Document authoring systems

The process of document authoring, or document preparation, has interested me for a long time. There are many writings on the Internet, such as Cottrell, which rave about the apparent benefits of one system over another (in this case, LaTeX vs Word). I believe such articles are missing the point by trivializing the situation.

As someone about to embark on writing his own PhD thesis, I am now faced with the task of creating my biggest written work so far. And I find the current software available inadequate and inefficient -- not only for the creation of large documents such as theses and reports, but also for more everyday tasks. And, what's more, as innovation is led by commercial interests, there has been virtually no progress on document authoring in the last decade. I have therefore devoted further thought to this situation, and have written a position paper (PDF) in which I make a number of suggestions. These suggestions are posed as open-ended questions in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and are as follows:

I believe that neither of these questions has an easy answer or quick solution, and that only through research and experimentation can we begin to make real improvements in the way documents are created.

I have written this paper to stimulate further discussion on this topic and start the ball rolling, so that better document authoring systems eventually become reality. Therefore, I will be very grateful for feedback from others who are also interested or could impart expert knowledge in this topic. I will be creating a mailing list to promote exchange of ideas; if you would like to join this mailing list please send an email to hassan (at)

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