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I prefer to write my academic papers in LaTeX whenever I am the main author. But my next upcoming paper requires more intricate back-and-forth collaboration with my co-authors. They do not like that I will be writing in tex as they prefer (or only knows) using MS Word.

Is there any convenient workaround that allows me to use LaTeX for editing (I use Overleaf - but can change if needed) while my three co-authors use Word?

PS. The work will involve working on same sections of the paper also, so we cannot simply split it into pieces where I would do my piece in LaTeX.

Thanks.

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    Related question on Academia.SE: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/44981/… where, among other solutions, the WYSIWYG LaTeX-editor LyX is mentioned. Another solution is to write everything in Word collaboratively, do not pay attention to mark-up or math formatting, and in the end you rewrite the paper in LaTeX.
    – Marijn
    Dec 1, 2017 at 15:02
  • While we can't close as a duplicate of a question on academia.se, it's about as close as duplicates get to the quesion @Marijn linked
    – Chris H
    Dec 1, 2017 at 16:03
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    I believe people have used pandoc successfully to manage situations like these. It has good support for LaTeX-style equations and deals with edit proposals in the docx document. Tables can become a problem though (no colspan).
    – tarleb
    Dec 1, 2017 at 21:12
  • It's common for people to be too lazy to learn to use a superior piece of technology (I mean you only have to learn it once to use it for the rest of your academic career...). If they're sufficiently technologically illiterate that they insist on using Word instead of LaTeX, then they probably wouldn't take advantage of LaTeX's full functionality anyway.
    – Myridium
    Dec 2, 2017 at 5:20

4 Answers 4

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The main Question is, Are you using any of the advanced features of LaTeX?

If you are, Let them work in whatever editor they like. But tell your co-authors you expect plain TXT (text) files. That way the editor does not matter and its only a matter of merging in there text into the LaTeX source files.

If you are not. There is no real advantage of using Technology 'Y'. Just use whatever the group is comfortable in using.

Pro tip: Word Processors like Microsoft Word have a tendency to make you spend a lot of time in markup. While most of the time this is not important to the story being told (or paper being written)

I would advise to take a step back and focus on the product (the paper) and do the markup and lay outing after the text is written. this aves a lot of time an is technology agnostic.

For this purpose I would use (as in myself) a Markdown Editor like Atom, and a Git repository for concurrent Versioning. I must add that I am both familiar with git and markdown as an Software Developer.

Good luck with your papers.

--Additional: When you want to work together and edit the same files anywhere and not want 'merge-hell' use the tools Software developers have created. Tools like Git, Hg (Mercury), bzr (Bazaar) are all suitable for merging in edits from many developers into the same files.

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    You should add that merging with version control tools like git requires the usage of text files (which is what LaTeX code is stored in), not mutilated zip files (which is what MS word files are; seriously!).
    – UTF-8
    Dec 1, 2017 at 21:01
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    @UTF-8 That is why I don't consider word to be a suitable format for collaboration. I would say the onus is on the word proponents to suggest a solution for that problem.
    – kasperd
    Dec 2, 2017 at 0:27
  • In Word you can use the draft mode to avoid decorations
    – Ooker
    Dec 2, 2017 at 0:58
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As a working scientist, I can answer: no, please do not focus on tricky solutions.

First of all, you are going to write a paper, and I guess you will send it to a journal for possible publication. So you should not start a religion war to use a piece of software that will be totally irrelevant for the final purpose. Unless, of course, the journal needs a specific file type for submission.

Second, it is mostly a matter of taste if you prefer TeX or Microsoft Word (or any other visual word processor). Both communities can spend plenty of words to convince the world that they are the best, but in my experience no scientist really needs the power of one system instead of the power of the other. Paradoxically, you could just write the paper by hand, and save time for more important discussions.

To summarize: vote and accept the majority. It will not be a big problem, if you have to write your paper with Word.

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    On the other hand, if you're the one responsible for the equations, citiations and cross-referencing, giving in to their preference costs you a huge amount of work to save them a small amount (hence my answer to the related question)
    – Chris H
    Dec 1, 2017 at 16:01
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    “ it is mostly a matter of taste if you prefer TeX or Microsoft Word” — No. For paper editing that’s just patently false: MS Word has numerous substantial drawbacks in this regard (to name just two: collaborative editing, and versioning). Agreed with the rest of the answer. Dec 1, 2017 at 16:06
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    @KonradRudolph I'm by absolutely no standard a Window supporter, but what you wrote is wrong: (modern versions of) Word do support collaborate editing (even in real time!) and versioning. So I believe it is a matter of taste / knowledge / habits.
    – Clément
    Dec 1, 2017 at 16:55
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    In my case, it would be a big problem to use Word. A) I don't use Windows, and B) I'm dysiconic, and so have real problems trying to use any icon-driven interface.
    – jamesqf
    Dec 1, 2017 at 18:26
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    @jamesqf You might find it useful to learn the Alt codes. You can press Alt then type letters to access every single function.
    – Tim
    Dec 1, 2017 at 19:40
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I've been doing this lately, and my solution has been to do the work in LaTeX but compile in multiple formats including .docx.

This allows collaborators to use the format they feel comfortable in, but still lets me use my preferred system for writing. The downside is that it requires you to manually port their changes from the format they were working on into the tex document. When the changes are moderate, this is not too bad, but it can get to be a lot if they are making large changes.

This has been driven by the fact that my collaborators are non-technical, but the documents themselves have a lot of technical features. I am unwilling to give up the power of my system (RMarkdown, LaTeX, and Git). However, there is also no way that these collaborators will (or should) invest the time to learn Git or LaTeX.

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    If you're going to answer like this, shouldn't you be sharing your workflow to compile to docx? Dec 1, 2017 at 21:57
  • I interpret "how should/could I approach this problem?" as a distinct problem from "how do I execute strategy X?" There are a lot of ways to convert to docx format, each has drawbacks. While I tend to use pandoc, it may be easier to do something else for the OP (particularly if ze is using complex packages). Dec 1, 2017 at 22:05
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I have had to do this several times. So far, the easiest is simply to make a copy of the tex file and change the filename so that it has a txt extension. I circulate that and a pdf of the paper (so that tables and figures are available). My co-authors simply ignore all the formatting instructions and use the Microsoft Word 'track changes' feature on the bits they are writing. I then accept the changes that I want and copy the fixed text back into the LaTeX master.

This workflow assumes the LaTeX user is not just the main author, but really preparing most of the document with the others editing, commenting and perhaps writing some paragraphs.

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