LaTeX and XeTeX


I like LaTeX quite a bit, XeLaTeX specifically, for writing up more formal correspondence that can benefit from better typesetting. XeLaTeX will take care of kerning, ligatures, breaking lines, and all of those things that subconsciously make for a great looking document. In addition, you really just focus on the text, as the formatting is fully handled by the layout engine. That means that all my editing can happen in Sublime Text or Vim, depending on the circumstances. XeLaTeX allows me to use newer OpenType fonts over the original Computer Modern typefaces that come with a TeX distribution and can come off as a little dated. In addition, I don’t usually need heavy math output, which the original set is really tuned for (and does a great job with).

One of the things that’s a bit off putting is that TeX needs a fair bit of setup — you can’t just fire up Google Docs to use it. It does require downloading MikTeX or TeX Live to get going. In addition, everything is done through macros or packages, so it’s a good idea to get a good template to work with and learn as you go. Once you do, I recommend using Make or a little build script in your editor to build the file you’re writing into a beautiful print-ready PDF. It can otherwise get a little tiresome manually rerunning xelatex $FILENAME && okular ${FILENAME/tex/pdf}.