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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wuerzburg Beamer Theme

I’ve received a few enquiries about the Beamer theme of my MOSC2011 slides. This beautiful, subtle theme is wuerzburg (scroll down to “LaTeX Beamer Themes”), created by Christian Gogolin.

Basic usage and the output:


Depending on your mood, you might want to go for a more ‘polished’ feel:


See the comments in the .sty files for more options.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

WYSIWYM editor

LaTeX users would know that there are two types of editor, source code type and WYSIWYM type.

But first, thank you to Najmi and Lian Tze for inviting me to share something here. It is a great honor to do so. Knowledge kept to oneself has no price but knowledge shared is priceless.

I guess Najmi and Lian Tze can cover the source code editor type since they are way more experienced than me. I started using and learning to use it on a WYSIWYM editor. Lyx to be specific. You can check www.lyx.org or wiki.lyx.org for info on the software itself. With it I started to discover a lot of magnificent thing and I fall in love with LaTeX.

However, now I use less Lyx because I feel it limits my creativity to customize the output document. But nevertheless, I still think that Lyx can provide a soft and smooth transition from other WYSIWYG type word processor.

As like many other open source software, Lyx can be installed on machine running Windows, Linux and MacOS. They have just launch a 2.x.x version in May to mark their 15 years of existence.

In Lyx, apart from class and style files, there are one more file type native to it only called layout file. This file controls the look of your document on the Lyx interface. If you type a chapter heading, you want to to appear center align, bold and blue in color, you control it with layout file. But bear in mind that, what appears on Lyx interface is not necessarily what appeared in the final output document. Because layout and class file are different in nature, although must be same in filename.

Lyx come with some pretty standard group of layout files for some popular class files like IEEETran, Elsarticle, beamer etc. But if you create your own class file, you might want to create you own layout file so that it can be included in Lyx. Without layout file, you can't call the class file.

That is all for now. Next time, how to start using Lyx with zero knowledge of LaTeX. Stay tune!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Review: LaTeX Beginner’s Guide

(Thanks to Packt for the complimentary eBook copy for this review.)

When I read about the publication of the book on various forums and blogs, my interest was definitely piqued: the author, Stefan Kottwitz, is a frequent and helpful contributor/moderator on TEX.SX. On the other hand I wondered if anyone would actually want to buy an introductory book to LaTeX, considering the many free tutorials and eBooks available on the Web (although there are many out-of-date ones, so beware! See some recommended ones at the end of this post).

After a quick flip — erm, clicks with the mouse — through my complimentary eBook copy courtesy of Packt, I felt the answer was a very firm “YES”. First off, this is certainly an up-to-date book with descriptions of recent packages, and warnings about obsolete ones. While the first few chapter headings read like most other beginner’s guide to LaTeX, Kottwitz’s approach of using complete step-by-step examples throughout the book is something seldom seen in other books or tutorials. By that I mean you don’t just get the first few handful of “Hello World” examples, but for much more advanced usage scenarios as well. (BTW, The examples are based on TeXLive and TeXworks.)

Your mileage may vary, but I do feel that such a hand-holding approach (that’s what my training course had been described as) — at least in the early days of learning LaTeX — is very reassuring. Especially so since LaTeX can be rather intimidating for people who have only used WYSIWYG word processors before. Pop quizzes are interspersed throughout the content (answers in the appendix).

The book has 13 chapters on the following topics:
  1. Getting Started with LaTeX
  2. Formatting Words, Lines, and Paragraphs
  3. Designing Pages
  4. Creating Lists
  5. Creating Tables and Inserting Pictures
  6. Cross-Referencing
  7. Listing Content and References
  8. Typing Math Formulas
  9. Using Fonts
  10. Developing Large Documents
  11. Enhancing Your Documents Further
  12. Troubleshooting
  13. Using Online Resources

While the early chapter headings are kind of expected of any beginner’s guides, they do still contain valuable nuggets. For example, the microtype package is introduced in Chapter 2, as is how to define your own macros with \newcommand. Imagine a beginner’s joy at the even more beautiful typesetting afforded by microtype. And the new-found freedom of defining one’s own commands for consistent typesetting of certain materials. Personally I think such tips, introduced at an early stage, would boost beginner’s confidence in using LaTeX.

While some might consider the installation instructions of TeXLive and TeXworks in Chapter 1 as frivolous, I certainly welcome the instructions on how to install extra packages in Chapter 11.

Chapter 3 on designing pages is particularly useful, as this seems to be one of the most frequently asked beginner’s questions these days. (at least, indicated by the fact that the post on setting page sizes and margins being the 5th all-time most favorite post on this blog.)

I also like the mention of getnonfreefonts in the chapter on fonts. Another favorite chapter of mine is that on Troubleshooting, as this is definitely one of the most important skills if one is to use (and learn!) LaTeX. And everyone who’s going to write a thesis or a business report will definitely want to read Chapter 10 on large documents.

Overall, the book does cover everything a beginner should learn about LaTeX, IMHO anyway. My only nitpicks are that the LaTeX logo isn’t typeset ‘properly’ in the text; and that the LaTeXed output images seem a tad blurry in the PDF eBook version. But these are just petty nitpicks, really.

So do I recommend LaTeX Beginner’s Guide for people interested in learning LaTeX? I’d say Yes. This would be a very nice addition to libraries, or as a communal copy in a research lab, so that newly registered graduate students who’re not yet quite busy with their research can spend their first month learning up LaTeX with it. (You can, of course, get your very own copy; I only mention a communal copy as I know some Malaysians — especially poor grad students — might be reluctant to fork out about RM120 for a book. Everyone really should fork out money to buy a good book sometime, though.)

The book is available as a printed copy (£25.19), eBook copy (£16.14), or multi-format (£28.04). Shipping is free if you’re in UK, US, Europe, Brunei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, China, Macau and Taiwan — sweet!

Further Reading

Having said all that, you’ll probably want to complement this beginner’s guide with other, more reference-typed books, such as the LaTeX Companion (I don’t know if the books are available separately), as well as some free (often rather shorter) tutorials and eBooks:
  • Getting to Grips with LaTeX. A personal favorite short beginner’s tutorial.
  • The LaTeX WikiBook. A nice quick online reference.
  • LaTeX and Friends. This is truly a very comprehensive up-to-date eBook for reference purposes (but it does not have complete examples as Kottwitz’s book does). I understand that the author is still updating it from time to time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

LaTeX: More Than Just Academic Papers and Theses

Update 2 July 2011: OK source code uploaded per request, see link below.

So my slides for the talk on LaTeX during MOSC2011 are done and available for download. (This version without animations etc. to minimise the file size. Updated and corrected 30 June 2011; Thanks to Stefan Kottwitz, Felipe and Per for pointing out some mistakes.)

As mentioned before, it won’t be a tutorial, rather I plan to give teasers of what LaTeX is capable of beyond the usual journal or conference articles. I have undoubtedly left out many interesting use cases, so please don’t flog me if I haven’t included your favorite package or class! ;-) But do drop me a line and we’ll do a future post on it.

(Update: See this post about the Beamer theme used for the slides.)

Typesetting SI Units

Most people would already have heard of the siunitx package, but in case you haven’t, here’s a small, humble request:

Please use the siunitx package more to typeset your measurements. Please. I beg you. It’s so much easier and makes things look so much more professional.
(Yes, this is going to be a rather ranty post, but don’t worry, I’ll keep it short.)

I mean, just compare the output when using siunitx:


And doing it manually:

$3.563 \times 10^4$ V$^2$ lm$^3$ F$^{-1}$

I rest my case. And if you’re not convinced yet, you can also do lists and ranges of values like this:


So please. Start using siunitx.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Upcoming Book Review

Perhaps it’s all the publicity work by the good people behind MOSC 2011 (thank you!), during the last week or two I’ve definitely been getting more LaTeX enquiries (thanks to all of you too!).

So much so that I was very kindly offered by Packt to review a recent book on LaTeX by Stefan Kottwitz!

(The publisher, Packt, specialises in books on open source projects and pays royalties to the projects it publishes about. I’m rather impressed by that.)

I’ve read about the publication of the book on other blogs and forums and my interest was already piqued; not least because Stefan is a very frequent and helpful contributor on TeX.SE.

Well, I have a book to read and a review to write. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 6, 2011

University of Malaya Thesis Class

I have developed a LaTeX class and template for writing an UM (University of Malaya) thesis, complying with the IGS Universiti Malaya IGS Guide to the Preparation of Research Reports, Disertations & Theses, for a friend pursuing her PhD there.

The LaTeX class and template files is available at http://liantze.penguinattack.org/latextypesetting.html#umalayathesis. Hopefully this will be helpful to UM students!