LaTeX: from quick and dirty to style and finesse
Learning TeX was on my to do list many moons ago but more or less fail off the chopping block because when I ‘need’ printed files that go beyond pure text I’ll usually use Vim to write up a quick doc using (X)HTML and CSS. Because I’d rather write a web page for printing then use a word processor…. MS Word, SWriter, KWord, Abiword, bah humbug — piles of crap.
LaTeX shouldn’t be to bad a starting point, I’m not sure if there is much documentation left for plain ol’TeX yet (also on the todo list).
I did try Lyx in the last and even TeXmacs (which does not use TeX but can export to TeX/LaTeX)… But like WYSIWYG HTML Editors (Nvu, Dreamweaver e.t.c.) I ruled them out as paper weights.
When I tried to learn Vim, I refused to use the GUI (gvim) and used it in console mode only… Couldn’t even figure out how to save a file at first and I dumped it for XEmacs. Sure enough some day I went back and learned Vim, *my way* in console mode and it’s like my arm or a foot… not a crutche but a tool.
The difference between a tool and a crutch, is a tool helps you get work done. A crutch is an excuse not to learn how to do the work. Whether WYSIWYG programs become tools or crutches are a matter of the end users future.
So it is much the same that I would prefer to learn Tex / LaTeX through code not through ‘easy’ interfaces. I learned XHTML and CSS because I was bored one day and decided I’m sitting down and learning to write a web page, I just hit W3C and the road laid before me.