LaTeX can be arsey but boy is it good?!

I have been using LaTeX since I wrote my BSc thesis (that was way back in the last century $-$ although I’m saying this just for dramatic effect, but I’m not THAT old!) and have loved it since. Of course, I do use WYSIWYG typesetting software now and then, but, of course, I try to avoid those as much as possible when doing serious work, involving maths formatting.

But, amazing as it is, LaTeX has sometimes its quirks and some cost (= time invested in looking the solution up) to solving them. In the past few days, I’ve had a couple of spats.

The first one has to do with the fact that I typically use the old latex $\Rightarrow$ dvi $\Rightarrow$ ps $\Rightarrow$ pdf routine to produce my documents/presentations (eg I use ps files for graphics and so I can use things like pstricks $-$ which I have now learned to use quite well, and so find relatively easy to deal with). But now I’m working on a joint presentation [I’ll post about this thing later $-$ that’s good stuff!] and my collaborators had already started working using the newer pdflatex routing, which prevents you from (straightforwardly) using ps files. So I had to struggle a bit to use all my pstricks-created graphs. In the end, I decided to save each as a separate .pdf file (using my old routine) and then import those in the beamer presentation.

The second one was slightly more complex (and in fact I had to ask for external help to solve this). I’m writing something where we want to show some “normal” text and then some sort of “example boxes”, which we want to typeset in a different, sans serif font (hence the clever image above: sans serif, Arial, Helvetica, Switzerland… pretty font-nerdy stuff!). [This is even better stuff and again I’ll post about it later]

The problem is that Helvetica is actually somewhat larger than other typefaces of the same nominal size. As a result, mixing Times and Helvetica within running text may look bad, which is exactly what was happening: the text in the example boxes (typeset in Helvetica) would look slightly bigger than the maths (eg equations), which was freaking me out. But this can be easily fixed by loading the package helvet with the option [scaled=(scale)], for instance: \usepackage[scaled=.92]{helvet}. As a result, the font family phv (Helvetica) will be scaled down to 92% of its “natural” size, which is suitable for use with Adobe Times.

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