I have an issue with my supervisor: he likes to write papers in MS Word and I like to write in LaTeX. We have had issues with editing and formatting, since it is difficult to do it, while working on different platforms.

Does anyone have any advice on how to resolve this situation?

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    While not an exact duplicate this might be a better fit over at TeX.SE.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 15:16
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    @StrongBad, who is doing the writing? Unless the other part will be doing much hands-on editing, that the PDF for marking comes from LaTeX, Microsoft Word, LibreOffice Writer, or (gasp!) troff is irrelevant.
    – vonbrand
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 15:27
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    @vonbrand that is not a fight I would recommend picking with a supervisor.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 15:32
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    @vonbrand the change tracking in Word is actually pretty good. Not so much with a PDF file. To get good version control you need to roll back to editing the LaTeX source, which the OP's supervisor probably won't want to do. This is a battle where it's probably much easier just to surrender.
    – Moriarty
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 15:58
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    What field are you in? Is one of LaTeX or Word standard in your field? My opinion is a bit different depending on which of you is the weird one. Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 16:43

9 Answers 9


In the end, once the paper is published, nobody will worry about what software was used to generate it. The software is just a means to an end.

So, if your advisor has a strong preference for Microsoft Word then - regardless how you feel about that preference - if you can't easily convince your advisor to use LaTeX you should switch to Word. There are much more important things to worry about, and there is no reason to make life difficult for your advisor for something so unimportant.

Converting your paper from LaTeX to Word is not likely to produce ideal results, as you have noticed. By the time you go through and fix things, you might as well simply work in Word from the beginning. In other words, the "efficient" way to do this is to convert the content in your head as you are writing it in Word, rather than trying to convert the content to Word after it is written.

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    Thank you for your answer. The problem is that I find MS Word very difficult and frustrating to work with. I spend a very long time formatting and fixing errors that LaTeX solves automatically. Besides that I have more expertise with LaTeX than with Word. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 15:46
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    Rule Number 1: Do what your supervisor says. Rule Number 2: If you don't want to do what your supervisor says, see Rule Number 1.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 15:47
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    @user3025898 That's probably how your supervisor feels, and it's much harder to learn LaTeX than it is to learn Word. If you can't win the battle after gently prodding, then you'll just have to learn Word. After all, it's not like knowing Word and LaTeX will make you less marketable or useful. It won't hurt to know both.
    – tpg2114
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 18:43
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    @BobBrown That's just wrong, the advisor can be ignored on points like this that don't have anything to do with the progress of the research, that is likely going to be a massive waste of time when not ignored. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 19:51
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    @BobBrown That is a very stupid rule. Maybe you haven't encountered it yet, but unfortunately not every supervisor is competent in the field he is supervising nor neccessarily up to date. There are cases where it is best to work against (!!) the supervisor - unless you want the supervisor to end up sabotaging your work... (I had one supervisor for some reason harping on about completely irrelevant heat transfer in a chemical problem completely independent of heat transfer with zero relationship to heat transfer.)
    – DetlevCM
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 21:58

I think you have two options:

  1. Learn to use Word. It may not be ideal, but this is probably not going to be the last time you are faced with a need to use it, or some similar editor.
  2. Offer to do all the editing. Give your professor .pdf files or printouts to comment, and then incorporate the changes yourself.


I faced this situation the other way round when I was a PhD student. I had been using MS Office as long as it had existed. I had no trouble at all editing equations, incorporating charts from spreadsheets, formatting text etc.

My advisor preferred LaTeX, so I learned LaTeX for smoother collaboration.

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    Option 3: Make clear to the advisor that this irrelevant issue is a massive waste of time and that you have far more important things to do. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 19:53
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    @CountIblis I agree that this should not be a big deal. However, if they are going to produce a joint paper, a decision has to be made about its format that supports a reasonable process for writing and editing it. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 20:05
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    Right, but the OP should then mention the problems with Word; it's the advisor's task to make sure the OP sticks to spending most of his/her time on the right issues. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 20:12
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    @CountIblis That goes both ways -- the supervisor should also make sure he/she sticks to spending his/her time on the right issues, and perhaps learning LaTeX isn't as important as dealing with sponsors, advising students, etc.. At the end of the day, neither party is morally just in demanding the other convert but it's a bad idea to really upset a boss over something like this.
    – tpg2114
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 21:39
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    Point 2 is really the sensible approach here - unless there is a need for the supervisor to actively edit the actual document, a pdf is perfectly adequate for commenting on.
    – DetlevCM
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 22:00

For my PhD studies (in medical physics, YMMV) I used lyx as a happy medium. Lyx has a LaTeX engine but exports as Word, albeit imperfectly. In my experience one can open a LaTeX document in Lyx, spend less than ten minutes reformatting the tables, and export to a Prof as MS Word. The Prof can then mark it up with sticky notes or track changes, which can then be applied by the researcher to the original LaTeX.


I have my students use both: Word and LaTeX. In the early stage of paper writing, I prefer MS Word because of its commenting tool, and allows me to teach my students academic writing. I have my students paste the latex source code, and any rendered figures and tables into MS Word. The resulting Word doc then looks pretty standard, except for the occasional LaTeX commands. I assume your supervisor could simply be taught to ignore all LaTeX commands and be asked to focus on the contents. In the later stages of paper writing, I then ask my students to supply the .pdf (rendered version) as well. Once the paper is relatively stable, I edit the .tex only. In your case, I assume once your supervisor is happy with the contents, he/she can then work off the .pdf.

I use the above process with my collaborator, who is a MS Word person. I basically asked him to 'stay away' from the backslash text. Thus far, it has worked out fine.


Overleaf allows simultaneous editing in RTF and latex. It's ideal for collaborations https://www.overleaf.com/

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    I do not see how this answers the question ...
    – StrongBad
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 21:35
  • Overleaf allows two people to edit the same document, one using latex, one using plain text. I thought this would solve the problem of either person in this situation learning to do what the other finds easiest
    – user49355
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 9:38
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    @user49355 Without saying how to communicate the usage of overleaf to the supervisor, this is not an answer to the question.
    – yo'
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 7:44

Generally, the advisor rules. Yet, the advisor may learn from the student, especially if the student is wise often to show the benefits. And the issue depends on the purpose: to write paper, to prepare slides and posters, for a thesis? The amount of collaborative work varies with the topic.

Some benefits of LaTeX are nice-looking formulas, great non-standard or forein characters, macros, easiness of collaboration with versioning systems (svn, cvs). So, depending on your field, you might first check whether LaTeX is of help in your domain.

Now with recent pdf editors, it is becoming much easier to comment on a document, and the text editing is quite simple. So now, when I collaborate with non-LaTeX users, I take charge of the editing, offer "input-like" spaces for their parts written in Word. I generally convince them with the quality of the reference section.

Recently, I have been using interesting LaTeX packages, like \usepackage[draft]{changes} or todonotes. The first one is great at showing edits, replacements, additions. And just by changing it to \usepackage[final]{changes}, you get your final text. The second one is fantastic to show, in the document, what is left to do, what is done, and is great for an advisor who see the work in progress. Such packages can convince others that you definitely know what your are doing, with method, and leave you in charge.

So, if you have some free space, my advice would be to stickk to LaTeX, and if you can share the directory with your advisor, he can comment on the .tex and on the .pdf

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    I recommend latexdiff to show changes (especially if paired with a revision control program.) The package changes seems very unwieldy. Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 19:13

Maybe it is possible to make your advisor use a wysiwyg latex editor. I think http://www.bakoma-tex.com/ could be an intermediate solution.

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    Even if you win, anything that involves "make your advisor" is a losing battle. Demonstrate the advantages of LaTeX might be a winnable battle (but probably not).
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 19:06
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    @StrongBad It's not about winning or losing, the OP can stick to LaTex regardless of what the advisor says. This is not an issue for the OP worth wasting much time on. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 19:48
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    @CountIblis to an extent you can ignore your supervisor, but, for example, if the advisor likes working with Word documents and the OP gives him a PDF, the feedback could be slower and less complete.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 19:53
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    @StrongBad The OP needs to decide what works best for him/her. The advisor may not have clear grasp of how much the OP is spending on formatting issues if the OP keeps silent about that. Whatever time is spend should be minimized so that the OP has the most time available to spend on the content and on his/her research. If some time is spent on learning formatting and it's within a system the OP will use in the future then that can still be ok. Wasting time on dealing with Word/LaTex incompatibility problems should i.m.o. be avoided. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 20:00

I've used Microsoft Word since 1989 and Word for Windows 1.1c! (1.1a shipped, but was not functional.) I've observed several things over the years, including that the even number version of Word for Windows are the good ones: 2, 4, 6, 8 & 10!

I always sent people the output in a PDF file, so the editing issue never comes up. Otherwise, how would you know if you were editing at the same time somebody else was editing?

I've tried a number of conversion programs from various editors with very limited success. Might as well say it doesn't work. Even if you got it to work for one version of Word, Microsoft changes the format slightly, so the conversion won't work with the next version of Word.

Therefore, the less said, the better: We've got the master copy. We publish in PDF format for portability. All changes go through us!

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    Oh, BTW, my favorite current editor is Open Office Word, right now! PDF is an output office and it's a lot like Word for Windows! Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 22:17
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    Have you tried Libre Office Writer (no, not "Word")? It has evolved much faster than OO, and I hear it's interface has been streamlined recently (LaTeX user myself, no clue on their GUI intricacies).
    – vonbrand
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 23:45
  • There are a few ways to make a shared word document editable by more than one person while making it clear if it is being edited by more than one person at a time. Dropbox handles this quite well, for instance. Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 5:13
  • @Significance In my experience, Dropbox is horrible at handling simultaneous editing. Is there any special kind of interaction with Word that makes it more bearable? Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 7:21
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    I don't see how this answers the question. Question: How to solve me wanting A and my boss wanting B? Answer: B is great. I am sure that the asker knows the points for wanting A or B, so what purpose does this answer serve?
    – yo'
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 7:46

You should simply stick with using LaTeX and not bother about any problems this gives with formatting. The last thing you want to do is learn using MS Word just to get this paper finished, as working with MS Word can be extremely awkward if you are dealing with technical mathematical text. Formatting issues are very minor issues and should be given low priority. Stick to the subject and stick to any requirements of the IEEE journal by using the correct LaTeX templates for the journal and forget about your advisor's preference.

This then means that you have your LaTeX version and your advisor has a Word version that may look slightly differently, but content-wise are equivalent. That's not a problem worth worrying about, it's a massive waste of time to do so.

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    Have you read the question? The answer doesn't seem to convince me of that.
    – yo'
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 22:18
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    How do you suggest to make changes to the paper? Edit both "versions" simultaneously? Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 22:22
  • @yo' Yes, the question is very clear to me; the OP is wasting his/her time on irrelevant issues, that's the main problem I see with what the issue the OP is engaging in. Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 18:24
  • @DmitrySavostyanov Yes, and if it's clear that e.g. the LaTeX version is going to be submitted then the other version can just be edited for content without bothering about formatting. This is going to save a lot of time. Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 18:26
  • +1, but I would suggest simply to do the paper in LaTeX, and give a PDF to the advisor for proofing. The advisor more than likely is not going to do any editing themselves, so I don't really see the need to have both a LaTeX and a Word version.
    – Mad Jack
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 0:36

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