This is a cross post from physics where this question didn't get an answer - it seems relevant here too.
People often express an idea that steam engines would be more efficient if they used a working fluid with a lower latent heat than water. I always thought that was a misconception because (so I thought) steam engines use the Rankine cycle, which is a closed thermodynamic cycle, so you get back all that energy when the fluid is condensed. A high latent heat means you can achieve a higher temperature difference between hot and cold reservoirs (so I thought), which only makes the cycle more efficient.
However, reading about the history of steam locomotives, it seems that while early designs like Watt's did use condensers, the later ones don't, they just vent steam into the atmosphere at above atmospheric pressure, avoiding the weight and complexity of a condenser.
This makes me unsure whether water's high latent heat is a good thing or a bad thing for steam engines. If they used a closed cycle then a high latent heat would either be a good thing or make no difference, but since they use an open cycle this might not be the case.
I realise there are all sorts of other reasons why a working fluid besides water could be impractical, especially if you're venting it into the atmosphere on every cycle, but let's ignore those - if there was another fluid, exactly like water except that it had a somewhat lower latent heat, would a steam engine using this fluid be more or less efficient than one using water? (Assuming both engines are optimised for their respective working fluid but both use the same operating principle, venting the fluid on each cycle.)
Just as on physics I see there are some previous questions about alternative working fluids for steam engines, such as Why use steam water and not other fuild in steam engines? and Why use steam instead of just hot air?, but I didn't see one that addresses the specific question of thermodynamic efficiency as a function of latent heat in an engine without a condenser.