Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Use LaTeX, not Scientific Word

After my rant against Microsoft Word, let me vent against another abomination of the text editing world, Scientific Word.

Published by Mackichan Software, it is supposed to provide the best tool for scientific writing, in particular for writing mathematical equations. It is true that Microsoft Word is absolutely horrendous in this regard, so Scientific Word is an improvement. But a costly improvement, listed at US$630 for commercial use and US$525 for academic use. Students still pay US$180.

I could vent about the price, but the real problem is that there is a price. It turns out that Scientific Word is just a collection of pull down menus with a LaTeX engine in the back. Note that LaTeX is absolutely free, very powerful, very well maintained, backwards compatible, in other words, perfect. With one drawback, it may take a day to learn to use it, as it is not WYSIWIG (what you see is what you get), you need to compile the text before viewing it. Scientific Word with its pull down menus removes the tremendous flexibility LaTeX has. And people pay for that.

Worse, one may argue that having a nice interface must be worth something. Wrong, LyX also provides such an interface, for free. I cannot understand how educated people can be scamed so openly by MacKichan Software.

8 comments:

Vilfredo said...

Isn't there also an issue with PDFs created by Scientific Word? I recall that some journals were not even accepting those PDFs because they were not portable, some proprietary font issue.

Neil said...

Hear hear! Use LaTeX rather than just about anything, but definitely rather than Scientific Word!

N.

Gabriel Mihalache said...

The equation editor in Word 2007 is far better than anything in 2003 or previous.

I wouldn't use it for papers and such (maybe), but for most day-to-day use, it's more than fine.

Vilfredo said...

Gabriel, you do not want to use Word 2007, nobody can read its files. I routinely use LaTeX in emails for equations, no need to put a word file in attachment.

Anonymous said...

There is a Google Ad at the bottom of the page offering Scientific Word for $469.95. Less than in the post, but still outrageous.

Jeff said...

I would sure like to know how I can learn LaTeX in one day.

Selling private lessons?

Vilfredo said...

Jeff, have a look at LaTeX for Secretaries.

grazzidad said...

I've been using SciWord for years, and agree that it's WAY overpriced. But this rant against them -- though well-reasoned -- is way overblown. Ordinary humans cannot learn latex WELL in a day. Making documents come out the way one wants, using tex tools alone, is hardly obvious. The lack of wysiwyg is also a serious impediment for some.

SciWord 'solves' these issues while creating others. In simple terms, if the solution to these issues, minus the costs of the new ones and the loss of a few hundred dollars, has positive value, then it's worth trying. Otherwise, not. I don't see why all the Sound and Fury for a simple economic decision.

Thanks, incidentally, for the link to LyX, which I'm trying now.