I'm submitting an article to an Elsevier journal, but I'm hesitant about the file format I should choose as the first submission. According to this journal:

Your Paper Your Way

We now differentiate between the requirements for new and revised submissions. You may choose to submit your manuscript as a single Word or PDF file to be used in the refereeing process. Only when your paper is at the revision stage, will you be requested to put your paper in to a 'correct format' for acceptance and provide the items required for the publication of your article.

My field is computer networking. The reason why I'm hesitant is that sometimes word files look different in other people's computer and the reason why I'm hesitant about submitting a pdf is that the quality of the images in pdf file is a bit lower than the word file.

I wanted to know which one is better for the first submission? pdf file or word file? or both of them in a zip?

  • 5
    Your choice, as they say. I'd use a pdf myself. But that's just me.
    – Buffy
    Mar 26, 2020 at 20:36
  • 2
    Your field? In some fields, Word get a better/worse treatment than our writing systems (which you would turn into pdf), so there might be bias
    – user111388
    Mar 26, 2020 at 20:47
  • @user111388 I updated my post.
    – Pablo
    Mar 26, 2020 at 21:08
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the correct answer "You may choose" has been copy pasted into the question, making it unclear what is being asked. Mar 27, 2020 at 3:47

3 Answers 3


I recommend you submit PDF, for two reasons:

  1. Only PDF gives you full control over the formatting of the document as received by peer reviewers;
  2. Those who are accustomed to typesetting in LaTeX (of which I suspect there are a fair few in your field) may be biased against authors using Word. Admittedly a Word document with default formatting settings could not be mistaken for a regular LaTeX document, if only because of the characteristic typeface used by the latter, but a well designed document might almost be mistaken for a XeLaTeX-generated PDF. At any rate no one will be triggered from the production-neutral process of opening a PDF file, but some may resent having to deal with .docx.

The PDF image quality is a concern. Have you set image compression in the PDF export dialog to prioritize quality?

  • Thanks. I'm not very familiar to Latex. Does images and tables always appear in the above/below of the columns? Since some of my images are located in the middle of columns (surrendered by text) I wanted to know this. If Latex always move images to the up/bottom of the column, I should change this in my word file and then convert it to pdf.
    – Pablo
    Mar 26, 2020 at 21:47
  • @Pablo: If the paper was written in Word and you already got it converted by yourself (locally, without the publishers) converted into a .pdf, then this is a topic for the time after the submission of the paper. The publisher's / the journal may have a template (e.g., ctan.org/pkg/elsarticle, but there are others, too (ctan.org/search?phrase=elsevier) and using these templates is to let you focus on the content instead of the whereabouts of tables and figures. Rekeying / formatting the layout / final page numbers; these are the services the publishers [should] do for you.
    – Buttonwood
    Mar 26, 2020 at 21:54
  • @Buttonwood Unfortunately the journal does not have a template file. This is what makes it difficult to guess what to do.
    – Pablo
    Mar 26, 2020 at 21:55
  • @Pablo: elsarticle once was set (by Elsevier) as the least common denominator for LaTeX-accepting journals by Elsevier. As just checked, this still is the case in March 2020 (elsevier.com/authors/author-schemas/latex-instructions). Note their note «Most journals accept a PDF of your manuscript at initial submission.», don't convert your Word file into LaTeX just moments prior to submission if you have the .pdf already in hand.
    – Buttonwood
    Mar 26, 2020 at 22:01
  • This is wrong. The journal always converts your file to a PDF which is different from the one you submitted. There is no difference in control. "well designed document might almost be mistaken for a XeLaTeX" Improbable. Mar 27, 2020 at 3:44

There's no better - they both work.

What is "better" is what is more convenient for you. For example if you're not proficient at Microsoft Word, you're better off using something else (like TeX) to generate a PDF file, and submitting that.

  • I have used microsoft word and now I have created a pdf file using word itself, but I don't know which one to submit.
    – Pablo
    Mar 26, 2020 at 21:04

td, lr: Use the .pdf set up «printer ready».

Check the .pdf generated to contain all text, all tables (if applicable), all illustrations (if applicable, in color [if applicable]) and all literature references to be present, in the order of consecution as the journal wants, and all completely readable. Then print it on paper (because the screen output may fool you in terms of resolution (72 dpi vs. at least 300 dpi on printer) - don't hesitate to read it aloud.

Note: Some pdf writers allow you to save file space by lowering the resolution of the images, allowing an easy transmission as attachment in an e-mail -- double-check that this does not happen (i.e., you must retain at least 300 dpi resolution). If this .pdf file is ok, submit the .pdf.

Why submitting a .pdf? Publishers may offer to convert the Word file for you into a .pdf which then is sent (with added line numbers) to the reviewers. But, how many versions of Word are out in the field (plus, did you use Word for Windows, or Word for Mac?) You have no control how Elsevier's engines are set up to identify this, nor are you able to change their settings; a .pdf however is intended to keep the content and layout regardless if read on Unix, Linux, Mac, Windows (it is standardized).

If the interface asks you to submit the compuscript (here: your .pdf) once, and later asks for the image files at high resolution / as vector files: upload both the pdf compuscript (with images embedded) for the reviewer's work plus the individual image files which will be used to set up the galleys by Elsevier later. You typically get this line-numbered .pdf and a tracking number (sometimes already the doi) you need for further communication with the publishers.

Good luck for the reviewer's suggestions. Meanwhile, keep and backup the word and both .pdf files at least until you see your paper in the journal with final page numbers.

  • This is wrong. The journal always converts your file to a PDF which is different from the one you submitted. There is no difference in control. Mar 27, 2020 at 3:45

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