In the mid-1980s, when personal computers with word processing software found their way into scientists' offices and labs, the look of scientific documents--whether a student's thesis, a textbook manuscript, or a paper for publication--improved considerably. Cutting and pasting capabilities, proportional fonts, and laser-printed output gave these papers a typeset appearance.

However, the embedded equations and diagrams common to many math, chemistry, and physics publications were still difficult to manage. "Chemistry documents have historically always been very typographically complex," says chemistry professor Thomas O'Haver of the University of Maryland at College Park.

Today, the scientist's job--or that of the typist hired by the scientist--has been eased considerably when it comes to publishing. Programs designed specifically for writing equations or drawing chemical structures have been developed, as have full-featured word processors with additional scientific and technical capabilities. These programs not only cut down on the frustration factor, but also can free a...

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