LaTeX vs. Mellel

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by stone315, Sep 10, 2008.

  1. stone315 macrumors regular

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    Jun 17, 2008
    #1
    Hi, I'm a college freshman considering a math/computer science major, and I was thinking about buying the macupdate bundle. I'd mostly be getting it for the Mellel/Bookends combo, and I was wondering if anyone with technical experience has a recommendation between using Mellel or a LaTeX editor. Thanks!
     
  2. mward333 macrumors 6502a

    mward333

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    Jan 24, 2004
    #2
    I think that Mellel and LaTeX are very different animals. I use LaTeX everyday, and it's more of a compiler than a word processor. You type some LaTeX code, compile it, and get some publishable-quality postscript or pdf as a result. If you need LaTeX, I recommend that you choose your favorite editor (I use emacs) and use TeXShop for your LaTeX engine.

    I don't know about Mellel, but it looks like a basic word processor to be, which means it is something very different than the concept of LaTeX.

    This is a little tough to explain on a forum. I could show a student in my office the difference in just a few minutes (I'm a Statistics professor).

    Good luck!
     
  3. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #3
    Never heard of Mellel. LaTeX has a huge user community and support base, and isn't based off of proprietary software. It's also free. I'd go with LaTeX.
     
  4. LaserCat macrumors newbie

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    Jul 22, 2008
    #4
    I have recently gone through the same exercise that you are, so I speak not from experience with either option, but from experience with your situation (starting grad school in 2 weeks, gulp!).

    Mellel and LaTeX are very different beasts. Mellel is "what you see is what you get". LaTeX is, as somebody mentioned earlier, a language for typesetting. With Mellel, you can get started easily and get something that looks good enough for most things, but not perfect. With LaTeX, it's a tough learning curve because you basically have to learn a new programming language, but once you get the hang of it, you can make publication-quality documents. The real strength of LaTeX is mathematics. If you want to write out math equations that look professional quality, there is no substitute. If you are doing only text, LaTeX is likely more power than you need, and the excess control you have over typesetting styles is more of a distraction than an aid. Plus sharing files with classmates gets annoying when not everybody can read/edit/understand your files.

    From the sound of it, you'll mostly be using this to write papers for class. For that, Mellel will do just fine (as will iWork and others). I suggest you get Mellel or any other word processor, and use it to write your English class essays. Freshman year is stressful enough that you don't want to have to deal with debugging LaTeX code just to get your paper in by the due date. But since LaTeX is free, you can always get it along with Mellel, and use each to their strengths. Mellel for your English papers; and use LaTeX only when you need to (math/engineering/science papers or anything that will be published).
     
  5. stone315 thread starter macrumors regular

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    Jun 17, 2008
    #5
    Alright, thanks a lot guys. I ended up buying it, but decided it was a mistake and am considering it a somewhat pricey lesson in impulse buying. Thanks for the explanation of the difference between Mellel and LaTeX, I'll hold off on LaTeX until I need it, even though that's free. Thanks again!
     
  6. exegete77 macrumors 6502a

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    Feb 12, 2008
    #6
    Probably LaTex is best for strict sciences. I dabbled with it, but never went into it in detail.

    But having used Mellel for the past 4 years, I would say don't underestimate the power of Mellel. It handles multiple note streams independently, and has auto-titles that make organization, TOC, etc. a snap. It also handles RTL languages properly (unlike NeoOffice and MS Word) in the same line as English or any other language; I use routinely English, Hebrew, and Greek. Mellel integrates very well with Bookends. The style sheets are handled differently than in Word, but they make much more sense once you get used to it. Best program I have purchased for the money.

    So, if you bought Mellel/Bookends, keep them handy, you may very well grow to love them.

    My only problem? I received BS in Math and Physics degree long before handheld calculators, and nine years of post graduate education before personal computers. What I would have done 40 years ago with a computer!!!

    Enjoy your studies, whatever you use. :)
     
  7. Agurri macrumors 6502

    Agurri

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    Location:
    Québec, Canada
    #7
    I've used LaTeX for a class during a semester and I've been gladly suprised. Even ifit takes a week or two to know how it works, it's doing imo a cleaner job than Word or anything for reports. I suggest you to download the MacTex, as its bundled with everything you need.

    Good Luck
     
  8. skaertus macrumors 68030

    skaertus

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    Feb 23, 2009
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    Brazil
    #8
    Different things, for different people. Being a social scientist myself, I cannot stand using LaTeX. I've tried once, but I gave up. Too much work to learn it, not intuitive at all. But I guess nothing match LaTeX for equations.

    Mellel fits me nicely, but I don't need equations.
     
  9. ppc750fx macrumors 65816

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    Aug 20, 2008
    #9
    It's really not that difficult. I can make a good looking document with LaTeX much faster and much more easily than I can with any WYSIWYG app. Stuff like citations and the like are a cinch to do with LaTeX, compared to the (usually painful) process of managing a large number of references using a traditional word processor.
     
  10. Cromulent macrumors 603

    Cromulent

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    #10
    LaTeX is fantastic no matter what you use it for. I'd rather write a review or article using LaTeX than Pages or Word as you can actually control where the text goes rather than having to use the often obstructive tools of WYSIWYG editors.
     
  11. skaertus macrumors 68030

    skaertus

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    #11
    It might be. However, I found that LaTeX had a pretty difficult learning curve and I was not inclined to go through the process. I've used LyX, and I found it pretty lacking in comparison to full-featured word processors such as MS Word, Apple Pages, Nisus Pro, Mellel or Ooo Writer. I'm not a programmer, nor an engineer, and I have no time for learning LaTeX to take advantage of its full splendour.

    To manage a large number of references is really painful. But there are great reference management software available for Mac, such as Bookends and Sente. They make my work a lot easier.

    In addition, I have to keep compatible with everyone else. Academic journals in social sciences accept Word files, but they won't publish a document written in LaTeX. This is one of the main reasons I realized I would never be able to use LaTeX, even if I really wanted to. Are there any tools for perfect conversions?
     
  12. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #12
    Seriously? When submitting journals to JINST we're required to submit in LaTeX. Weird.
     
  13. skaertus macrumors 68030

    skaertus

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    #13
    Yes, I'm serious. JINST is a physics journal, isn't it?

    Well, my field of study is Law. All legal journals accept manuscripts in Word format (.DOC) and a few of them in other formats. But I've never seen one that accepts LaTeX. The University of California (Berkeley) has a service which distributes papers to 550 law journals, provided that such papers are submitted in Word format.
     
  14. hayduke macrumors 65816

    hayduke

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    #14
    In the fields of medicine and biomedical research, very few journals accept LaTeX. Collaborative efforts also require that manuscripts be edited and reviewed by several team members, most of which don't have any idea what LaTeX is. Furthermore, the "Track Changes" feature of Word is indispensable when working with colleagues from around the world. As much as I dislike Word, in general, it is ubiquitous and has *some* nice features. Now that Word supports PDF as a native file format I can typeset equations with LaTeX and insert them into my manuscripts. It is unlikely that I'll ever need or prefer to use LaTeX for writing manuscripts in the future. My two cents...
     
  15. skaertus macrumors 68030

    skaertus

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    #15
    Yes, the same happens in Law. I would just change the "very few journals accept" to "no journals accept".

    I use Mellel for writing my pieces, as it can export to Word format so the editors can read them. However, when I'm doing collaborative writing, I just have to use Word because I have to keep compatible with the rest of the world.
     
  16. MisterMe macrumors G4

    MisterMe

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    #16
    Yes, the JINST is the Journal of Instrumentation.

    Despite the enthusiasm of our young LaTeX users, the vast majority of professional journals require researchers to submit their papers in Word format. The style guide also specifies font, type size, margins, etc. The small subset of journals that serve mathematically-intense disciplines such as high-energy physics require LaTeX.

    Word is a wordprocessing app. LaTeX is a publishing environment. It separates content from layout and style. Donald Knuth developed TeX out of frustration with how his publisher handled equations in his books. By requiring LaTeX, mathematically intense journal publishers save everyone a lot of frustration. Authors are assured that their professional papers will by typeset correctly. Journal editors and publishers are free to layout each paper confident that they won't foul-up equations or graphics.
     
  17. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #17
    I don't know if this statement can be backed up with numbers. It certainly seems to be field-specific though. If one submitted a paper to pretty much any reputable physics, mathematics, computer science, or chemistry journal in MS Word it would be rejected, your colleagues would laugh at you, and you would be forced to march in lockstep with the LaTeX community whether you like it or not.
     
  18. skaertus macrumors 68030

    skaertus

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    #18
    Yes, it is certainly field-specific. The editors of law journals probably have never even heard of LaTeX...
     
  19. mward333 macrumors 6502a

    mward333

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    #19
    Yes, whether a journal requires Microsoft Word or LaTeX is mostly discipline specific.
     
  20. MisterMe macrumors G4

    MisterMe

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    #20
    In physics for the most part, TeX is a suggestion rather than a requirement. The American Physical Society (APS) prefers REVTeX, but will accept LaTeX, Harvmac, Plain TeX, or MSWord .doc. The American Institute of Physics (AIP) publishes the prestigious Journal of Applied Physics. It accepts manuscripts in REVTeX, LaTeX, Word (.doc), and WordPerfect formats. Its Journal of Mathematical Physics accepts these formats plus PDF and PostScript. Neither the APS nor the AIP are currently prepared to accept MSWord .docx.

    You may read the guidelines for the APS and the AIP for yourself. The APS and AIP are the largest and most prestigious physics organizations. Colleagues don't laugh at physicists who are accepted for publication because they are more mature than the average 15-year-old.
     
  21. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #21
    You've obviously never spent time at any sort of large collaborative research project. Come stay at CERN for a few weeks, you'll see pettiness and rivalries that put the playground bully to shame.
     
  22. VladM macrumors regular

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    Oct 23, 2008
    #22
    I've been out of academia for a while, but when I was publishing papers (electrical engineering), LyX was more than enough for all my needs. I see it is available for OS X as well.
     
  23. leon-geyer macrumors newbie

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    Oct 19, 2010
    #23
    Well, here somebody who uses LaTeX not for mathematics nor natural sciences, but philosophy (and a lot more). LaTeX is good for formulas, yes. But to restrain it to it is like telling that you only can use a Mac for drawing.

    I wrote my Magister Thesis and PhD on it. It helped me not to care nor worry about format, just about writing, and nevertheless have a visual product which gave me some extra points, I am sure. I have perfect integration of images, different languages (also old greek, sanskrit, etc), automatic stuff which Mellel claims as new (automatic format of classes, automatic generation of table of contents, glossary, tables etc, automatic generation of bibliography, internal hyperlinks in text and to outside).
    LaTeX does the stuff since decades, for free, there is a huge community which makes tweaks, and you really can adapt everything to exactly the idea you have. But yes, you have to learn it. Once done, you have the power to form a perfect layout with just some minimal instructions. Lex is a LaTeX client.

    How I work
    Bibliography: I imported them into Bibtex(free) - used Bookpedia(payed) to scan barcodes and download all the info, but is not necessary.
    Reading : used Docear (free) to integrate automatically notes (and monitor them) into mind map freeplane (free)
    Writing : used WriteRoom for distraction-free writing, but there is a lot of free software out there for that.
    In this moment I am evaluating TexPad - see its screenshots, you will notice it looks very like Mellel, and not because of imitating it, but because it is part of the logic of the writing-typsetting relation.

    I would use Mellel as an help, to think in big documents, but as working horse LaTeX
     

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