[NTG-context] Experience on writing a thesis with MKIV

Aditya Mahajan adityam at umich.edu
Sat Sep 27 18:35:39 CEST 2008


Hi everyone,

I finished my thesis, writing both my thesis and my presentation using 
ConTeXt.

Thesis: http://www.eecs.umich.edu/~adityam/publications/thesis/thesis.pdf

Source: 
http://www.eecs.umich.edu/~adityam/publications/thesis/thesis.tar.gz

Presentation: 
http://www.eecs.umich.edu/~adityam/publications/thesis/thesis-presentation.pdf

Overall it was a pleasant experience, but there were some difficulties. I 
am summarizing my experience here. Hopefully, others will find it useful.

* Layout and Formatting: It was extremely simple to set up the layout and 
formatting according to the thesis specifications. Due to the ease of 
changing formatting, I experimented quite a bit with the formatting before 
settling down to what is in the thesis (The school wanted "nothing 
fancy").

* Organizing large projects: The product-component structure made it easy 
to work on single chapters. However, I could not get correct numbering for 
the components (If I compiled chapter-02, it got numbered 1). In the end, 
I was just compiling the whole thesis at the time, since it was pretty 
fast (~10 sec).

* Fonts: Using different fonts with MKIV was really easy. For the 
presentation, I did have some trouble in getting Euler to work with the 
minimals. Hopefully, this will be corrected soon.

* Math: The math alignments worked very nicely, but I had to do a lot of 
manual tweaking at a lot of places. Also, equations seem to like to have a 
tendency of starting on a new page. I tried changing penalties for 
predisplay and postdisplay (which are set to zero), but it invariably led 
to bad page breaks at other places.

  At some places, the equation overlapped with the previous material. I am 
not sure what was causing this (medium interline spacing, wrong 
calculation of the width of the previous line, or something else). In the 
end, I simply put a few manual \break[small] here and there.

  Being able to write unicode math made simplified reading math markup.

* Metapost: TeX-MP interaction is fast and easy. However, debugging 
metapost errors is difficult because context does not stop compiling on 
encountering a metapost error.

* Bibliography. For a large part, the bib module was very easy. In the 
end, there were a few glitches with the formatting of the bibliography 
(too title space between entries) which I had to manually correct. (Look 
for \help inside the bbl file).

  The bbl file sorted authors with multiple entries incorrectly. If I had 
authors with four publications in a year, say 2000, the came out as 2000d, 
2000c, 2000b, 2000a. I wanted 2000a, 2000b, 2000c, and 2000d, so in the 
end I just edited the bbl file by hand.

  There was also problem with maybe year. If I had 2000a and 2000b in the 
bib file, but only referred to 2000b in the thesis, the year came out as 
2000b rather than 2000. For this also, I edited the bbl file by hand.


Overall, ConTeXt made writing the thesis fairly easy. I mean the 
typesetting part of it. For those who are wondering, ConTeXt does not help 
with the content of the thesis :-) I would like to thank Hans and Taco for 
providing ConTeXt and everyone on the mailing list for answering my 
various questions.


Aditya


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