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Content Creation - Writing Text


The „Writing Text“ video shows you

  • different types of writing editors

  • the difference between Word and LaTeX

  • when you should use which tool

Welcome to the "Writing Text" video of our "Content Creation" series.
Imagine the following situation: You have to write a report with your fellow students: Sally, Les and Olivia.
Your professor has given you two options: Writing it in Word or writing LaTeX
Today's video will answer two questions:
1. What is the difference between Word and LaTeX?
2. When should you use each tool?
We'll highlight the advantages and disadvantages to help you to decide between those two.
Writing a report, a paper or a thesis is an important part of your study course.
There are plenty of editor options to write your text.
One way is to use classical "What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get" editors.
These are editors like Microsoft Word, free alternatives like LibreOffice or solutions like Google Docs.
The actual usage is quite simple:
In Word, you open a document and start writing your text right away.
You can see your input text directly on the sheet of paper.
To customize your layout, design or text, just highlight a text segment and apply the desired option.
This way, changes to type font, color, boldface and many other features within the editor are easy.
This is different in the family of "What-You-See-Is-What-You-Asked-For" systems which LaTeX belongs to.
This means that you write down plain text and apply styling to it using markup language.
To do this, you must insert modifying instructions into the text.
These instructions are called "commands."
By compiling your text and commands, your file will be translated into a PDF.
After this step, your layout insertions and text are fixed and visible.
This is also useful for image insertions or complex scientific formulas.
The currently easiest and most common way to use LaTeX is an online service called “Overleaf."
In Overleaf, you can create LaTeX files and choose from a set of templates.
This means you don't have to worry about the right font size or style.
To cite from Google Scholar, click on the "Cite" icon and select BibTeX.
Copy the reference and paste it into your separate bibliography file (.bib file)
Now you can use the key of your reference to do citations in the correct format.
Let's contrast both tools
Word, on the one hand, is simple, user-friendly and has a flat learning curve.
Another benefit is that the result is visible immediately, but common problems often occur during editing.
This includes, for example, shiftings, indentations, overlapping of images, texts and scientific formulas.
Another downside is that Microsoft Office packages can be very expensive.
Also, free versions like LibreOffice have limitations regarding compatibility.
On the other hand, there is LaTeX, which is less intuitive and comes with a steeper learning curve.
But complicated formulas for scientific papers can be created faster if you know your way around.
Also, standard format can be better maintained as well as consistent design.
Another plus is the developed citation standard.
So when should you use each option?
Of course, it depends on the specifications and guidelines of your report.
If there are no specifications, choose the one you are more comfortable with.
This can be the case for exercises, for example, when you have to hand in solutions with no grades.
The more specifications and formatting guidelines you have, the more likely you should choose LaTeX.
However, if your professor gives you a template, you need to use that to get full marks.
Each department has a specific thesis template for Bachelor and Master theses that you must use.
In this video we learned about two editor systems: Word and LaTeX.
The main difference between these two are the immediate text visibility in Word, but the easier, consistent formatting in LaTeX.
Which system fits to your report depends on the requirements and your preferences.
Once you find a good workflow, you can focus on writing and working on the actual content, rather than losing too much time on formatting or other issues. . . well, unless you need another reason to procrastinate!
Which one would you choose?