proper/serious review if it doesn’t contain criticism. I’m aware this is relatively different from reviews in the American style (especially on the covers of books) to just praise the book and not mention any criticism – but sadly, this also is becoming the norm in many an academic

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Top 5 magic LaTeX packages you didn’t know about

In the process of coming up with the archaeological catalogue from CSV solution which you all seem to have loved, I had a realization: There are some packages which are just ‘magic’ in that they can make your life so much easier in just an instant. That is, if you know about them. So I decided to come up with a top 5 which reflect my own preferences because, ultimately, this choice is pretty personal. I researched some blogposts and online resources as well as checking in with the Twitter #TeXLaTeX community. I summarized the results of this extensive search in the following post 😉 So why did I choose the topic of today’s post? I think the answer is very close to the overall purpose of this blog: There are lots of great resources on LaTeX on the internet, almost unlimited amounts of documentation – but how is a newbie supposed to know which information to read first or

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The most important book to read if you want to learn Digital Humanities, Computer Science, Maths, Programming or LaTeX

Today I wanted to share a tiny book review of the book I claim to be the most important book you should read if you want to learn any technical topic but are unsure if you are up for it. The book I’m talking about is not Donald Knuth (although his books are highly recommended, especially if you’re a (La)TeX nerd!). It’s not even a computer book! I’m talking about: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck (New York: Random House 2006). The fixed mindset versus the growth mindset This will be a short post because Dweck’s message is simple. There are two mindsets, the ‘fixed mindset’ and the ‘growth mindset’ and which one you have greatly impacts your success in learning and self-development. The ‘fixed mindset’ assumes your abilities and talents are fixed. Thus, you are proud of what you’re good at because you link it to your personality (“I’m a person who is good at…”). But

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LaTeX for thesis writing

Having re-read my LaTeX for PhD students post, I realized I hadn’t mentioned a lot of things I would like to impart to you. So here comes LaTeX for thesis writing – a few more arguments in favour of starting to learn LaTeX now. Just to sum up what has already been said in the last post: The main points speaking in favour of you typesetting your thesis in LaTeX are the citation management, tables, maths and images which can be more of a hastle in MS Word. In the aforementioned blogpost, I also added that you should take into account that a thesis will yield two PDF outputs with very different requirements from the same document – another reason to use LaTeX. But there are many more things to take into account. LaTeX for maths, images and the like (in short, everything MS Word isn’t good at) A lot of people say that the “LaTeX is great for maths”

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Learning to program: Debugging – Where to start?

After a long hiatus, I’m back today with a post on how to develop the debugging skill. If you’re new to programming, we refer to the process of finding and solving errors in the code as “debugging”. It can be difficult to acquire this skill as a newbie when you have no idea what you should even look for. This post will help you out with a few hints. Why should I learn debugging? Most people who attend a programming class for the first time get quite the culture shock. Often, their identity had encompassed something like “good with computers”. Then they see what it’s actually like to interact with a computer as a superuser, i.e. someone who interacts with the computer not only in the way intended for users by product designers, i.e. mostly the Graphical User Interface (GUI). Often computer usage the superuser way means it’s entirely text-based (although you can learn the first steps to programming with

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The most important tip for confident LaTeX newbies: Don’t reinvent the wheel! (and try a Minimal Working Example instead)

Today I wanted to address a common issue I see in troubleshooting LaTeX errors, on StackOverflow and in personal questions. It usually stems from newbies who aren’t yet aware of all the functionality provided by standard packages and thus, try to reinvent the wheel when something doesn’t work the way they expect. Why reinventing the wheel is a problem In my experience, even from me helping people with packages that I’m not all that familiar with myself, it’s always best not to reinvent the wheel (even if you succeed, the result is likely sub-par unless you’re actually really good at what you’re doing). Ask yourself if the functionality you want is something that’s likely to be a common problem. Then maybe somebody has already solved it in a comprehensive way! That’s what packages are for and that’s why they’re (hopefully) maintained by people who have given the problem at hand a good bit of thought. It is very likely that

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“Learning LaTeX – Why should you care?” Series Part 1: Common Objections against learning LaTeX

Since some common objections why some people think learning LaTeX is not worth it or why the oppose LaTeX generally came up again in the Twitter discussion surrounding the recent post LaTeX for Philosophers? Logic and other Shenannigans, I quickly wanted to discuss the three most common objections agains LaTeX (in my experience) and why I think they’re not necessarily valid. Let’s get straight to it! 1) The “I can’t both be a good [insert job title/area of expertise here] AND spend time learning to code” aka the “LaTeX is hard to learn” objection A common argument used against LaTeX, not only in the Humanities, is “I already need all my energy being good at my job and now you want me to learn a new technology to distract me from it?”, like expressed in the following Tweet. But it’s really an extremely common one.  The argument is interesting to me because you also had to learn how to use

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LaTeX for Philosophers? Logic and other Shenannigans

Today, I wanted to share LaTeX resources for philosophers with you in a short post. I was included in a Twitter discussion yesterday about whether there wasn’t a post like that and I remembered there was – because a fairly long time ago I had been planning to write a post like that myself and already had a draft lying around in the depths of my WordPress account. So this is it, a short review of resources regarding the question: Should philosophers use LaTeX and what resources are there? Personal backstory which is totally irrelevant to the actual post: Funnily enough, one of my degrees is actually a Master’s degree in Philosophy, so you could say I know the field. However, I would think of my time at the Philosophy department more like a “field trip”, so to say. (Uh-oh, today is one of those bad-pun days.) I felt like getting to know the field to broaden my horizon or

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My experiences speaking at the online TeXUsersGroup Annual Meeting #TUG2020

Today I want to give you a quick update on what I’ve been doing – maybe a little bit as an excuse for why you haven’t been getting the usual amount of content from me. Apart from having lots of work to do, I did two talks at the (all-online) TeXUsersGroup Annual Meeting #TUG2020. And, of course, the two proceedings papers to go with it, appearing in the next issue of TUGboat. Stay tuned for that and consider joining your local TeX users group if you aren’t a member already! A Ninja and Noob revival Together with our friend the noob, we did a talk as a follow up to the initial guest post and our TUGboat contribution. It was about how folkx from the Humanities and non-technical backgrounds can be motivated and empowered into becoming part of the #TeXLaTeX community. A talk on didactical reduction versus references In one of my first covid lockdown blogposts, I mentioned that I

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Does LaTeX count as “programming”?

Today I wanted to talk about a common question I come across: Does LaTeX count as programming? Many people dismiss this question directly with a no. But I say the answer is not that simple and depending on how you practice LaTeX can definitely be ‘yes’ much more than you might think! Also, something I really don’t appreciate is people meaning to  degrade LaTeX when saying using LaTeX has nothing to do with programming (because it does and most people who think that way have just never seen LaTeX being used more like programming). LaTeX is, strictly speaking, a programming language and Turing-complete. Or rather, LaTeX is a macro package for TeX which is the actual Turing complete programming language. The typesetting-specific tools LaTeX provides probably can’t, however, be considered a full programming language on their own anymore. You could theoretically do anything with it, though it might just not be the easiest possible way to accomplish your ends (unless

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Learning to program: Failing fast and error messages

Today I wanted to talk about error messages and why you should learn to love them. If your mission is to learn programming, they show you your weakness and tackling a weakness is always the fastest way to learn. This is why the whole discussion of fixing error messages quickly turns into a philosophical discussion of a way of life: Walking the  path of the Ninja requires you to fail fast, early on, and often. Let me tell you why… Should you care about error messages and warnings? Are they secret messages from the universe? Yes, they are. If you’ve never given a hoot about errors and warnings in your life, congratulations. I don’t either. That is, until the thing doesn’t compile anymore. I am at awe with respect for people who fix mistakes before they become a problem. But I’m not one of them. What does this mean, however, with regard to your attitude towards failure? It probably means

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LaTeX for Archaeologists: An archaeological catalogue using LaTeX

Like hinted in various Noob posts, our friend the LaTeX Noob once asked for help typesetting her archaeological catalogue using LaTeX. As it sadly happens to me quite often, I totally forgot about this and was reminded by a recent inquiry (don’t be afraid to ask if I forget to post something I once promised!). In this post, I wanted to share the reaons why you should use LaTeX to typeset an image-heavy catalogue and what to take into account when deciding how to implement it in LaTeX. General PhD typesetting advice One PhD thesis = 2 outputs In the post on LaTeX for PhDs, I have already laid out the most common and some more commonly overlooked advice on why you should use LaTeX for typesetting your PhD thesis. An important aspect is that your thesis will likely generate two outpts, the thesis and a book (hopefully). If you “hard-code” everything now, the transition won’t be as smooth as

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