I Rewrote my CV in Typst and I'll Never Look Back

One of the things I’ve been doing for quite a while, other than tracking my expenses, has been keeping my CV up-to-date as much as I could. Every three to four months I try to sit down and give a little refresher to my curriculum so that I don’t have to do it in a single take when the time comes.

It goes without saying that this has been quite helpful, I remember a few years ago when this was none of my concern and I ended up spending nights staring at the monitor thinking about what I could write down that was remarkable and that made me stand out. I can’t even remember what I did last week, imagine thinking about something original that I had done in previous months or even years.

I never quite liked my previous CV, maybe because I always get bored with stuff after a while, maybe because I sent mine out to friends and they all copied the design of it, maybe because I copied the design itself from a template that was public on Github under those "awesome-X" repos with thousands of starts.

The other day I fixated on the fact that I wanted to change the design of my CV, remove useless stuff and flatten it just the right amount to make me like it again.

I was dedicated to do it on my own, but there was a thing standing in my way: LaTex.

As many others do, I wrote my first CV and all the other iterations of it on Overleaf using LaTex. I’m no LaTex expert, and I don’t feel like learning the language can be of any use for what I do day to day.

Up until now I was ok with it. I grabbed that template and filled it with some text, the rest has been a combination of magic, luck and mostly try-jacking-stuff-around-until-it-looks-good. This is what it feels like even to this day to me when I think about writing LaTex for such a simple task as updating a CV.

Not knowing LaTex and creating a template from scratch to make it look exactly as I wanted doesn’t sound like a good idea, does it?

While I was thinkering about a possible escape from all of this, I had a flashback of a time when I heard about a good-enough alternative to LaTex and I immediately started to look for it.

It took a couple of tries on Google, and the solution to my problems was lying there: Typst.

Typst sells itself with this line

Typst is a new markup-based typesetting system that is designed to be as powerful as LaTeX while being much easier to learn and use

Sounds pretty cool, right? I immediately started digging in their web based editor and tried writing something out to see if it really was easier and as powerful as LaTex and boy I was not disappointed.

Let me start by saying that I’m in no way trying to say that LaTex is bad, especially because I don’t know how to properly use it, at all. I’m sure LaTex gained its reputation for a reason and it’s there to stay.

But I also don’t know Typst, so I guess I can give at least a fair comparison of the two from the point of view of a guy who doesn’t want to learn a new language to get an average CV in PDF format out of it.

A thing I’ve noticed from the get-go is how fast the PDF is rendered on typst compared to its Overleaf counterpart. As of now, my project takes a whopping four seconds on Overleaf to compile and render on screen. On typst, on the other hand, the same CV renders immediately with no noticable delay. I want to play the devil’s advocate and I think this might be related to Overleaf’s free plan, which I am using, so I don’t want to jump to conclusions on this. Also, on typst everything is layed out in a single file that is 180 lines long, on Overleaf I have a more complex project structure:

$ cd overleaf-cv
$ tree
├── awesome-cv.cls
├── fonts
│  ├── FontAwesome.ttf
│  ├── Roboto-Bold.ttf
│  ├── Roboto-BoldItalic.ttf
│  ├── Roboto-Italic.ttf
│  ├── Roboto-Light.ttf
│  ├── Roboto-LightItalic.ttf
│  ├── Roboto-Medium.ttf
│  ├── Roboto-MediumItalic.ttf
│  ├── Roboto-Regular.ttf
│  ├── Roboto-Thin.ttf
│  └── Roboto-ThinItalic.ttf
├── resume
│  ├── competencies.tex
│  ├── education.tex
│  ├── experience.tex
│  ├── open-source-contributions.tex
│  ├── projects.tex
│  ├── skills.tex
│  └── summary.tex
└── resume.tex

$ tokei .
 Language            Files        Lines         Code     Comments       Blanks
 TeX                     8          213          133           50           30
 VB6                     1          607          548            0           59
 Total                   9          820          681           50           89

That’s a pretty big difference I have to say, and that is the second thing that I immediately noticed. We have a LaTex project that is almost 820 lines long, that I mostly did not write luckily, and a 180 lines long project. Again, to play the devil’s advocate I have to point out that my 180 lines long typst CV does not look exactly like the Overleaf one, so there may be someone else out there that can replicate the design of my typst CV in less than 180 lines in LaTex, so I’ll give you the benefits of the doubt here.

Let’s get down to business and let me talk about what I really care and like about typst that you won’t find in LaTex in my opinion, and that is simplicity and a friendly syntax that you might be already familiar with. By reading some articles online, I agree with the fact that typst syntax looks a lot like markdown. Indeed, if you don’t need anything fancy you may as well just write markdown syntax and the end result is going to be almost exactly to what you would expect from a README.md file on Github. That is because typst is a markup language as they explain on their reference page. This is a huge plus to start-off as you don’t need to fill the document with \textbf{}, \emph{}, \textit{} etc. and if you’re used to markdown files as I am you have one less thing to worry about here, you can get to a pretty good result with just that.

CVs have a lot of repetitiveness in themselves, think about it. You usually have an experiences section that has to layout the company you worked for, when you started working there, when you finished and a list of things you did there. It’s easier to reason with variables in this case, indeed you may want to define how you want one experience to look like and just make a for loop over your array of experiences and repeatedly render those one after another. This is possible both in LaTex and typst and it’s called templating. You can see templating as a function that takes in arguments and returns text in this case.

I have a section under my name and surname where I list all the important links that I want to be on my CV. I would like to define a template for a single link that take in:

  1. a URL

  2. a title

  3. an icons

This how you would do it in typst (follow here for better syntax highlight)

// This is an array of links
#let links = (
    (icon: "email", link: "mailto:[email protected]"),
    (icon: "website", link: "https://mattrighetti.com/", display: "mattrighetti.com"),
    (icon: "github", link: "https://github.com/mattrighetti", display: "mattrighetti"),
    (icon: "linkedin", link: "https://linkedin.com/in/mattia-righetti", display: "mattia-righetti")

Sorry for the broken syntax highlight, it's yet not available with highlight.js. By the way, doesn't that look simple? Very tuple-like

Let’s go through the template now which will take in that array and render it

// 1. The icon template will render each link's icon
// The template takes 2 arguments, the latter is 1.5pt by default

#let icon(name, shift: 1.5pt) = {
  // box is an inline-container that sizes content I want the icon to be 10pt
  // high and the icon itself is under "icons/name.svg"

    baseline: shift,
    height: 10pt,
    image("icons/" + name + ".svg")

  // I want the icon to have some horizontal padding so that the text of the
  // link is not going to be immediately sticked to the its side


#let linksBar(linkarray) = {
  // set the text after this statement to be 8pt in size
  set text(8pt)

  // override the icon shift arg to 2.5pt
  let icon = icon.with(shift: 2.5pt)

  // iterate over the array
  // this is the equivalent of a for loop
  linkarray.map(l => {

    // render the icon using the previous template

    // render the link text
    if "display" in l.keys() {
      // this is the equivalent of [$l.display](l.link) in markdown
      // you'll see square brackets a lot in typst, they are used as text
      // containers
    } else {
      // my email is the only field that does not have a display field
      // but the link function will automatically display what's after `mailto:`
  // we want to render these links horizontally
  // so we join all of them together and pad them horizontally

// actually use what we wrote above to render content

If you want to check out the result you can open this on typst.

This will render an horizontal list of links with their respective icons. I don’t know if you feel the same, but I learned all of this in three minutes by looking at the typst’s tutorial which only covers essentials. When I tried to do the same in LaTex I had to Google a lot before finding what worked for me.

I don’t want to transform this article in a tutorial on typst so I’m gonna stop here with the examples but I hope I’ve conveyed the idea of how simple this is compared to LaTex for this specific scenario.

The last and final selling point for me is how simple it is to get from a typst document to a final PDF file. Since typst is written in Rust you can download it from source and compile it into a binary file that you can use to create your PDF file. If you are as lazy as me you can just

$ brew install typst
$ typst compile cv.typ
$ tree
├── cv.pdf
├── cv.typ
└── icons

This is how trivial it is to get a PDF out of typst! Last time I tried to setup LaTex on my mac I just gave up because it was too much work, this seems to be agreed upon a lot of other users too so I don’t feel alone on this, am I?

I am in the process of integrating the generation and publishing of my CV through the same github action that I trigger every time I post an article on my website. That would save me some extra time because I could just add my .typ file in my webiste’s github repo, edit the document there in the future and everything will be published automatically.

I hope I conviced you that you definitely don’t need to write your CV in LaTex, this is a better, simpler and faster solution that just works and that’s gaining popularity even for much more complex documents.