Signup date: 12 Feb 2013 at 8:52am
Last login: 22 Aug 2013 at 8:48am
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Hi, I'm a big fan of the **reStructuredText** (rST) markup language: It's a quite simple but still powerful notation to write complex content. It's used a lot in the documentation of software libraries, but frankly I think it has the potential to replace Word and/or LaTex for academic publications.
Once you've written your rST manuscript (a simple editor is enough for that), you can turn it into PDF (via Sphinx & LaTex), HTML, EPUB etc. There are even online service like https://notex.ch that make it very easy for you to learn this language.
Now, what I don't understand: When I mention rST to my PhD friends or people who in general write complex content, the usual reaction is either complete fascination or simply (continued) ignorance!
I think Word is really simply a bad choice if people want to show their thesis in a presentable manner, since although it is *possible* to write nice looking content, it's very easy to screw things up. On the other hand I really understand people who can't stand LaTex either due to it's cryptic language to express content **and** presentation (layout configuration, styles etc.) within the same document.
When I stumbled upon rST - which has been created about 10 years ago - I was immediately converted and never looked back on Word or even LaTex. But, when I preach it's benefits to PhD/MSc candidates then they usually say nice, but keep using Word/LaTex. .. I don't get it.
So my question would be: Why? Is maybe something with rST wrong? In terms of complexity it is somewhere between Word and LaTex. Or is it that Word users simply refuse anything that looks remotely tech and LaTex users have been using it since eternity, and they will keep using it for another eternity?
What I try to figure out is the psychology of potential users and the way users are attached to a particular piece of software; any insight here is very much appreciated. Thank you! :)
@GeneNat: Trying to have control where exactly an image is going to show up will just lead to lot's of frustration; delegate this to the software. Having said that, I can understand that you're unhappy with Word; plus learning LaTex is also painful, especially since it's markup is so awfully designed!
I think Lyxx is not a bad option, but I prefer the **reStructuredText** (rST) markup: A very natural system to write complex content, very little learning curve, and you get (with the right tools) the same quality PDF like with LaTex.
My favorite rST editor is https://notex.ch, since it has a straight forward UI and allows you to quickly export PDFs (or HTML; or even LaTex). Keeping the content in a *presentation agnostic* markup like rST has also huge advantages: You can later easily convert your thesis to PDFs, HTML, LaTex, EPUB (e-book) and many more target formats; see also Pandoc (a document converter) which you can use for that purpose.
@cplusplusgirl: I'd not try to control where your images are going to show up in the page; if you start doing that you'll just experience a painful death of frustration. But I can understand that you're unhappy with Word and its idiosyncrasies; plus learning LaTex is equally painful, especially since it's markup is so awfully designed!
Although I think Lyxx is not a bad option, I prefer the **reStructuredText** (rST) markup: It's a very natural system to write complex content, has almost no learning curve, and you get (with the right tools) the same quality PDF like with LaTex.
rST tools support:
My personal choice number one is https://notex.ch, since it has a straight forward user interface and allows you to quickly export PDFs (or HTML; or even LaTex); one disadvantage NoTex.ch has is that there is currently only one template you can choose from. It does allow you to change the layout, colors etc. but for that you need some LaTex knowledge.
Keeping the content in a *presentation agnostic* markup like rST has huge advantages: You can easily convert your thesis to PDFs, HTML, LaTex, EPUB (e-book format) and many more target formats; see also Pandoc (a universal document converter) which you can use for that purpose.
If you don't need a user interface and are a hard core *command line* girl, then you can directly use SPHINX with TexLive -- upon which NoTex.ch relies on -- and create PDFs locally: The disadvantage is that you're almost required to work on a GNU/Linux distribution, have (very large) packages installed and configure/manage everything yourself.
@Pineapple30 -- I hope my tips could help you in your thesis administration efforts; you should also check out NoTex.ch: A online tool that helps you to learn *reStructuredText (rST)* quickly; the good thing about rST is that you can bypass LaTex (which I find a little cryptic) completely, but still get nice PDFs (since apparently rST itself is translated to LaTex in the background).
If you don't want to use a web service then there is another possiblity: You could install SPHINX (Python document generator) http://sphinx-doc.org/, and TexLive (LaTex distribution). The advantage would be then you could skip NoTex.ch and directly write rST locally on your laptop and create nice PDFs. But the dis-advantage is that SPHINX/TexLive together can take multiple gigabytes on your disk and it can take a while to get everything installed and learn how to use them (especially if you are a Windows user then it is even harder to install).
Just try NoTex.ch first, and if you think rST is something for you then either stick to it, or go one step further and try the SPHINX/TexLive couple.
I'm not sure if the "best software" question is actually the correct one w.r.t. writing complex, structured content. I'd kick of rather a "best markup" discussion, since markups have compared to Word or any other WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) office applications the remarkable advantage of being software **agnostic**.
That means you can crunch such a content through any compatible system (or even a *chain* of such systems) to transform your content into something which as increased value. After this rather abstract explanation a very concrete example:
Take **reStructuredText**: It's a powerful markup easily suitable for writing content like a PhD thesis, but it is still very natural to read (in its original form). Then you run Sphinx (a document generator) and can get PDFs, HTMLs or even LaTex. Single source, but multiple target platforms! You can also translate your document into something like docbook and publish it for electronic readers.
I'd strongly suggest you to familiarize yourself with one or two such markup languages (the other one being **Markdown**). Relevant reference: https://notex.ch (a brower based text editor with a strong focus on markup languages), http://sphinx-doc.org (document generator) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReStructuredText (a markup language).
I'm sorry, the tool I'd hinted at in my last post `Pandoc <http://johnmacfarlane.net/pandoc>` is apparently able to convert stuff *to* but *not from* Word. Still if you stick to a markup, thanks to Pandoc, you can always come back to Word, if you should really miss it.
Please don't go for *Word*, use LaTex, or even better the more modern *reStructuredText* (rst) markup. Just look for corresponding tool support, and you'll find plenty of editor: This one <http://rst.ninjs.org/> is for example great since it offers you an immediate preview while you write your stuff, other this <https://notex.ch> is excellent, since it offers PDF & LaTex export possibilities.
If I were you I would try to move away from word as fast as possible: There is actually even a tool that can help you to convert your stuff away from Word to rST (and I think even LaTex).. unfortunately I forgot it's name, but just look for something like "word to rst/latex converter".
Basic message: Do *not* use any WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) editor, if you wish to produce complex content: Stick to *simple* text (possibly using a markup like rst or markdown). Once you've produced your content, you can then convert it to anything you want using all the various tools available in the net. You'll be much more flexible, and more efficient.
Hi, I'm looking for a way to re-write my thesis (my master thesis actually), since I'd written it - quite quickly - in OpenOffice and I'm not really happy with the end result. My reason for the re-write is, in case of a PhD application I wan't something to show that really looks state of the art.
I've been tinkering around with *LaTex* [www.latex-project.org/], but my problem is that it is more like a computer language one needs to learn, before on is able to create something decent. Although the end result seems to look actually fantastic, I find the markup very .. heavy.
I could switch to *Word* from MS, instead of using OpenOffice, but in the end both are WSIWYG editors, so I'm not sure if the final result will look as nice as with LaTex. Does somebody recommend Word?
Another approach I've found is *NoTex* [notex.ch/]: It seems to use a markup called *reStructuredText*, which is translated first to LaTex and then to PDF. So in terms of quality it is like LaTex, but it does not seem to be as popular like LaTex or OpenOffice/Word. Did anyone use it, and can give some feedback about it?
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