I can heartily recommend LaTeX. It's basically a scripting language that does the formatting for you.
To keep this short, let me refer you to what I wrote here
concerning getting set up.
A quick google for a comparison of the optical impression of MS Word and LaTeX yielded the following: somebody wrote the same text (it's in german, a speech by some university professor that the writer considers to contain nothing of importance at all), once in Word and once in LaTeX. On his web page
, he explains the rules of his comparison (simple text, nothing fancy) and explains in which typographical details LaTeX is better, which the lay person can just generally discern by gut feeling. The results are the following (PDF):
Result with Word Result with LaTeX
I think in order to see and feel the difference you should have both open and compare identical segments of the text, or even better, print them out. Look at them from a bit of a distance (in all likelihood you can't read german anyway). It's probably nothing where you cry out immediately, but all in all I find LaTeX much more comfortable to read, since the typesetting is smarter and more pleasing to the eye.
Ah, found a page in english that explains some of those typographical details: clicky
. Especially check out the points 1, 3 and 6 (kerning, common ligatures and line breaks, justification and hyphenation) which are common and do make a difference, the rest falls into the exotic/propaganda category.
"But I want to be published and they want stuff in Word!"
Copy and paste your text from Latex into Word, remove the \chapter commands and you're done, basically. Normal text does not use all the fancy stuff LaTeX can do, so you don't need any commands and your script will consist of at least 99% plain text anyway.
Main points why you should use Latex, or at least give it a try
- looks better
- open source
- better performance (I have yet to see an editor crash out on me or do unexpected stuff, even in long documents, which is a real problem with Word from what I hear)
- tons of free packages for specialized tasks
If you want to try it, feel free to PM me and I'll help you get set up.