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I am starting my dissertation and I am searching for a simple yet nice template. I found a collection here but I want to make sure I find a template that meets some of these perhaps unreasonable requirements:

  1. Output can an be easily converted into MS Word. I know, heresy! The thing is that I need to interact with non-LaTeX people who like to use MS Word trackchanges.

  2. Output can be easily converted into XHTML. I like to publish my writings on the web, in XHTML. For example, this is conversion from PDF to XHTML had to be done manually since the automatic converters would choke with the two-column layout. So I'd like to avoid manual translation as much as possible.

  3. Easily switch between one to two column layout. I'm new to LaTeX but the way I understand LaTeX stylesheets is that it is very similar to the relationship between HTML and CSS. If this is the case, then I assume it is not very difficult to simply switch stylesheets to go from 1 to 2 columns layout without having to change any of the content of the .tex file. Is this a fair representation of the situation?

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2 Answers

For (1) and (2) I recommend looking at the tex4ht program. It converts LaTeX to (X)HTML and to OpenOffice format, which can then be further converted to Word (I believe). As you know at the outset that this is what you intend to do then you can ensure that you always use packages and so forth that are known to be compatible with tex4ht (I don't know which are or aren't).

(As a side note, it's even possible to configure a decent editor to use tex4ht + firefox instead of pdflatex + xpdf so the workflow is pretty much the same when using tex4ht as when using ordinary TeX.)

An alternative (which I don't recommend) would be to write your document in a markup format which can be converted to LaTeX or to (X)HTML or to Word/OpenOffice. The reason I don't recommend that is that for a large document, the programming capabilities of LaTeX are so convenient that it is a pain to have to do without. (I speak from experience, I'm a contributor to the nLab project where we write entries in Markdown+iTeX; from this source, it's easy to produce both XHTML+MathML and LaTeX, but having to write $\mathbb{R}$ every time instead of just \R really gets annoying!)

This isn't the right forum for advice, but I'm going to throw some in for free.

  1. Write documents for a specific medium. That is, don't take the same document and put it on paper and on the web. By all means, use bits in common, but what works on the web is not what works on paper and vice versa. (And by "paper" I also mean "PDF" to be read online. I read a PDF on the screen much as I read an article on paper, but I read a web page in a totally different way.)

  2. Remember your collaborators, and be nice to them. Don't define or use a load of obscure macros. Define nice, useful, and obvious ones, and put in plenty of comments to show what they do (which is also useful for yourself 6 months later when you try to remember why you defined something in such an obscure way).

I'll leave (3) to someone who knows more about that than I do (which is just about anyone...)

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For number three, it may help to the of latex preamble as approximately equal to html's css style sheet. I keep my preambles in their own files, then input them into a master document while also \input'ing the content in the same master file.

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