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hsk81
Tuesday, 12 February 2013 at 8:52am
Thursday, 22 August 2013 at 8:48am
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Thread: Software: What about reStructuredText instead of Word/LaTex?

posted
06-Aug-13, 10:06
edited about 4 minutes later
by hsk81
Avatar for hsk81
posted about 5 years ago
@satchi
thanks for posting! I have not heard of **reStructuredText** (rST) so thank you for introducing this to me.
At lease *somebody* who seems to like rST; yay! ;D
I wrote my thesis using LaTeX and for journal drafts I use Word because my supervisor likes word and doesn't really want to learn anything new.
Mmh, I fear that will be one of the problems for rST; people have invested a certain amount of time and energy to learn a particular technology and you have to have *really* good arguments make people give up on that investment.
For people to use rST (or Latex, whatever..and etc.) they need to have trouble-shooting tips and solutions, I think this is the biggest obstacle to using it. People generally want to do things painlessly.
I see .. on Stackoverflow you already find many good tips people are sharing which each other; it is by no means comparable to the sophistication of LaTex forums [which is a much more powerful, but also *harder* language to learn], but people seem already be helping out each other. Another forum I've just recently seen is https://notex.ch/forum: Since it seems relatively new there are not that many people using it, **but** you do have a dedicated sub-forum for rST.
I know about pain (HAHAHAHA) because I went through 2+ difficult weeks learning latex by myself. When I went online to see the issues and solutions on the latex forum, at first I couldn't even understand what users were talking about!!!
That was pretty much my reaction: I mean I really loved how of much **better** LaTex generated PDFs looked like compared to Word, but the amount of investment people had to put into getting certain things done struck me a little out of proportion.
Will you be using rST all the way then?
Definitely! I write the actual **content** with rST, but w.r.t. *customized* styling (**presentation**) I stick to LaTex.

Thread: Software: What about reStructuredText instead of Word/LaTex?

posted
06-Aug-13, 09:51
edited about 23 seconds later
by hsk81
Avatar for hsk81
posted about 5 years ago
@catalinbond
Quote From catalinbond:
I used Word for my thesis.
So you seem to be a happy Word user; I'm fine with that: I'm not a religious preacher trying to convince everybody of the "right" path. I think for every subset of people with different backgrounds there are various software solutions.

Still, may I ask how long your thesis was? How many images did you have? Did you have a table of content, footnotes and an index at the end? What about version management? Text based solutions like rST (or LaTex) can usually be combined with a version-ing system like GIT (or SVN/CVS), so you have all the time access to **older** versions of your draft.

And as with *any* software there are *always* problems: E.g. LaTex is for many people simply to techy, rST seems to be underdocumented; what about problems you faced with Word? I really would appreciate if you could share one or two "incidences/irritations" however small you had while working with a WYSIWYG editor like Word; thank you.

Thread: Software: What about reStructuredText instead of Word/LaTex?

posted
06-Aug-13, 09:34
edited about 7 minutes later
by hsk81
Avatar for hsk81
posted about 5 years ago
@contradirony
My first impression is that it looks good for someone who doesn't already use LaTeX (like myself) as the learning curve may be less steep. It's also quite neat that you can export as HTML and LaTeX, not only PDF :)
Do you know if it is possible to export LaTex documents to HTML or EPUB? Since I started using rST, my corresponding knowledge about the LaTex toolchain is a little dated.
The biggest problem that I can see is that the documentation is sparse and very 'techie'.
So you think having a book like **reStructuredText for dummies** would be of some help? It seems that this relatively new markup lacks awareness (compared to latex, which every tech oriented university seem to have in their "required" skill sets).

I mean, I don't think convincing tech savvy people like you to switch from LaTex to rST is possible, but maybe some 1st semester tech student might be inclined to give it a try.
The fact that you have to have python up and running would probably be confusing too. I can't really imagine anyone who isn't of a technical background and who doesn't already know how to script (in which case, would probably already be using LaTeX) be persuaded to use it otherwise.
Interesting, so you found that the condition of setting up Python put's people already into a certain category; what about online services like https://notex.ch which eliminate installation & maintenance issues: Do you think people would be willing go for it?

Thread: Software: What about reStructuredText instead of Word/LaTex?

posted
24-Jul-13, 11:00
edited about 58 seconds later
by hsk81
Avatar for hsk81
posted about 5 years ago
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! :)

Thread: Which word-processing software do you recommend for writing the thesis?

posted
17-Jul-13, 09:32
edited about 19 seconds later
by hsk81
Avatar for hsk81
posted about 5 years ago
@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.

Thread: software to write the thesis, except word and latex

posted
17-Jul-13, 09:21
edited about 2 minutes later
by hsk81
Avatar for hsk81
posted about 5 years ago
@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.

Thread: Thesis administration

posted
17-Jul-13, 08:31
edited about 25 minutes later
by hsk81
Avatar for hsk81
posted about 5 years ago
@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).

See: https://notex.ch.

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.

Thread: Best software

posted
16-Apr-13, 18:27
by hsk81
Avatar for hsk81
posted about 5 years ago
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).

Thread: Thesis administration

posted
03-Mar-13, 17:43
by hsk81
Avatar for hsk81
posted about 5 years ago
Hi Pineapple30

Quote From Pineapple30:
This is an old post, but I use Word (version 2003 and 2007). I use one document rather than several documents. Probably a little excessive, but each day I save a new draft- ie, so today, 'PhD corrections- 030313' to follow progress and ensure I've saved everything. During my write up, I had separate complete drafts throughout the day ie PhD- 020812- 5pm or 020812- 9pm etc etc as I used to worry about losing sections/chapters if my laptop crashed. Again, over the top perhaps, but I was seriously pressed for time and couldn't afford to lose my work! I frequently use the split word command and tracked changes whilst checking previous chapters etc.


Did you consider using a revision control system, like GIT (or SVN)? These tools are great, let you create "snapshots" of you document, browse the history when you have changed what. Developers use it quite frequently and if you'd consider writing your thesis based on a textual markup like *reStructuredText* (or *markdown*) then you've a perfect match.

If you stick to word, their usage potential is diminished quite strongly, but they still allow you to browse the history. Wit GIT you can even create different branches, work on separate issues in parallel and re-merge them back together! Check out TortoiseGit.

I admit these tool need a little effort to learn, but once you've mastered them, you'll NEVER look back to word.

Thread: Thesis administration

posted
03-Mar-13, 16:30
edited about 18 seconds later
by hsk81
Avatar for hsk81
posted about 5 years ago
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.

Thread: Thesis administration

posted
03-Mar-13, 16:25
by hsk81
Avatar for hsk81
posted about 5 years ago
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.

Thread: LaTex vs Word vs NoTex?

posted
12-Feb-13, 09:07
by hsk81
Avatar for hsk81
posted about 5 years ago
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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