[Tex/LaTex] Does LaTeX really perform worse than Word?

best practicesmswordperformance

A new study in PLOS ONE1 concludes that even novice MS Word users perform better than expert LaTeX users in document creation.

I have read the article and I feel like I have identified some flaws in their approach and design but I figured this community would be the best positioned to rigorously evaluate these results.

Based on this study can we conclude that Word works better than LaTeX?

  1. Markus Knauff & Jelica Nejasmic. 2014. An Efficiency Comparison of Document Preparation Systems Used in Academic Research and Development.
    PLOS ONE DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0115069


Since the question has been closed, but it's clear that there is interest to discuss the topic, I've set up a chat room for discussion.


I have created a meta question to clarify the reason why this question was closed when other similar questions remain open.


People in glass houses…
The article had to be republished a few months later due to publishing errors whilst using Arbortext 🙂
see https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0125830

Best Answer

This article is an astonishing piece of reckless stupidity. The test was:

The participants were instructed to reproduce the source text within thirty minutes.

So the hard truth is: With MS Word you can better and faster copy off your neighbor than with LaTeX. And the spell checker of Word is better than the spell checkers of the group of LaTeX users was.

The article more or less asks how long the European Union will go on with burning money by letting people use LaTeX.

Why is the setting of the test so stupid? Because LaTeX and TeX are not made to reproduce a given layout of a page or a table. Professionals who use LaTeX, including me, don't earn their living by reproducing different layouts and texts, but write themselves, mostly using the same layouts over and over again.

And the authors had nobody using Emacs -- obviously there wasn't even one professional LaTeX user.

Based on this study you only can conclude that the authors better look for something else to make a living than writing articles. There is nothing more to say about it.


There is a proverb in German, roughly translated: »God punishes minor sins immediately.« It isn't meant seriously. Throw a malicous snowball at somebody who is not aware of it and while throwing, you slip and fall over. Things like that.

And now read, what happened to the »study« about LaTeX, written with something else:

This article was republished on March 30, 2015, to correct the sizing and placement of the figures; none of the article content was changed. The publisher apologizes for the original layout errors. Please download this article again to view the corrected version.

Thanks to KJO for pointing me to this wonderful correction.

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