[Tex/LaTex] Would using LaTeX instead of LibreOffice benefit me for writing the dissertation


I am a complete LaTeX/TeX novice. I know nothing about it and have never used it. I have been reading about it today as it was been recommended to me but I can't work out if it is suitable for my use case.

I am still in the planning stages of writing a dissertation for a Master's Degree which will be between 10k and 15k words long. This will include various chapters (thusly a table of contents), many citations, and hopefully quite a few images/figures/tables for illustration, (likely an Appendix also).

I am writing my proposal at present in LibreOffice, I have to submit it in a Microsoft Word format and LibreOffice can read/write using the MS Word file format. The same is true of the final dissertation document.

LaTeX sounds amazing and I would like to use it for my dissertation (most notably, I am under the impression that it will manage my citation for me, so I don't have to keep renumbering them when inserting new ones).

After reading this question and this question, in particular, all I am worried about before I potentially waste a lot of time learning LaTeX only to find I can't use it is;

  • Is it easy to export to an MS Word format?
  • Apparently support for images is "flaky", can anyone quantify this, or has it improved?
  • Can anyone think of anything I have potentially overlooked for writing such a large document?


The subject is computer networking. There will be some use of formulae and superscript but it will be minimal. I don't want to produce an overly-colourful multi-font document. I want it to be easy to read, one font, one consistent size, standard alignment throughout; Like an RFC document but with some bold text here and there for titles and the ability to insert images.

Best Answer

I really hope you do find the time to learn LaTeX. You'll never look at documents the same way again. It can really turn a person into a bit of a document snob :)

LaTeX is not a word processor. You cannot 'export' to Word. LaTex is for professional quality document processing. MS Word is for cramming some text together as quickly and conveniently as possible for the writer. LaTeX is for deliberate, scientific, artistic and careful design for optimal readability. I'm not saying that word processors are bad! They are two different tools for two different jobs. Check out The Beauty of LaTeX, to see illustrations some differences.

LaTeX will give you a pdf, postscript or dvi file, which are not editable by MS Word. Nor would you want to do so, even if it were possible.

LaTeX has no problem with images, as long as you are using a modern driver as in PDFLaTeX. For some idea regarding what LaTeX can do, check out the TeX showcase

LaTeX (or rather BiBTeX) will generate your bibliography based on a database of information. I recommend you check out Mendeley for managing your references. It works brilliantly with LaTeX and LibreOffice.

LaTeX will also handle your table of contents, list of figures, list of tables, list of acronyms and index.

While I do recommend you learn LaTeX, I don't recommend that you write your dissertation in LaTeX with the intent to submit as a MS Word file.

The notion of an academic institution demanding a dissertation in MS Word format is unethical---even scandalous. If my University had any such requirement for a non-open standard, I would raise a hell the likes of which they had never seen. Needless to say, I would refuse to submit in a non-open standard format.

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