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 learning LaTeX now. 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. 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” argument isn’t that strong anymore nowadays because MS Word has caught up a lot. I couldn’t tell you because I don’t usually use math in

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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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An ‘Inline’ bib. file using filecontents

In this post, I will explain how you can use the filecontents package to create an ‘inline’ .bib file inside your main document.tex . This can, for example, be useful if your LaTeX gets compiled on a server and your method only allows you to pass one single document. If you wanted to pass a .bib file with it, this wouldn’t work out. Also, for LaTeX releases past fall 2019, the package is no longer required for this functionality, you can use it directly as an environment. I’ll still keep this the way I wrote it. See the documentation here. Premlinaries: How I ended up writing this That’s what I initially wrote this little method for: Our publication system archives data following the single source principle: This means that all representations you want, such as a web site or an output PDF, will be generated from one single document. In our content management system, my data are encoded in TEI

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Learning to program: What to do if the program doesn’t compile

In this new year, I wanted to make an introduction to programming which mentions all the parts which (albeit being quite essential) many of the other tutorials, books and teaching documents tend to leave out. Things like “How do I even start debugging?” or “How to not lose it if my program doesn’t compile or when nothing works anymore?”. I was fortunate to get taught these skills by friends and helpful colleagues but if you’re a remote-only learner and don’t have access to such people – this series is for you. In this first post, I’ll address the problem that you’re in a situation where your program does not work at all. In the case of LaTeX, this means it won’t compile. Other programming languages which are not compiled will just not run. So what do you do in that dire situation? Step 1: Take a deep breath Stay calm. I repeat, stay calm. Take a deep breath. It’s just

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Strategically Using Search-And-Replace for LaTeX documents. Part I

In an earlier post, we talked about the perks of using search and replace wisely on XML documents. Here I want to argue that search and replace might be even more powerful when used in LaTeX.   The power of search and replace Imagine your thesis advisor decides last minute that they don’t like the way images are typeset in your thesis. It happens. We are speaking from our friend the Noob’s experience here. So imagine your advisor decides the images in your archaeological catalogue are too small, at the very last minute. In Microsoft Word, problem No. 1 you would have already encountered before now is that the document probably wouldn’t even open anymore (what with 200 pages full of images etc.). The second problem would be that you’d have to change each image size by hand, clicking and dragging around, cleaning up after the horrible mess and destruction your changes are leaving behind. In LaTeX, thanks goodness we

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