Microsoft Equation Editor vs LaTeX

I have posted twice about Microsoft Equation Editor recently, and made comparisons to \LaTeX, claiming that those who like \LaTeX will be pleased that many beloved shortcuts work in Microsoft Equation Editor as well. If you couldn’t tell, I’ve been becoming a bigger and bigger fan of Microsoft Equation Editor, especially now that I’ve learned that  everything is possible from the keyboard.

I was talking with my good friend (and math professor) Matthew Wright, and I echoed the above sentiment. I said that I’m seeing less and less advantage to doing things in \LaTeX, when it’s so easy and fast in Microsoft Equation Editor. His reply, in defense of \LaTeX, was clear and helpful (published here with permission):

As much as I appreciate the improvements to Equation Editor, I can think of many reasons to use LaTeX. Here are some:

1. Math fonts: I like to use Palatino, but Word doesn’t support Palatino as a math font. Equation Editor defaults to some particular font, and I don’t know how to change the default setting. In order to use Palatino in equations, I have to convert my equations to “normal text”, but that removes the italics and some other equation formatting, so I then have to manually set the variables to be italics. I like to use a sans-serif font for presentations in PowerPoint, but that also requires a lot of manual font changes. LaTeX can specify all the fonts in the document by loading a single package.

2. LaTeX provides more symbols. The Equation Editor cheat sheet provides an impressive list of symbols, but it doesn’t come close to the amount of symbols available in LaTeX. The Comprehensive LaTeX Symbol List has 100 pages of symbols:

http://www.tex.ac.uk/tex-archive/info/symbols/comprehensive/symbols-letter.pdf

3. LaTeX supports some programming constructs, such as conditional statements and the ability to create new commands. For instance, if you use some expression repeatedly, you can define a new command so that you can easily insert your expression whenever you need it. Conditional formatting is useful to hide or print solutions in a worksheet, for example.

4. LaTeX numbers theorems and equations and lets you refer to them in your document. If you insert a theorem or equation, it automatically renumbers everything. The same applies for lemmas, definitions, chapters, sections, references, etc. (I know that Word has tools for cross-references, table of contents, and such, but I think consistent numbering of theorems and equations is easier in LaTeX.)

5. There are many special packages in LaTeX for a variety of tasks. For example, I use a schedule package to print my schedule each semester. Granted, this did not save time the first time I made a schedule, but saves me time now, since creating a schedule is really easy. I have attached my schedule.

6. Finally, I think that math looks better in LaTeX than in Word. This is subjective, but I like Donald Knuth’s Computer Modern font family.

I guess I knew all of that, but I was glad for his reminders of why \LaTeX is still a very, very powerful tool. I’ve been using it for all my math grad school assignments, and I think Matthew has convinced me to continue doing that. There’s also the obvious additional benefit of \LaTeX:

7. Geek cred 🙂

Do you have any to add?

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3 thoughts on “Microsoft Equation Editor vs LaTeX

  1. Maintaining your LaTex in a revision control program (git, mercurial, bazaar, subversion, etc) makes it easy to see how things have changed over time as it’s all text under the hood. Following changes in Word docs is a lot less clear, IMHO.

    And if you’re not using revision-control, it’s a GREAT tool in your belt!

  2. Pingback: Math Fonts in Microsoft Office | Random Walks

  3. Pingback: Looking back on 299 random walks | Random Walks

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