Is TeX outdated?
Most of you are probably familiar with Word, but probably less so with TeX. TeX is a typesetting system, a way of defining how things are laid out with high precision. However, it is not WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), but rather you type the entire document in plain text using different tags to define the layout and appearance. It has particular strengths in displaying mathematical formula, but is also widely used in academia for publications. It has since been extended with many macros to become the amusingly named LaTeX, and you can find several different flavours.
It strikes me that TeX and Word 2007 have a completely different approach. They both want to enable you to create professional looking documents easily, and with a high emphasis on spending time writing content rather than formatting. However, Word does this by providing templates, pre-sets and an easy to use interface. TeX does this by removing buttons and hidden control characters and just letting you type your document.
TeX is easier to use than it sounds once you get used to it. You do have to learn a new series of commands, but like anything they come easy and you can just type away. However, Word provides a similar environment with keyboard shortcuts. Need bold? Press Ctrl+B and carry on typing.
The advantage of TeX's system, though, is the absence of invisible control characters. How often do you copy text about in Word only to find that the font size and weight are different and alter how other pieces look? I do it all the time.
In TeX you can see where the formatting commands are. However, you now have the added risk of syntax errors. Woops, you forgot to close that bold command because you moved the start, but not the end. And because it's not WYSIWYG you can't tell until you've compiled and previewed it.
I do notice an increase in emphasis on content rather than aesthetics when using TeX. However, this is more of a mental shift that I could also apply to Word. Why can't I simply written the stuff and worry about how it looks later?
It all comes down to the experience as you are writing. Word has the double edged sword of letting you write in a nice, pretty environment that increases moral. However, you have to work to maintain that pretty environment, often at the expense of content. TeX lets you get on with content, but often I feel like I'm sitting at a dull typewriter thudding away rather than crafting beautiful documents.
That said, I am interested in the possibility of using TeX to write my Vox posts. The ability to define macros is very appealing.