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LaTeX is amazing

2021-03-05 Dave

I hate formatting documents. Actually, I hate REFORMATTING documents. When I had to tackle my CV after my first job, I got the feedback that my CV needed to be updated to make it easier to read and more succinct. Ever since then, whenever the CV needed to be updated, I would end up having to copy the text out and find a new format or template to copy the data in. This caused all kinds of issues in particular when using CV generation tools that produce a PDF document, because if I want to make a small tweak or change, it can be almost impossible to fix.

An Example of PDF CV converted to Word

This image shows what happened when I tried to update my last cv with an extra line of description.

When I went back to college, for the first time I was introduced to LaTeX which is a programmatic way to generate documents that have clean formatting. This was used extensively in the papers I had to produce for college but also for things like posters and academic projects. While there is unquestionably a bit of a learning curve, the online tool OverLeaf takes a lot of the complexity away and offers a clean online interface to work with. And a huge help in this tool is the large bank of templates that can be imported to your account and modified to your needs.

Where LaTeX performs incredibly well as a tool for documentation is that the engine behind it ensures that the logic-driven formatting is rendered in the most optimal form. If I add a bunch of extra text to a document, LaTeX will ensure that the appropriate method of including that is automatically chosen.

In an effort to learn a bit more about the build tool, Gradle recently, I built a simple pipeline using the Gradle LaTeX plugin by Matthias Hanisch which takes my LaTeX files and will automatically build my PDF CV now at the push of a button. The plan to extend this further is to allow this to take a parameter that will allow the content of the CV to be modified based on this parameter. This would enable the CV to take a focus on managerial skills vs technical skills for example by using the LaTeX syntax to choose which text to include in each section.

TL:DR? Get to learn LaTeX, it makes “prettifying” documents way easier than anything you’ve seen on word, any web tools or black magic on your own machine. Trust me.