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What office package is good for academic writing purpose? These three are the most popular for a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) style rich text editor.

PS: Avoid LateX reference please. This question is for lazy writers like me who wants to write rapidly and with ease!

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Why not Latex? :) –  Charles Morisset Aug 31 '12 at 12:54
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Use the same package that your co-authors are using. –  EnergyNumbers Aug 31 '12 at 15:00
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LaTeX is hard to learn at first, mostly because it has a completely different philosophy from Office-like apps. But once you "get" it, you will dump every office applications except for compatibility's sake. –  Siyuan Ren Sep 1 '12 at 2:39
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LaTeX has a steep learning curve, but it will pay off in the long run, even if you're lazy:-) –  Marc van Dongen Sep 1 '12 at 16:04
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@Md.GolamRashed If you want to write something "rapidly" then it probably doesn't deserved to be published. And LaTeX is the easiest way to write an article. –  user1162 Oct 1 '12 at 20:44

9 Answers 9

If you are in a field with lots of equations, the journals you are going to publish in will almost certainly take .tex. So write in LaTeX. Otherwise you will not be writing your equations rapidly or with ease (compared to those who know LaTeX)*. Use a front end like LyX if you want some WYSIWYGness.

If you are in any non-equation-heavy field, use MS Office, for the simple reason that every journal takes .doc files and only some take other formats. OpenOffice and LibreOffice are not yet compatible enough for publication-quality work. (I have tried repeatedly.) It's not that OpenOffice/LibreOffice can't do the right thing, it's that the journals only support Word. And so either your manuscript will be full of errors that you have to hope you will catch and correct when you get page proofs, or you will have to end up using Word anyway. Kind of sad, but that's the way things are (and have been for the past decade).

*Once you know LaTeX, everything is faster and easier, especially because you can save old solutions for formatting, shortcut macros, etc. etc., and import them with a cut and paste. But it does take a non-negligible amount of time to learn, so if you're too impatient to learn new skills or under a very tight time deadline right now, LaTeX is not for you. Unless you're doing equations--LaTeX still does those enough better that you may as well just use it regardless.

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Get in mind that time have passed and the compatibility of OpenOffice/LibreOffice with Microsoft Office have been increased. –  PhoneixS Jun 18 at 11:18
    
@PhoneixS - Last time I tried was early 2014 and it was not flawless. Has there really been much improvement since? Of course it's better than, say, 2008, but it's still not good enough to count on unless your paper is really just text. Start doing math or automatic references or something and sooner or later you'll hit a problem--or at least I do when I try. –  Rex Kerr Jun 18 at 14:19
    
Yes, maybe I have been expressed wrong. I want to said as you said, that it have been improved, although it still have flaws. And thinking in it, maybe better to remove my comment. –  PhoneixS Jun 18 at 14:41

The answer depends a lot on one's field of work, where the end product will appear, whether the collaborator's mutually agree upon the package and finally the OS one use.

Most journals or conferences accept manuscripts in DOC or DOCX format; other than TeX. Native formats of OpenOffice or LibreOffice are not [always] supported in most DTP centres/print or publishing houses.

Say, for example if you are in Science; esp in Physics or Mathematics, most of your academic writing will have lot of equations. In that case it better to opt for MS Office (along with MathType). This is because the equation editor that comes with OpenOffice or LibreOffice is not compatible with MS Office and vice versa. The equation either get converted as a figure or appear scrambled when opened in a non-native package.

If the collaborator uses a different package, compatibility is a big problem.

If one has to work in different OS's; compatibility issues comes in there as well. For e.g. MS Office cannot function natively on Linux systems.

So considering the fact that the academic work always reach a different kind of post-processing mechanism, it is better to use the most popular package, MS Office.

If typesetting and publishing are done by self/in-house, compatibility is not an issue and any package is as good as any other package.

(As question is about three specific office packages, references to LaTeX is avoided; which may be the best choice, irrespective of one's field of work/typesetting environment as @marc-van-dongen has already pointed out.)

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Actually, MS Office does function in Linux with no issues. From my personal experience with MSOffice 2007 and Ubuntu. –  Kurt Aug 31 '12 at 20:45
    
@Kurt True, but with emulators. Does that work perfectly as in windows? –  Noble P. Abraham Sep 1 '12 at 0:42
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Extensive comments on appdb.winehq.org/… –  Federico Poloni Sep 1 '12 at 7:56

all the major conferences and journals provide templates to use in order to format properly a submission, and they are circulated mostly in doc (Microsoft) and tex (LaTex) formats.

That said, LibreOffice and OpenOffice are mostly identical, but they're divided by a large political/philosophical diatribe (see here). Generally Libre-/OpenOffice can open the doc templates without problems, but they tend to loose some formatting against the latest docx format (see here), and they sometimes "break" the docx files that coauthors give back to LibreOffice users (like in here)

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I would highly recommend using a LaTeX whenever possible or Lyx. For Lyx you can also export to LaTex. A recent submission actually only accepted word, but that is not a problem if you start in Lyx or LaTeX. You can export for Lyx to Tex. I have found that if I do need to move to Word for submission or having someone help with editing, I can take the LaTeX/Tex file and use a converter (there are a lot you can try, here is an open source one on SF) to get RTF which will open in Word just fine.

There are also other editors, Such as Scientific Workplace which are more geared towards technical writing.

Another thing you may want to consider is using something very simple like Markdown with some extension for citations and the such. Here are some related links:

You may also want to check out this Stack Overflow question on WYSIWYG vs WYSIWYM

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+1 For Pandoc. Write in whatever you want, then pandoc -s sourcefile.xxx -o outfile.yyy. –  Brendan Long Oct 9 '12 at 21:12

As kena said, there are other ways of producting documents. I personnally use org-mode. There are saveral reasons :

  • The document you type can be exported into another formats, including HTML, OpenDocument (LibreOffice / OpenOffice), or LaTeX. In that way, your can publish your document without restriction.
  • This language is much easier than LaTeX, and you can write directly in plain text.
  • As you write in plain text, any editor can fit (even though Emacs has the org-mode by default).
  • As you write in plain text, an editor in wide screen prevents you from disturbances (and this is a main point).
  • With the references system, you can also write notes and outlines in separate files, as in Scrivener for example.
  • The syntax for tables, pictures and links is simple, so you shall write the whole book in org-mode, then export it directly. Few processing may be necessary then, you only have to set your environment in LibreOffice or LaTeX.

When I tried that, I enjoyed it at once :-)

Note : Of course ReStructuredText and Markdown can export to HTML, ODT and LaTeX, but I prefer Org-Mode for its flexibility.

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Nice point, but this is not in direct response to the question, asked. –  Noble P. Abraham Oct 2 '12 at 0:51

Preamble

I wrote my master's report in Microsoft word. Then I moved on to better environments -- I wrote my PhD dissertation in latex.

My take on which to use: MS Word/Libreoffice

If you are short on time and are fine with sleepless nights, definitely go for Microsoft word. However, if you have lots of equations in your work, MSWord will just make it look very unprofessional and ugly (but may still be acceptable by your committee).

Your grad school may have "how to do it" videos for MS Word. Have you checked with them to see if they have appropriate templates/packages for MS Word? What does the majority of you group use? If you are short on time, do what is tried and tested, do stuff that you have help readily available for (peers, adviser etc.)

Advantages of using LaTeX (I had to provide it just for completion)

The other option (much harangued obviously 1, 2) is LaTeX. It takes the strain out of writing as you have to only provide content and can concentrate on actually writing instead of spending a lot of time on formatting.

There is a world of difference with LaTeX far superior to Microsoft products, for academic writing. Yes, lots (don't quite have a number right now) of people still use MS Office. They write their theses/dissertations/reports, submit it for review to gradschool, it comes back with formatting corrections (even though they use templates provided by the gradschool). So then they spend countless sleepless hours jutting their images around.

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This does not address the variety of Office suites… which is the actual question. –  F'x Oct 13 '12 at 19:36
    
@F'x But this doesn't either. My answer, like several of the up-marked comments received drives home the point that one would perhaps want to use that suite most er... suited for/to their research/group while pointing out the various differences in as short a treatise as possible. Thank you for your comment though! :) –  drN Oct 13 '12 at 19:41
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well, that comment is a comment, so it's fine… but your answer isn't an answer! –  F'x Oct 13 '12 at 22:25
    
@F'x Please feel free to mark it down. This is the internet after all. Besides, that would actually help put all the answers into perspective as there are more than one. –  drN Oct 14 '12 at 15:12

If you really don't want to have LaTeX, then also GoogleDocs may be an option. It has a big advantage, when it comes to collaboration (even for real-time; no problems with mismatching versions of editors, no problems with "which version is the most recent?" or "where (s)he made the changes?").

But also you might consider LyX:

LyX is a document processor that encourages an approach to writing based on the structure of your documents (WYSIWYM) and not simply their appearance (WYSIWYG).

LyX combines the power and flexibility of TeX/LaTeX with the ease of use of a graphical interface.

So, in short, you can at the same time write in the way you are used to (without learning anything just to start) and use benefits of LaTeX (formatting, bibliography (!), formulas (!)).

Quite a few of my friends started their adventure with LaTeX with LyX.

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Is there any reference management software for Google Docs? I.e., equation numbering, citation numbering, chapter and page references handled automatically? I imagine this will be quite high-rated on the list of anyone using it for publications. –  Federico Poloni Sep 1 '12 at 7:59
    
Does Google docs have any reference manager? LyX is resource hungry as it depends heavily on Java. –  M. G. Rashed Sep 1 '12 at 14:20
    
@Md.GolamRashed AFAIK not. –  Piotr Migdal Sep 1 '12 at 16:52
    
Apart from formatting, I think the presence of a full blown reference manager in the to be used writing software is a must have. –  M. G. Rashed Sep 1 '12 at 19:57
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I am down voting since this question explicitly focuses on 3 products and you mention none of them. –  StrongBad Sep 3 '12 at 8:13

To add to the answers, I would definitely NOT use LibreOffice Writer. It is extremely unstable and my Bachelor student and a friend of mine writing his Master's thesis messed up their files completely last minute. The windows version crashes when a large PDF is to be generated.

I had to help my friend convert all the thesis to LaTeX last minute, which worked perfectly, and I'm using it right now to write my dissertation.

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I am surprised no one mentioned reStructured text (here, here). This is a markup syntax where you can write your paper using pure text only. It also support math, automatic conversion to both LaTeX and PDF, and rendering on web pages. Check it out!

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the question is explicitly focused on OpenOffice Vs. LibreOffice Vs. MSOffice. –  M. G. Rashed Sep 2 '12 at 12:51
    
@Md.GolamRashed I would suggest a down vote as this doesn't answer your question. I am down voting it just for that reason. –  StrongBad Sep 3 '12 at 8:12
    
I wrote my Master's thesis in ReST and did not particularly enjoy the experience. I needed Cyrillic and (at the time) that was poison to every tool I tried. In the end I had to import to OpenOffice to get a final paginated PDF to hand in. –  tripleee Aug 28 at 16:48

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