Why is TeX so popular in Germany?

A lot of good (La)TeX resources come from Germany. I assume from the amount of development and support activity, there are probably a lot of users as well. Does anyone know why TeX is apparently so strong in Germany? Is there something about the German language that TeX supports particularly well?

11 thoughts on “Why is TeX so popular in Germany?

  1. It’s not the language at all – there is a lot of things like ö,ä,ß,… that you have to remember to code differently.
    No IMHO it’s the build in math support and text-layout that surpasses WYSIWYG – Editors like Word and co. by far.
    The support for index-labels, chapter-numbering, for practical every (scientifical) application it’s own package, …
    It’s just great, it’s totally free and it comes with most linux distributions.

  2. I agree with all the benefits you mentioned. But why do Germans appreciate these benefits more than, say, the French?

  3. I can’t really say if or why the germans use it more often (or if they really do) – but I think it has strong support in science here.
    The open source community is very strong in our universities and LaTeX is used to puplish – as far as I know – allmost every mathematical paper.
    And of course: once you got used to writing the codes it’s just a lot easier if you need a lot of math.

  4. The German letters are not supported very well (in TexLive there is now utf-8 support, so at least that has changed). Also other things specific to Germany (or Europe, I don’t know) are not supported very well, like default page size (DIN/A4, DIN/A5), which includes the default page margins and so on. There is however a good package, that replaces all the basic formats (article, book, …) with ones that are suited for German papersizes and margin calculations (KOMA-Script).
    So for me (and my whole institute, astrophysics) it’s clear, that choosing Latex has nothing to do with German characteristics, but only with support for scientific needs. Most of us write papers and thesis in English, anyway.
    The other reason why there might be more Germans using Latex then French using Latex could be that there are more Germans then French? :-)
    The three biggest countries in Europe:
    Germany:82.4, France: 62.9, UK: 60.4 million

  5. German accented characters have been supported in LaTeX for quite awhile already (cf. the packages inputenc, fontenc and the respective font support). I think, too, LaTeX is that strong in Germany because Germans are perhaps a bit more willing to join a TeX users group than users in other parts of the world, so the number of users can more easily be estimated in Germany than elsewhere. By and large, LaTeX is a “niche product” in Germany, too. Most people have never heard of it. I usually have to explain that LaTeX has absolutely nothing to do with Latex… :-(

  6. As a German and just writing my bachelor thesis in LaTeX, I can only say that the professionally looking documents were my main reason. I’ve already written more than a few documents with it and it just functioned. No floats or captions, that landed elsewhere. No toc with funny error messages. It just functioned, from the first until the last page. Nobody is perfect, so I enjoy telling word users “That wouldn’t have happened with LaTeX.”
    I must reply to my predecessors, that only one of the documents contained a formula, but since I’m studying IT more than one contained source code. This is displayed very well with listings. I’m also writing my application letters (scrlttr) as well as my curriculum vitae ( moderncv) in LaTeX. Basically I strive to replace all wysiwyg tools for documents with LaTeX.
    I’ve got to admit though, that I never really grew fond of wysiwyg for html as well. I simply want to know exactly beforehand what I will get.
    The only real drawback at LaTeX is the writing and debugging of tables. Texlipse (my eclipse plugin for latex) provides a visualizing tool, but that doesn’t function with all tables (tabularx, tabulary, …) . You can do the workaround writing it in the spreadsheet program of your choice and exporting it as a comma or rather ampersand separated file., but we definitely need a replacement of some kind.

  7. Each german university has a computer or data center.
    Core business was originally the mainframes. However, during the eighties there was a lot of federal government money to support time-limited programs for enhancing computer knowledge of students which was largely caught by these computer or data centers. Thus, there were many courses offered, first for program languages, then (in the 2nd part of the 80s) also for other, eg wordprocessing for PCs. Natural choice for the tutors of the compter centers, usually graduated in mathematics or physics, was Latex: Working on all systems, no license problems, adjustable. Need to adjust to the german specialities triggered the development of packages. The capabilities to adjust Latex and the free resources led to many Latex versions and packages. I remember that the computer center of the university where I studied offered a then very popular Latex version for the PC and hundreds of sty-files in 1991, nearly all developed by computer center staff somewhere in Germany.

  8. I think the Germans who have posted are too modest. I think the Germans (along with the French and Dutch and British) are so involved with the TeX community because they are selfless with their time and are willing to contribute to something for the common good.

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