|LaTex... or Latex?|
Firstly, you'll be glad to know that you should be careful when you're researching stuff on Google about LaTex (picture above).
That being said, let us now talk about LaTex (also pronounced LateK). LaTex is a language that was first set up in the early eighties. The purpose of this language is text formatting and conditioning, basically everything you do with Word, but better, and easier. LaTex is widely used in the Academia world, the main reason is that it takes 4 hours to write anything with equations and matrices Just adding indices to the components of a vector, Xi, can take forever, and I got tired of it.
So I took a few hours and began learning Latex's basic stuff, it is surprisingly easy and in less than a few hours you'll be able to write really complicated equations with indices, exponents, boards, table of contents, figures, etc... and it will automatically look clean and professional.
|LatTex documents look like this! You must have seen some... Or books? University things.|
Problems will probably begin when you will try to get a LaTex environment on your computer.
If you're using Ubuntu (or any other Linux distribution), it is quite easy to get a LaTex compiler and get it running, you can even find some on the Ubuntu store.
If you're using Windows, you'll need a few hours... Actually, I just know that it is really complicated, I've never done it, you will need 3 different software working together, or something close to it. But don't drop it now that you're really motivated to never have to delete a board's cell in Word (and finally just delete the whole page because deleting that cell, for some mysterious reason, messed up your whole formatting) !
The trick is that, whatever OS you're using, you can get your code compiled in-da-cloud!
I discovered ShareLatex a few weeks ago, ShareLatex is a service allowing to write your LaTex code in a basic text editor, with a few colors to help you distinguish commands from text, so first thing you will get is a LaTex editor.
Once you create a project, the first page you'll be on is the main.tex environment, this is where you write your code, then, you can click on the PDF button to get your code immediately compiled and get the PDF.
The Logs page allows you to get messages from the compiler, error messages, wrong commands to help you debug your code.
Setting allows you to invite collaborators and download your projects directly to your hardrive (zip format)
|Top left corner of sharelatex.com|
ShareLaTex is actually offering a collaborative option, allowing you to use it with another friend working on the same project for example, exactly like in Google Docs for example, there is also a really simple Chat allowing to discuss about the code you're working on. And yes, it's only one collaborator per project if you're using the free formula.
If you're willing to pay 15 $/month, you'll be able to get 10 collaborators, a Dropbox and Google Drive integration, version histories and even a Git acess, there is also a 30 $/month formula, but I did not even look at it, the free formula is totally enough for a student I think.
|Also, they have a logo. I don't neither understand or like it, but ShareLatex does not.|
Lately, I've been discussing with a direct competitor of ShareLatex on Twitter called Spandex, they offer almost the exact same service as ShareLatex, the main difference is that if you're using the free version, you will not be able to have more than 5 active projects with a collaborator, after that, you will need to archive your old projects to be able to create a new one.
Since I am only using the free version and that I need to have several active projects (sometimes more than 5), I chose ShareLatex; however, I think that Spandex's prices are more interesting, especially that they already have a Student offer (60 $/year) and a "Student" offer. They also seem to already have contracts with several newspaper and offer many templates to help you design newspaper-like documents, books, several kind of reports...
Let us notice that the two services, even in their designs and colors, look very close...
|Soon, you'll be able to run the simulations and write the thesis on your tablet, 'cause the only thing you'll need will be the browser.|
These kind of services are progressively widely spreading, and they are completely in the 2.0 universe; in deed, using the cloud, they transform complicated stuff into stuff really easy to do, reachable and feasible by almost anyone. The concept is the same again, all the complicated stuff (such as compiling) is transported, thanks to the clouds magic, to some computers, somewhere in the world, and the easy things, such as writing the code and getting the PDF still happen in your computer. However, you need to know that nothing is happening inside your computer, all your data, your code, everything is sent somewhere and you cannot guarantee that it has not been seen or even modified on its way.
I really think that someday soon, one of these services will suddenly close some day because Google will buy them, getting a Tex editor/compiler on Google Docs updated with Google Drive could be a great plus against Microsoft Office scientific really basic and tedious tools. Scholars, students, teachers will probably immediately and definitely turn to Google Docs, especially if something clever is made to easily make some of these documents available on Google Scholar for example.