I realize that this question is heretical here and may even be off topic but I cannot think of another place to ask.

I am an enthusiastic LaTeX user. I use it for even the briefest communications, yet after much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth I have concluded that I cannot use LaTeX to prepare manuscripts for journals in my field (aquatic ecology and biogeochemistry). Too few journals accept manuscripts written in LaTeX. I have tried conversion tools (e.g., latex2rtf) but the amount of post processing often negates the utility (e.g., poor BibTeX support, poor math typesetting, major errors in tables, etc...).

So my question is how can I retain many of the advantages of LaTeX while composing documents that will ultimately need to be in Word (actually I use Abiword)? The functionality I would like to maintain is:

  • files stored as plain text
  • files that can be edited by a text editor (mainly emacs)
  • some type of automatic bibliography support (preferably open source)
  • math typesetting capabilities
  • 5
    This question seems rather vague, but more importantly I'd say that if you need a final version in Word then you should use Word. That's certainly what I do for work (in chemistry).
    – Joseph Wright
    Jan 10, 2012 at 19:07
  • 2
    Have you tried tex4ht? The documentation isn't very clear but it gives some good results
    – ienissei
    Jan 10, 2012 at 19:36
  • 3
    You can edit RTF files directly in Emacs. Indeed, the syntax is not terribly different from LaTeX syntax -- braces for grouping, and control sequences to change formatting within a group. If you just want to write something within your text editor of choice and then send it off to someone and say "Here, open this with Word," that might be your best bet. Jan 10, 2012 at 19:36
  • 9
    Joseph Wright using Word for work is rather like Steven Spielberg directing sitcoms :)
    – Ryan Reich
    Jan 11, 2012 at 0:35
  • 1
    @JosephWright, that is an obvious solution but I am not ready to give in yet. Remember the Alamo!!!! Also I work on a bunch of different computers (some pretty old) so I like to keep most of my files in plain text.
    – DQdlM
    Jan 11, 2012 at 11:20

3 Answers 3


I recommend you check out the latest development version of Pandoc (http://johnmacfarlane.net/pandoc/).

Pandoc allows you to write in Markdown or LaTeX and convert the output to a wide variety of formats. As of a couple of days ago John McFarlane, Pandoc's developer, added support for Word docx output. This latest version even renders math using OMML (Microsoft's Office Math Markup Language)!

Since this is the development version, you'll have to build pandoc from source. To do so you'll first need to install Haskell and associated build tools, which you can get for your platform of choice at http://hackage.haskell.org/platform/.

Once you've installed Haskell, follow these instructions on the Pandoc wiki:

Installing Development version of Pandoc

If you write in markdown, which has relatively light-weight markup (hence it's adoption for many sites like StackExchange!), you keep the option of outputting not only to Word, but also HTML, RTF, LaTeX, etc.

  • cool, thanks for the suggestion. It's like the one ring!
    – DQdlM
    Jan 22, 2012 at 15:34
  • It really is. It can also do citations and tables in markdown. It can also convert markdown to latex, with or without headers.
    – naught101
    Mar 13, 2013 at 4:08
  • Also, @KennyPeanuts, since this is clearly a more broadly applicable answer than the selected one, you should choose this as the accepted answer.
    – naught101
    Mar 13, 2013 at 4:09

Like you, I use LaTeX when I can but use a word processor for journal manuscripts. Even if some journals accept LaTeX, their templates tend to be highly customized, and after a ms. rejection and faced with the task of weeding out all those proprietary macros I quickly abandoned that route.

I find OpenOffice (or now, rather, LibreOffice) Writer quite decent. I use it in conjunction with the Bibus reference manager, which I'm also quite pleased with. LibreOffice writes PDF, Word files (doc or docx) and also lets you export LaTeX. However, for LaTeX export I actually use the writer2latex tool, which lets you export with only minimal markup; the default built-in export produces lots of boilerplate code and clutter.

Math typesetting is good enough for what I need, but not great.


The solution that I have come to is to compose in html.

  • Word (or clones) will open and parse html files so there is no need for file conversion.
  • html files are text and can be edited with any text editor.
  • I can use bibtex2html to generate my literature cited in html from my BibTeX database.
    • This is not as efficient as using \cite because it needs to be created independent of the document but it can be relatively graceful if you just maintain a list of cited BibTeX keys.
  • Math can be typeset into the html document using MathJax but this doesn't work well with Word. In the end, Word math support is just lacking.
  • Finally, generating a simple css file as an analog to a LaTeX style file will allow for relatively nice typesetting if I want to publish the document outside of Word, as the html can be converted to pdf using wkhtmltopdf.

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