Be LaTeX my friend

You may recall this quote from Bruce Lee:

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.

Just read it a little differently

Empty your mind of Microsoft Word, be formless. Shapeless, like a .tex file. If you put a .tex file into latex, it becomes the paper. You put a .tex file into beamer and it becomes the presentation. You put it in htlatex, it becomes a webpage. Now, LaTeX can flow or it can crash. Be LaTeX my friend.

Really what I want to focus on it the line “Now, LaTeX can flow or it can crash.” I have become slightly dogmatic in my belief that even just writing your documents in LaTeX is not enough. Your document must flow like water. What that means is little things matter. Along these lines I have come up with a list of things which can help help a document flow:

  • Develop your own style. Have an opinion about the layout of your paper.
  • If at all possible, use vector images (eps, pdf). I would say never use anything other than vector images but I admit there are a few circumstances where a raster image is the most appropriate. I avoid them at all cost.
  • Generate your own images. Draw them yourself in a vector drawing program like Illustrator or Inkscape. Or better yet draw them naively in TeX or LaTeX with PGF/TikZ (examples). This way the style of your images can be consistant with the rest of your document. This cannot be stressed enough. The section “Guidelines on Graphics” in the PGF manual has a tremendous amount of good information about this.
  • Use the same font and font size in your graphics as in your writing. One way to do this is with eps2pgf and the -m directcopy option.

The list could go on indefinitely. 3 out of 4 of the points above are about graphics. This I think reflects the importance of consistency of style between graphics and writing. Using LaTeX and is good but try to be LaTeX and your document can be whatever you want. This concludes the current session of waxing.

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