Thursday, April 30, 2015

LaTeX, Word, ggplot, and n00b-ness

I've been forcing myself to learn enough R and ggplot to make nice looking plots. It's taking me painfully long to learn to do even the most basic things, and +Carlos Scheidegger has been a big help !

What makes learning ggplot hard is grasping its underlying design philosophy. There's a notion of layers in a plot that I'm still getting used to. Once you get the hang of it it's quite elegant, and makes modifying plots very easy -- once you get the hang of it.

All of which makes me a little more sympathetic to people who struggle with using LaTeX. LaTeX has many of the same unnatural design principles, starting with the lack of a WYSIWIG interface (and no, LyX doesn't really count). It's an incredibly powerful interface (like ggplot), but it's darned hard to do simple things.

In fact, I've been wishing for a "Word equivalent" for ggplot2. Just like overleaf.com is now trying to make LaTeX easier for the general public, I would love to see some kind of interactive interface to ggplot2 that can generate the code automatically for standard tasks.

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