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I couldn't find a duplicate to this question and hope there isn't one. I'm not concerned with methods of converting LaTeX documents to Word Documents (I know a few).

The question I have is why are the results often so shoddy? Where does the difficulty come in? Is it the proprietary nature of Microsoft technology? Is it that TeX has more robust functionality than whatever background mark-up language Word uses? Something else?

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You haven't given us any information about what method you used or what was "shoddy" about the results. –  Ben Crowell Feb 14 '13 at 5:54
    
Dennis' fair question, I think, is much more pressing since Word's "new" file-format docx is based on xml -- usually very badly coded, but xml nevertheless. A conversion should now be easier than ever, shouldn't it? @Ben: I also experienced shoddy results, and my documents did not include more than text, footnotes, titlepage, table of contents, page numbers, quotations, bibliography -- i.e., nothing but the usual stuff, and I also tried virtually all tools available. –  ClintEastwood Feb 14 '13 at 6:35
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The problem is less on the syntax but more on the semantics side. As long as the underlying semantic models are different, conversion will always be a problem. –  Stephan Lehmke Feb 14 '13 at 7:43
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Without concrete examples this question is not very useful. Some of the tools are quite good and are definitely worth a try. Of course converting LaTeX as it contains a programming language is quite a challenge and Word is not known for it's interoperability. –  Alexander Feb 14 '13 at 11:43
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Still, I have to admit, I don't get the problem. If LaTeX can produce a wonderful pdf, why can't it simply produce a well-coded docx or rtf? I am by no means an advocate of Word, but in academia (Humanities) some publishers demand doc or rtf and reject any submission of pdf-files. So, if I want to get published and as long as there is no proper conversion from LaTeX to docx, I am unfortunately compelled to use Word at times -- even if I would prefer using use LaTeX all the time. –  ClintEastwood Feb 14 '13 at 17:12

1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

There are mainly three reasons:

  1. The motivation to produce better tools is missing. Programmers in the Windows camp have no financial reason or any other reason for that matter to build any tools to convert Word documents to LaTeX. They would rather spent more time to improve their current software to the point where they are as good as LaTeX produced documents (and they have been closing the gap).

  2. The TeX/LaTeX open source community also believes that a complete conversion would never be possible due to the nature and limitations of both systems. For example a custom defined macro in LaTeX can never be properly parsed and translated to a Word format. At best one could do a partial conversion and then handcraft the rest. (Also a Word document does not always capture the semantics of the document).

  3. The lack of a standard to define the information required to typeset a document. Should a widely accepted standard arise, it may become possible to design such universal transformation tools.

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I'm downvoting both the question and this answer. Neither refers to any specific conversion software. Neither refers to any specific problem with whatever software is being referred to. It's not meaningful to offer social and economic speculation as hypothetical explanations for facts that have not even been specified. –  Ben Crowell Feb 14 '13 at 16:26
    
@BenCrowell : Sorry, but I don't see your point. Why shouldn't it be allowed to ask and discuss a general question in general terms? –  ClintEastwood Feb 14 '13 at 17:13
    
@BenCrowell Thanks for letting me know about the downvoting. –  Yiannis Lazarides Feb 14 '13 at 18:41
    
@ClintEastwood: See tex.stackexchange.com/faq#dontask Also try hovering your mouse over the downvote button next to the question. A tool tip comes up explaining what a downvote is for: "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful [...]" IMO all three criteria apply here. –  Ben Crowell Feb 15 '13 at 16:46
    
@BenCrowell : I am aware of these -- and still couldn't agree less with your judgement of Dennis' question. Nevermind; let's leave it at that. I think what we are agreed on is that this is not the right place for such a discussion. –  ClintEastwood Feb 16 '13 at 7:41

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