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At my $dayjob, we use LaTeX to publish technical reference manuals
for semiconductor products as PDF files. The documents are not
academic nor do they have a lot of equations (although the LaTeX
equation handling puts everybody else to shame). LaTeX is probably
the original single sourcing solution—files can insert other files at
any point and the conditional text handling is the most robust on the
The thing about LaTeX is that it *is* code, pure and simple. LaTeX is
a language for typesetting documents. It is easily the most powerful
typesetting tool I have ever used (and I've used Frame, Quark, and
InDesign). As such, it is also easily the most complex.
Note: LaTeX is not WYSIWYG. Authoring LaTeX is a lot like editing
HTML in a text editor. The files have to be compiled in order to
generate output (that is, the final PDF).
I love it, but I've been told I'm weird, so YMMV. If you don't like
writing code, LaTeX is not for you.
That said, I am not a professional programmer and I was able to
create manuals in LaTeX after only a few weeks of practice. However,
LaTeX is so powerful that I still consider myself a relative newbie.
For some really amazing examples of what TeX (and LaTeX) can do, see http://www.tug.org/texshowcase/
For more info, "Guide to LaTeX" by Helmut Kopka and Patrick W. Daly
is invaluable (http://tinyurl.com/2744l8). The LaTeX site (http://
www.latex-project.org/) has lots of good info and introductions, as
does http://www.ctan.org/. We use the MikTeX distribution: http://
If you're interested, follow the instructions to download a
distribution and give it a try.
Elizabeth J. Allen
Samurai Consulting Inc.
eja -at- samurai -dot- com
"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." —Albert
On 28-Aug-07, at 9:00 AM, Wilhelm, Joel wrote:
> I'm wondering if it makes sense to use for something like manuals,
> if it
> supports single-sourcing, and many other basic questions like that. Is
> it possible to use as a desktop publisher, or is it more geared
> academia and papers?
Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include support for Windows Vista & 2007
Microsoft Office, team authoring, plus more. http://www.DocToHelp.com/TechwrlList
True single source, conditional content, PDF export, modular help.
Help & Manual is the most powerful authoring tool for technical
documentation. Boost your productivity! http://www.helpandmanual.com
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