Petar Maymounkov

# Hey Latex users, I have an idea for you ...

Sun, Dec 15, 2013

I know Latex is compelling because of:

• The many OSs and UIs supported,
• It's after-a-while familiar and sort-of predictable behavior,
• The complexity of symbolic and graphical expression facilities available, provided by
• A rich ecosystem of domain-specific typesetting, graphics, symbols and other generation tools.
• And, of course, its ability to output in the favorite PDF format (albeit not in many other favorite formats).
• Ah! It's spectacular type-setting languages and abilities, as well. (They are the hidden core now.)

But Latex comes with a lot of liability too.

• It produces “dead” documents, whose faint attempt at modernity are clickable links.
• It is incompatible with almost all but the most advanced information crawling and organizing technologies, for its lack of meaningful meta information.
• It is grossly non-interoperable with other modern scientific tools, and mainly it is unable to embed interactive (i.e. “non-dead”) content generated by other tools.

As a result one often finds Latex embedded, but one rarely finds oneself embedded in Latex. Latex documents don't breathe.

## Fear not. A simple alternative exists.

I was somewhat pleased to realize that a workflow I had been unwittingly evolving over time is proving to be a simpler, more expressive, more standards-compatible and overall more breathable substitute to Latex which compels to not look back.

Simpler than one would expects:

1. Starting with a favorite choice of a high-level and/or templating language,
2. One spends little time in evolving personal shortcuts,
3. That generate HTML content,
4. Empowered in expression by an endless, but standardized, spectrum of supporting technologies like MathJax,
5. Topping off this mixture with every browser's ability to print their pages to PDF,
6. Noting that while you were at it, your documents had gained full access to programmable expression in linguistic means of any choice, going as far as being able to have access to cluster computation resources backed on the other end of the globe, dynamically, in real time.

So this makes me wonder:

Would some academic conference institutions glean to dedicate a moment of their time to prepare this modern workflow for their authors — just like they had prepared their Latex workflow before — in order to help the academic expression move to the age of interactivity and reproducibility.

The strongest force, it seems, that keeps academia in Latex is that it is required, literally, by the publisher, as the scientist's end result. For their legendary lack of time, scientists naturally choose to hone their skills in Latex (and get the best of it) instead of volunteering their time to produce expressions into multiple output media.

I would go as far as to speculate that should the publishing-side of the academic business accept the HTML format, no academic would ever think to look back.