LaTeX Filters

I recently joined the editorial board of PLoS ONE.  To facilitate rapid turn-around of accepted manuscripts, PLoS ONE has some fairly rigid requirements for the submission of electronic files.  One of the most unfortunate restrictions is that the journal does not accept manuscripts prepared using LaTeX.  This is a shame because PLoS ONE has published some excellent papers in theoretical population biology (Tulja et al. (2007) and Pavard et al. (2007) are two examples that come immediately to mind).  So, what is an author to do when he or she has a manuscript with a lot of typeset material and intends to submit to PLoS ONE?

There are a number of filters that allow one to write a TeX file to some other format (e.g., .doc, .rtf, .html).  Many of these options are enumerated in this ancient web page, apparently last updated in 1999!  One reasonably acceptable solution that I have found is tex2word, a utility that allows you to read a .tex file directly into Word.  All typeset material is converted using MathType.  Don’t be too put off by the extremely hokey website. I have found this software to work pretty well.  It gets confused by some custom macros and it can not help with references managed with BibTeX.  There are other little issues such as the inability to convert objects set in mathcal (e.g., \mathcal{R}_0).  By and large, though, it works remarkably well. The big problem for me is that tex2word only works under windows.  I thus have to start up Parallels each time I want to convert a document (not to mention the hassle of maintaining licenses for things like MS Office and MathType on two platforms).  I don’t know if it would work under wine, but I’m sure it works with VMware, so it is at least theoretically accessible to Linux users as well.

So, for would-be contributers to PLoS ONE (and other journals that can’t handle LaTeX), despair not!  You don’t actually have to write technical papers in Word (my rule of thumb is that if there are two typeset objects — equations, or even parameters or variables referred to in-text — it’s worth writing in LaTeX).  Write it using LaTeX — say, in emacs (Aquamacs being my favorite instantiation) —  and convert to Word only after you’ve let the serious software do all the heavy lifting.

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