UnWord Me
September 4, 2008 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Escaping M$ Word, but getting the same formatting...

So, I'll need to type a few papers this semester. I'm using a Mac. I have Office installed, actually, but I hate it: I would rather write in LaTeX, Bean, etc. But my professors will definitely be looking for 12px Times New Roman double spaced, standard margins, etc. Are there any LaTeX templates for this, or is the typesetting engine way too different. And OpenOffice seems to be one of the least native apps I've used on my mac (even Inkscape is a lot better), so I'd rather not go that route.

Any tips on escaping this big M?
posted by tmcw to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Don't know about LaTex, but do you have iLife / Pages installed on your Mac? You can mimic most all of Word's functionality in Pages. You might also try AbiWord.
posted by mattbucher at 12:02 PM on September 4, 2008

I use PAGES on my Mac. All the docs easily export to MS-WORD which is generally how I email them etc. The WORD docs also import back into PAGES easily.
posted by philip-random at 12:07 PM on September 4, 2008

Try the word processor in the Open Office suite. It should run under Windows, Linux and Mac.
posted by stungeye at 12:32 PM on September 4, 2008

Best answer: does PAGES have \lowercase{}?

It's pretty trivial to get LaTeX to do what you want -- these are basic formatting commands. The fonts can be a little bit tricky, but there's two things here -- one, the number of professors that can discern Times from A Serif (not Computer Roman!) will be small, and two XeTeX supports OpenType mac fonts beautifully.

It's also worth asking your department if anyone there has a specific LaTeX template -- many do, especially in the sciences. Otherwise try and knock one up to their styles and give me a yell if you get stuck.
posted by bonaldi at 12:32 PM on September 4, 2008

NeoOffice, which is a Mac-specific fork of OpenOffice. Works great for me.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:34 PM on September 4, 2008

Also, in practice, most professors are not actually looking for some exact "Times New Roman, 12 point, x mm of space between lines" - they're really looking for "double spaced, a readable TNR-esque non-comic-sans non-Verdana font, standardish margins..."

Okay, yes, there are the occasional nasty types who really will say "Not Times New Roman! Unacceptable!" but they're really quite rare. Profs aren't software that will balk at invalid input; they're human beings looking for a consistent and useful reading/marking experience, and are generally not typographic fascists.

In other words, basically anything is fine; I typed lots of papers in AbiWord and never made any real effort to try to make it "like office" - I just picked a simple Times-clone serif font, set it to 12 points, double spaced, and hit Print. Never had anyone say boo. So get yourself something that eyeballs as a fine approximation of Standard Paper Format, and be done with it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:42 PM on September 4, 2008

Best answer: The real problem that I run into with this is when professors/collaborators want digital copies of the file that they can mess around with. PDFs don't cut it in this situation. LaTeX is great but lacks utility if none of your collaborators use it and insist on using Word files.
posted by proj at 12:58 PM on September 4, 2008

You can do all of this with LaTeX, and there are plenty of guides online to help you. I think you could probably bang together a template that works well for you in about an hour as a newbie, and making changes to accommodate different requirements will get easier and easier with practice.

Here's a link to a template for the UCLA thesis style, which includes double spacing.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:38 PM on September 4, 2008

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