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Using LaTeX with Microsoft Word

In grad school I wrote as much as I could in LaTeX, including my Ph.D. thesis. This offered several advantages, the largest being that it enabled me to script the generation of very large tables (50+ pages) automatically. If I made a change to my project that affected the output of said tables, all I had to do was rerun the script that generated those tables and my thesis would be updated.

The biggest drawback was that occasionally I have to submit manuscripts to publishers who either will not accept LaTeX submissions, or who seem to go out of their way to make submitting in LaTeX extremely difficult.  Similarly, sharing documents with collaborators in LaTeX can be frustrating.  Sure, you can send the PDF, or maybe they are even comfortable editing the LaTeX directly (rare in my experience), but I have yet to see an end-to-end procedure for tracking changes made by peers in a PDF or LaTeX document that makes it easy for me to accept or reject the changes.

There are a few tools available that can help make converting your LaTeX projects into Word format a few steps better than retyping your whole thesis (though it’s still pretty painful!):

  1. LaTeX2rtf will help you convert your LaTeX document to a Rich Text Format (RTF) file that can be opened in Word.  This will leave you with a lot of formatting fixes to implement, particularly for any tables, figures, equations, etc., but I find it’s better than having to start from scratch.
  2. Bibtex4Word can format your entire bibliography in Word using Bibtex bibliography files as the reference source.  This means you can use all those old .bib files you’ve created for LaTeX in word documents!  I find the particularly useful if I know I need to use Word for a project but I don’t want to have access to RefMan or EndNote.  I also recommend JabRef for managing BibTex files.

Recently I’ve been struggling to format a paper for Nature Molecular Systems Biology.  They accept LaTeX submissions, but for ease of sharing my manuscript with my collaborators I decided to write it in Word.  Unfortunately Nature does not provide a BibTex style file for Nature MSB, so in order to use Bibtex4Word I was forced to make my own using makebst.tex.  Luckily, the Endoplasmic Reticulum blog documented their struggle with making a BST file for Nature MSB and I was able to make a BST file without too much trouble.  Note, however, that to use this BST with Bibtex4Word you’ll need to make use of some style flags.

I should clarify that this is all a terribly convoluted process and there are definetely bugs you’ll encounter along the way.  If you want the simplest end to end solution, invest your time and resources in a solution that’s specific to Word, or specific to LaTeX.

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Posted by on March 20, 2011 in Alchemy

 

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The Science Guy

This morning my science communication class had breakfast with Mr. William Nye. We sat in a small classroom and for the most part, he spent the time asking us questions about what we do and why we’re in the class. When he got to me, and I explained my research on the minimal gene set (the smallest possible set of genes that can still support bacterial life), he asked me how large such a set would be. I said something like “well, we know there are bacterial species that have around 400 genes, so the smallest set is obviously smaller than that.” Bill called me out for that, firing back “it’s not obvious!!” He was just kidding around, but it was a good reminder that I shouldn’t use presumptive language when describing science.

It was impressive how kind and engaged Bill Nye is. As soon as he got to breakfast, he immediately hugged the instructor of our class, and another student in the class who he recognized. He really strikes me as a genuinely caring individual, who got into his business because he wanted to talk to people about important problems. Definitely an inspiration for how I’d like to behave as a scientist.

Note: I was holding off on this post because I wanted to post some pictures from the breakfast, but I haven’t gotten them yet. I’ll try to get them up in the next couple days.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2008 in Alchemy

 

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