The bottom line: if you’re writing a short document in English with no special characters, use Microsoft Word.
For longer documents, like a masters or doctoral dissertation – invest your time in learning how to use LaTeX.
LaTeX lets you concentrate on what you are writing, not what it looks like. It’s efficient – formatting, structuring, numbering, indexing and referencing are all taken care of – you can just write.
Advantages of using LaTeX
- excellent support for transliteration and for non-latin alphabets
- separation of content and style (you type, it makes it pretty)
- scalability – LaTeX can be used for a one-page letter or a 300 page book
- high quality output – PDFs produced look elegant and professional
- performance – LaTeX doesn’t crash like Word
- can be used with the bibliography/reference package, BibTeX
- files are very small – a LaTeX file is just a text file
- it’s free
- platform independent – can be used on Windows, Macs, Linux
- you never have to write an English/Arabic document in Word again!
Disadvantages of using LaTeX
- it can be a bit overwhelming at first
- learning how to use it takes time
- complicated workflow – there are several steps to write, generate and produce a finished file
- just as with any software, there are occasional bugs – but I’ve only come across one so far
I use LaTeX because of its excellent handling of Arabic script, transliteration and typesetting control. If any of the above sounds interesting, read on and try it out.
Useful links to reviews of LaTeX
- Side by side comparison of LaTeX and Microsoft Word – http://openwetware.org/wiki/Word_vs._LaTeX
- Article by Andy Roberts, LaTeX isn’t for everyone but it could be for you, from OSnews
- For a typographic review of LaTeX, see The Beauty of LaTeX by Dario Taraborelli.