I am in the process of writing two papers – why did you think I had not been posting anything in weeks? – and, as many do, I am writing them with Latex. I know that Latex is often much better than Word, specially with complex documents. However, Latex often is annoying and, allow me the expression, stupid.

I spent one morning yesterday trying to make a simple file – no content, just the skeleton of a paper – compile. It took me 4 hours. The reason was some unidentified problem with the IEEE bibliography. The file would just not compile. Everything was correct, double checked, triple checked… but still, it would not work. Mr. Google gave me different solutions like this one or this other one. All the information contained in this simple Google query told me two things: 1) there are lots of people having the same problem out there and 2) none of the proposed solutions guarantees you to fix the problem. Hence me claiming Latex is a bit stupid.

I finally fixed the problem. How? Easy. I deleted all my files and the folder. Created a new folder, created new files and compiled the exact same .tex file – copy-pasted from a note-pad .txt document where I had temporarily “saved” the file -. Unbelievable and very stupid.

I will keep using Latex and I will remain positive on the fact that it is better than Word but, creators of Latex, any chance you fix all those bugs? After all, isn’t this an open source project?

I feel a bit bad when I write in my blog complaining about something (I still find Python annoying… but very useful and powerful), but at least it might help people Googl-ing for solutions to the same problem. Don’t try to fix problems with Latex; just delete everything – but save the “content” somewhere first! – and start over.

Happy Memorial Weekend everyone!

ps. Someday I will write about the following X-File: Pick a point p in your paper. Given a figure F, the probability of placing F on p is zero when using Latex.

ps2. My definition of chaos: Having a long paper (say typical 14-page ACM) with lots of figures with, at least 33% of them full width. Chaos is the process of placing them in the right spot.

ps3. My definition of Chaos Theory: An ancient secret theory, hidden somewhere in the dungeons of a secret temple in the middle of Nepal, that gives concise steps on how to place the figures in a paper like the one described on ps2. There is only one known corollary from this secret theory: When submitting a paper, save at least 12 hours before the deadline to fix “Latex problems” and place the figures.