My Problem with Latex

29 Jun

If you do any sort of scientific publishing, Latex is indispensable. Its advocates say who nice it looks (only if you agree that it knows best). How easy it is to use (once you learn how to use it). I’m sure they say other things, but I really can’t think of them. Oh, how nice all the cross referencing is and BibTex (well I’ll give them that mostly). Really Latex is nice if you let it assume that it knows better than you.

But what if you want to do something slightly offbeat. Like say have subfigures in a paper that has a particular style guide that conflicts with the packages you use to do so. Or keep up with the most valid packages: is there anywhere that states what are the msot recent version of each “package” that you should use? Since they are all user generated a package is often succeeded by a different package and you are left not knowing which one is the right one. Ccaption or just plain caption? Or even caption2? As far as I’m ware it is caption, but the paper I’m working on at the moment style uses ccaption which clashes with caption, meaning I can’t relabel minipages as a table (and I’m using minipages as I can’t use subfigure either).

What latex really needs is a governing body. Somebody that says “This is what you will use” and “Oh you want to add this functionality? Add it to this package, don’t produce a whole new one”. The closest thing at the moment is Ctan, which as far as I’m aware is more a repository of Latex packages.

I really can’t see this happening though: it would involve academic from many disciplines actually agreeing on something. The only chance of it happening is if a whole lot of journals, like Elsiver, got together and insisted on standards. But once agian, cooperation. 

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