I was going to write that I used to write articles in Latex and now I write them in Word (for some examples, see here), and then speculate about how the change in format might change how and what I write.
But then I thought that more background could be useful.
1. The pencil-and-paper era. Back when I was a kid I used to write everything by hand. I was proficient with the eraser. In high school I developed a style where I’d outline the English compositoin first and then write it.
2. Typewriter. In college we had to type our papers. Which I did, using my little typewriter (which had been my sister’s before that), until . . .
3. Mark’s homemade word processor. My college roommate was a CS major and had an Atari computer. I persuaded him to write a word processor in 6502 assembler, and I ended up using it more than he did.
I took a couple of English classes that required a paper every week or so, and to get everything done, I developed a system whereby I first diagrammed my plan on a single sheet of paper using circles and arrows, then wrote a series of outlines, the last of which had at least one sentence per paragraph of the final paper. I’d then take that outline, sit at the computer, and type up the paper pretty much in one take.
4. Troff. I wrote my senior thesis on a campus computer which printed out really nice—not that yucky dot-matrix stuff. I formatted it using Troff.
5. Pencil and paper again. For homework assignments in graduate school I went back to pencil and paper. I was still doing graphs by hand on graph paper (but that’s another story).
6. Latex. One of my colleagues told me about Latex, and this quickly became my standard. When I wanted to write an article, I’d take an old latex file and map out sections and subsections, then fill in different parts when I was ready. I did it this way for several books and a few zillion articles.
I have to admit, I’ve never learned Bibtex, so I spend lots of time cutting and pasting bibliographic references.
7. Html. A few years ago I started this blog (originally intended as a way for members of our research group to communicate with each other). I often use the blog to record thoughts that later are published more formally. Writing in Html puts these thoughts in a different shape than what was happening in Latex. More conversational, less locked into a formal structure.
8. Word. Recently, for some reason I’ve been writing articles (and our forthcoming book) in Word, which doesn’t work so well when I have formulas but somehow seems smoother otherwise.
The medium does affect the message. In many ways I’m dissatisfied with my current approach of composing at the keyboard. Maybe I’ll try pencil and paper outlining for awhile.
Oh, yeah, . . . happy new year.
P.S. There are a bunch of comments below, but none of the commenters addressed my point, which was the way in which the typesetting or word processing environment affects the style of writing (and the choice of what to write about). Lots of suggestions about Latex implementations, but this is really beside the point here.
P.P.S. I just came across this post. It’s been over ten years! In the meantime, I’ve switched back to Latex as a default, but with what I think is a more attractive format (for example ). And sometimes I use Google docs for shared projects. The one thing I still can’t stand is “track changes.” Whenever someone sends me a document with “track changes,” I turn off that feature. Also those marked-up PDF’s, I hate them. And don’t get me started on Github. What a mess. Whatever. Latex and Google docs, they still do the job.