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  • Top 5 Q&A: Supporting Innovative Writing & Publishing Platforms for Students, Faculty and Staff

    Posted by Shelly on August 29, 2018

    This Top 5 list was developed through conversations with and answering questions from Librarians, IT professionals, and faculty over the past two years as a trusted collaborator and Senior Institutional Account Manager at Overleaf. The list includes mention of LaTeX templates, reusable LaTeX authoring/publishing LibGuides (co-developed with Helen Josephine), linking with repositories, integration with reference managers, institution-published journals, and more. This blog article features the notecards I shared during my lightning talk at the STELLA(!) Unconference 2018 hosted by the University of California Berkeley, Moffit Library in May::

    Click the links above to jump straight to a specific Q&A, or just continue reading below!

    5. How do you pronounce LaTeX?

    Overleaf pagination controls

    Brief lightning talk answer: So, I had this same question when I began to champion Overleaf since it is an online editor based on LaTeX source code. LaTeX – most commonly pronounced with a hard ‘k’ at the end instead of a ‘ks’ sound - is a document preparation system as opposed to latex – the rubber-tree gum. Also, you’ll notice that it is typeset with some of the letters out of kilter to distinguish it as referring to typesetting. But there is still the question as to whether to pronounce it LAY-tek or LAH-tek. Similar to how I hear both ‘LibGuides’ and ‘LibeGuides.’ A quote from the first chapter of Leslie Lamport’s book LaTeX: A document preparation system concisely addresses this question, and Barbara Beeton once posted on the tex.stackexchange that, “A long time ago, in an intro to latex presented at a decus symposium by Lamport himself, he said when asked this question, 'anything but L.A. TeX (in other words, don’t pronounce the first two letters as separate syllables.)' - Barbara Beeton, May 5, 2011 at 20:13. I’ve also included reference to more info from Don Knuth (creator of TeX) regarding the etymology and Greek roots of the word. In particular, I like Knuth’s explanation that “...TeX is primarily concerned with high-quality technical manuscripts: Its emphasis is on art and technology, as in the underlying Greek word.”

    Additional info: Leslie Lamport wrote in the first chapter of his book LaTeX: A document preparation system: “One of the hardest things about LaTeX is deciding how to pronounce it. This is also one of the few things I’m not going to tell you about LaTeX, since pronunciation is best determined by usage, not fiat. TeX is usually pronounced teck, making lah-teck, and lay-teck the logical choices; but language is not always logical, so lay-tecks is also possible.”

    You can read more about the origins of TeX and LaTeX via these resource links:

    https://www.overleaf.com/blog/500-whats-in-a-name-a-guide-to-the-many-flavours-of-tex https://tex.stackexchange.com/questions/17502/what-is-the-correct-pronunciation-of-tex-and-latex

    Chapter 1 of The TeXbook by Donald Knuth: Knuth says, “English words like ‘technology’ stem from a Greek root beginning with the letters τεχ...; and this same Greek word means art as well as technology. Hence the name TeX, which is an uppercase form of τεχ. Insiders pronounce the χ of TeX as a Greek chi, not as an ‘x’, so that TeX rhymes with the word blecchhh.” Knuth goes on to explain, “...If you merely want to produce a passable good document - something acceptable and basically readable but not really beautiful - a simpler system will usually suffice. With TeX the goal is to produce the finest quality; this requires more attention to detail, but you will not find it much harder to go the extra distance, and you’ll be able to take special pride in the finished product.”

    Source: https://tex.stackexchange.com/questions/17502/what-is-the-correct-pronunciation-of-tex-and-latex

    Image source: Pixabay: mikakaptur, CC0: https://pixabay.com/en/dolphin-nature-marine-fish-animal-1019615/

    4. Why write in LaTeX?

    Brief lightning talk answer: The very short answer is, “To avoid tears while writing scientific papers.” Allow me to provide two supporting examples:

    Overleaf academic journal search

    1. When I began traveling around to various universities talking with librarians, faculty and students about Overleaf, sometimes I was fortunate enough to have students and librarians in the same room engaging in a conversation. During one of my visits like this, one of the librarians asked a student, “Why would you work in LaTeX and something like Overleaf rather than Word?” The engineering student simply replied something similar to, “So I don’t cry while writing my thesis.”

    2. Likewise, Dr. Kate Owens, a math instructor I met at the Joint Math Meetings also recently Tweeted, “...Also, it’s life changing that I never have to battle again with MikTeX installation or download problems, and no more hours & hours & hours of tears trying to get it to jive with WinEdt.”

    Source: Twitter @katemath

    Additionally, it can be used for much more than scientific papers including: books, academic posters, CVs, grant proposals, reports, presentations, engineering notebooks, flash cards, and more with professional-looking outputs.

    Additional info:

    Flom, P. (2007). LaTeX for academics and researchers who (think they) don’t need it. TUGboat, 28(1), 126, Proceedings of the Practical TeX 2006 Conference. Retrieved from: https://www.tug.org/TUGboat/tb28-1/tb88complete.pdf

    Roberts, A. (2005, June 6). LaTeX isn’t for everyone but it could be for you. OSnews. Retrieved from: http://www.osnews.com/story/10766

    Image source: Pixabay: geralt, CC0: https://pixabay.com/en/one-way-street-decisions-opportunity-1113973/

    3. Why use a cloud-based LaTeX editor?

    Overleaf read-only view count

    Brief lightning talk answer: There will be authors that continue to prefer using a local installation of TeX such as MacTeX or MikTeX since it’s how they’ve always worked, they know how to use it and have found it sufficient. I have heard many researchers and faculty mention that, when it comes to real-time collaboration with colleagues and managing version control on a document, they really appreciate the features and benefits of a cloud-based tool. Using a cloud-based tool where all collaborators are using the same version of LaTeX helps alleviate many of the traditional typesetting/formatting compatibility issues related to using a variety of TeX/LaTeX versions/installations.

    Additional info: Most recently, I’ve heard that when team-writing grant proposals, a collaborative online tool is preferred and makes it easier for version control and collaborating with less tech savvy colleagues and administrative support staff. In a recent article published in Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, Na Qin of Vanderbilt University (2018) stated, “Tools such as Overleaf are empowering scientific collaborative writing and publication by offering both LaTeX and a more user-friendly Rich Text mode in one enhanced, cloud-based platform.”

    Some additional appreciated features of the cloud-based LaTeX editor with Rich Text mode are: spell check in different languages, in-project chat box (coming with Overleaf v2!), real-time commenting & track changes, PDF preview, full history view, multiple device accessibility, and pre-formatted templates.

    Sources and References:

    Word bubble graphic created using https://wordart.com/

    Qin, N. (2018, Winter). Collaborative publishing with Overleaf. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship. doi: 10.5062/F4HM56P9. Retrieved from: http://www.istl.org/18-winter/apps.html

    2. Do these innovative tools align with other services?

    Overleaf read-only view count

    Brief lightning talk answer: Many consider online LaTeX editors and innovative cloud-based tools to be a way of bridging the gaps between researcher, institution & publisher. As a cloud-based LaTeX authoring tool, Overleaf has put much effort into developing API integrations with other innovative scholarly commu- nications-related services such as reference managers, submission systems, & ORCID as a means of enabling the ever-growing collaborative re- search and publishing trends & work ows. Additionally, LaTeX writing templates that align with publisher and journal guidelines have also been developed to bene t authors, editors, institutions and publishers alike. (Some examples: IEEE Collabratec, AMS, arXivs, Center for Open Science, university thesis templates (and linking to IRs), and faculty/student journals).

    Sources and References:

    ScholComm Wheel Source: https://101innovations.wordpress.com/outcomes/

    Gears graphic: https://pixabay.com/en/mechanics-gear-gears-blue-2170648/ CC0

    Clouds image: https://pixnio.com/nature-landscapes/sky/sky-with-clouds-sunny-day CC0

    Additional info: Publishers, Journals and Repositories linked on Overleaf, Overleaf LaTeX template gallery, Publisher partner testimonials, Overleaf strategic partners, Linking to your ORCID iD in your Overleaf account, Overleaf institutional partner templates - UC Berkeley example, Overleaf institutional partner templates - Caltech thesis example, Purdue University Graduate School case study, How to use Overleaf with IEEE Collabratec

    1. How are libraries funding, supporting, & promoting innovative scholarly authoring & publishing tools?

    Overleaf read-only view count

    Brief lightning talk answer: To answer this most often asked question, Helen Josephine wrote an article on creative funding strategies that offers ideas for librarians in support of their evolving role in the research life cycle. Some things to consider are interdepartmental collaborations, faculty (stakeholder) engagement, & partnering closely with value-providing vendor partners such as Overleaf to lighten the overhead management and promotion load.

    Additionally, Helen and I collaborated on the creation of the Overleaf LibGuides as a robust organization of resources related to LaTeX authoring that are openly available for reuse by librarians.

    Additional info:



    Image source: Sticky note graphic, Karen Arnold, CC0: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=34882&picture=sticky-notes

    We have some further product updates coming soon – stay tuned! Happy LaTeXing!

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