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on 26 June 2003
Any book that claims to cater for beginners and advanced users alike has quite a task ahead of it and I don't believe this guide to LaTeX does justice to either category of user.
The true nature of this 616 page beast is spelt out in chapter 1, where the reader is advised that the book "is designed for LaTeX users who have little or no experience with computers" and that there exists "considerable repetition in the text". Unless you have a solid week to spare and the memory of a gold fish this book has the potential to be incredibly frustrating. Instead of being immersed in worthwhile examples demonstrating the true power of LaTeX, the reader is forced to trawl through paragraph after paragraph of verbose explanation. Worse still, with minimal imagination employed in presentation, the fact that this book was typeset using LaTeX doesn't inspire confidence - helpful hints supposedly written in a smaller typeface to make them distinct, simply disappear into the sea of sentences.
With a sales rank of 5046, this book is by some margin the best selling reference for LaTeX, out selling texts by Goossens et al (rank 14628, 400 pages, published 1994) and LaTeX developer Lamport (rank 33235, 272 pages, published 1994). This is because, as other reviewers have correctly pointed out, this book covers more than the others combined. The plethora of appendices is dense but in some cases not as useful as would first appear. For instance, one table included contains a complete list of possible PostScript fonts, great you say, until you notice that they're all displayed in the same font! However, combining this unrivalled brevity with the fact that LaTeX is updated on an annual basis and it's not hard to see why you might opt for a book published in 1999, which is larger and cheaper than both alternative books published in 1994.
With a LaTeX 3 version in the pipeline and with the internet offering a number of compact LaTeX HOWTO's and quick references (most notably "The Not-So-Short Guide to LaTeX"), a wise alternative might be to arm yourself with a downloaded guide and actually learn through trying (inevitably making your fair share of mistakes along the way) and to hold off to see what the next generation of published LaTeX references have to offer.
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on 30 April 2000
I am a beginner in LaTeX and I needed a book that would help me understand this complex typesetting system and enable me to produce great looking documents, without being too patronising and holding my hand all the way. You guessed right - I have found it.
This book is trully excellent. It gives you all the information you need to start using LaTeX, as well as some "tips" that you might not otherwise have known without the help of a local guru. You also get special information (explicitly marked) on the more advanced features. Information on which items relate to which version of LaTeX - 2.09 or 2e - is also clearly marked (helpful for the vintage LaTeX users, but spoils the book slightly for the rest of us). It contains a small element of seemless repetition that is extremely useful, as some things in LaTeX are not really obvious or self-explanatory the first time you read them. You also get a healthy number of exercises to do to help you practice what you have been reading. Useful, but time-consuming (and perhaps pointless, especially when you are asked to draw a tank using only the picture environment with the LaTeX primitives).
My only criticism is that it does not cover any LaTeX packages in any detail, apart from the very standard ones. For example, there is no single mention of the very useful package "a4wide"; although not hard to guess what it does. But, as is clearly mentioned in various places in the text and preface, these things are well covered in other books (namely Goosens, et al.). This book is for standard LaTeX, and it is a damn good one at that.
I am recommending it to everyone!
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on 22 May 2000
I don't know how good this book would be for a first-time LaTex user; I've only discovered it after typing a whole thesis and I find it invaluable for solving all the little problems I still meet while typesetting---LaTex is a great thing, but sometimes it simply refuses to do what you would like it to! the book is well organised, the index is useful and the presentation of the topics clear and complete. some things are missing, but I hope they have been intruduced in the new edition - my review refers to the second edition.
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on 2 September 2002
This is a nice book for both the new and the experienced users. It provides a complete reference on all LaTeX commands and also LaTeX packages and hints and tips. It also includes a list of main errors and warnings, which can be helpful when those are unfortunately encountered during a session. It should be a part of LaTeX user libraries...
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VINE VOICEon 2 April 2003
After writing a short document without this book, I now have it permanently on my desk. With its help I have come to understand LaTeX completely - it actually explains the markup rather than doing a "copy-by-example" approach which I have seen elsewhere. It is also invaluable for those moments when you have an obscure symbol to typeset and no clue where to begin. I'd recommend it both for beginners and for perhaps the intermediate user who needs a bit of consolidated reference material. In fact, even one of my friends (who is something of a TeX expert) has gone through it going "Oooh, I didn't know that one"... :-)
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on 4 September 2002
I use LaTeX on a daily basis, and today Lamports book mainly serves as reference. As I plunged into LaTeX, however, it was with Lamports book on my desk. It's _the_ book for beginners, and _the_ reference for advanced users. Be sure to check out Gossens "The LaTeX Companion" too though.
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