LaTex / PDF: some Qs
Thread poster: xxxLia Fail

xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sep 19, 2008

I use Windows XP, Word 2003.

I am occasionally asked to revise texts written originally in LaTex. The authors send me a PDF and a Plain Text file.

The problem with the Plain Text file is that it's full of extra-textual formatting and tags, which makes these files very difficult to edit, as what I need is to see how a text would look when printed. It's not very practical either to be constantly referring to the PDF, as it's simply extra work, although it certainly is a solution (and maybe the best one for the author).

In the past I've copied the Plain Text data into Word so I could track changes. Nobody has complained, but is that an OK approach from the author's perspective?

At this stage, I'm wondering if there are other solutions.

Any solution must, on the one hand, be a good one for the author, and, on the other hand, enable me to do the job in a way that is suitable for someone used to seeing texts in Word (that is, with no extra-textual stuff, and as it will print/be published) and used to editing with a) track changes and b) a comments function. Of a) and b), a) is by far the most important, that is, the comments function is not essential.

I am wondering about two other approaches to this problem:

1. download LaTex (as it happens, it's free)
2. obtain PDF editing software (free?)

As I write I'm downloading LaTex but it's downloading very, very slowly, and I'm not exactly sure if I'll be able to use it to edit in the way I edit in Word.

I have also looked to see what PDF editing software is available, and there's a lot of free stuff, but I don't know if it will allow me to edit properly (or even if the author would accept this approach). If the PDF approach was OK, which is the best PDF editing software to download (free if possible, but if necessary I would buy).

Can anybody who has had a similar problem in the past advise me? I'm not great on computers and software, although I think I need to investigate an acceptable (for the author) and relatively pain-free (for me) solution for this problem.


By the way, I looked at previous posts, but they were a bit technical for me, although I see that some people proposed LaTex editors; however, I know so little about it that I can't even decide which to try or how they work.

[Edited at 2008-09-19 21:22]


John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
Texmaker Sep 19, 2008

I've been using Texmaker to edit Latex files for a long time now. It's still tricky and I charge extra for this type of work.

Somebody once patiently explained how I could print from these files, but my attention began to wander after step 18.

If a file needs a lot of work, I make one revision and ask the client to send me a new PDF.

Anyway, the editor works a treat!

[Edited at 2008-09-19 21:44]


GoodWords  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
LaTeX Sep 19, 2008

I would definitely recommend editing the LaTeX source files and compiling them yourself.

Editing a LateX file isn't complicated at all, since for editing purposes, a .tex file is like any .txt file and can be handled by any plaintext editor like Notepad++ or NoteTab. You would just be editing the text, leaving the LaTeX commands alone, so it is basically no different from editing any .txt file.

However, if you need to see the final typeset output (the dvi file, or the dvi file converted to pdf), you have to compile it, which is where the LaTeX system (which you were downloading as you wrote your post) comes in. It is convenient to integrate it with your text editor so that you can just click the LaTeX command from inside the editor to compile the current version of your text file. All the text editors that allow this have instructions available somewhere for how to set it up.

I use MikTex to compile LaTeX files, and I have MikTex set up to use with WinEdt and NoteTab. It may take a little bit of trouble to enable it at the beginning, but once you have it working it is very easy. Just edit the .tex file as you would edit any .txt file, and then click to compile. You can recompile many times; even after each change in the source file if you want to.

Editing the PDF is completely infeasible, and I do not think it would help the author much because s/he would likely want the changes made to the .tex file, not the PDF.

[Edited at 2008-09-20 02:56]


Trinh Do  Identity Verified
Member (2007)
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
Latex Sep 20, 2008

I have used Latex extensively and it's very rewarding. I love and respect it much more than Word. The formatting is far better than Word, and typesetting maths is superior and less time-consuming PDF is a hassle and I doubt that you can do it without buying a PDF editor. The text comes as objects/pictures.

If you alredy had Latex, just use it. The printout comes in a .dvi file. Recently, there was a Latex fot Windows and it's downloadable for windows. Every software takes time to download. I intend to buy and use Latex as well.


Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:40
French to English
Not sure if this would help Sep 20, 2008

You might want to read up on some ideas here


Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:40
German to English
+ ...
agree with GoodWords and Trin Do Sep 20, 2008

I've done one major project with LaTex, and after the initial learning period it was a pleasure. By all means use a proper LaTex editor (I used the MikTex package), which is much easier than working with a general-purpose plaintext editor such as Notepad. LaTex editors are built and maintained by people who actually use them, and it shows. Among other things, the editor displays the tags and text in different colours (very convenient) and checks for syntax errors. The search and find/replace functions are a treat, and you'll miss their capabilities when you have to work with Word instead.
Editing PDF is not appropriate for translation purposes. PDF is basically not designed to be editable, so all editing methods and tools for PDF are a sort of afterthought. You also have two options for editing tools: simple ones that can only be used to tweak a word or two in a single line, and complex ones that require a lot of expertise (and may be expensive as well). And as GoodWords said, if your client sent you a LaTex file, they surely want a LaTex file back, not an edited PDF file.

[Edited at 2008-09-20 13:10]


xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
Thanks to everybody Sep 20, 2008

Thanks for your comments and advice. I also contacted an author who gave me some advice, summarised as follows:

"You are touching on a problem that still has no satisfactory solution for non-tech users. The best solution is to convert the PDF to a Word doc using a reliable conversion tool.

If you had the money, you could buy Scientific Workplace, which allows you to view as WYSIWYG, which is what we use, it costs around 800 euros though. It allows you to convert .tex to .rtf.

In a year or so, we expect a free program to become available that will allow .tex to be viewed as WYSIWYG (it already exists for Unix-Linux).

I recommend working in .doc format, but looking into Scientific Word, which is a simpler version of Scientific Workplace. "


Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:40
German to English
+ ...
regarding WYSIWYG Sep 20, 2008

Although there's a good deal to be said for WYSIWYG, and modern word processing programs have made it the de facto standard, it's not essential, especially for translation. In the LaTex job I worked on I used a PS viewer to view the text in 'as-printed' form, which was primarily so I could check the formatting (mainly the column spacing) of the numerous tables in the document, and I didn't experience this as a significant hindrance. If you are translating a LaTex document, the formatting has already been done, and it should only require a bit of (minor) tweaking after the translation is completed.
My daughter (a mathematician) uses LaTex regularly, and she says that WYSIWYG would be nice for writing formulas and complex mathematical expressions, but otherwise it's not really necessary. Experienced LaTex users even argue that the absence of WYSIWYG is a benefit because it allows you to concentrate on the text instead of the formatting. I've also read articles by compositors who say that an experienced compositor can generate formatted text faster with a tag-based system than with a WYSIWYG system.

[Edited at 2008-09-20 21:35]

[Edited at 2008-09-20 21:35]


Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:40
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Word Processors: Stupid and Inefficient Sep 21, 2008

When I started to use LaTeX years ago, I found a nice article that might fit very well here. It compares LaTeX to WYSIWYG systems:

Best regards,


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