Throughout most of my Academic career I have used LaTeX for everything and when I say everything I mean everything. I use it for papers, books, presentations, and more. In my opinion it is so much easier to use than Microsoft Word, LibreOffice Writer, and Apple Pages, although these have their benefits as well. In this post and maybe future post, I will cover some things I do to make my life in LaTeX even easier.

1. Use vector graphics for your Figures and Plots

When reviewing papers one thing I see often is that plots and figures are pixelated and in most cases this is due to authors not using vector graphics (I have been at fault for doing this myself). Therefore when you make your figures and plots use a tool that is able to generate vector graphic output. a) It allows you to scale the image as you please and b) you do not get the ugly pixelated pictures any more.

If the tool you use provide Embedded Post Script (EPS) as an output option, the you can use the epstodpdf package to automatically convert your EPS figures to PDFs without additional work. Sample code for this is shown below:

    \usepackage{graphicx}
\usepackage{epstopdf}

\begin{figure}
\includegraphics[scale=.5]{PATH/figure.eps}
\end{figure}


If you decide to go with Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) instead you might run in to problems. There are native LaTeX solutions to handle SVG but none of them have provided me with a result I like. My recommendation here is to convert the SVG to EPS and then use epstopdf.

2. SVG names for colours

There exists a package for LaTeX called xcolor which provides definitions for different colours, allowing us to write colour names such as red, green, black, and so on. However, what many do not know is that there is an option to xcolor which also grants access to colours using their SVG names, these are often easier to “read” when printed in my experience. You can see the different SVG color names on page 38 and 39 of the xcolor documentation. In the documentation you will see that there are the options of dvipsnames and x11names as well. These two options are good to and can be used in tandem with svgnames but dvipsnames have colour definitions that clashes with svgnames definition. All three options are great, I just prefer svgnames.

Additionally, it is (in my experience) beneficial to provide the option to the document class as it propagates to other packages besides xcolor. To provide the option to xcolor the usepackage statement has to look as follows;

\usepackage[svgnames]{xcolor}


3. Keep one BibTex file

One thing I have been extremely annoyed with during my PhD in particular is that I have copied BibTex entries from one BibTex file to another, between different papers. To me this was not a good solution but the only one I really could find. However, some one made me a suggestion and I like it. Have a single BibTex file with all references you have EVER used and have it a git repository. Then when you have a new paper, add it as a submodule and push change to the repo when you add a new reference. This is something that I will start to do from now on.

4. Keep the BibTex file organised

Another element of BiTex files is that they often are left unstructured, which is super annoying if you want to navigate them. I suggest ordering them by category and put in small comments about what a give category is and stop using the doi or another id for the BibTex reference name, give the entry a good name easy to remember why it has the name (long names are not always bad!). I even know people who have a small description of each BibTex entry as a comment just above.

5. Get to know your compiler

Get to know the different parameters and options you can parse to your LaTeX compiler. Some times you will be surprised what the compile can do for you. As an example I use pdflatex and one option I constantly use is -jobname where I can set the name of output PDF.

6. Do what you can do in LaTeX, do it.

This may or may not be controversial. So, what do I mean, well if you can do something in LaTeX do it in LaTex do not use another tool. Again, what the hell am I talking about? Well I mean instead of using an external tool for making figures, the use TikZ or if you need to make a plot use pgfplots. Before you flip the table and rage quite HEAR ME OUT. Even though the initial learning curve for packages such as TikZ is step, it is time well spend. As you become more proficient with the package and start having your own little macro collection you will become more effective. Additionally, you will have more control over your stuff as the complete landscape of LaTeX comments are at your disposal.
So try to do it.

./Lars