LaTeX vs. Word

Xiang Zheng
May 09, 2017

I am just at the start of my PhD and wondering about whether I should use LaTeX or Microsoft Word to write and format my papers and overall thesis. I have some experience in LaTeX and find it great especially when it comes to equations and large documents. However, it also seems that many still rely on Word. What are your recommendations?    

Peter Krenn
May 17, 2017


I work with theoretical models and have used LaTeX for scientific writing so far. However, LaTeX comes also with some disadvantages: For instance, the implementation and maintenance of tables can become very challenching. (Maybe this is also the reason why many empirical papers seem to be written with Word.) Further, collaborative writing with LaTeX still requires a lot of additional effort (e.g. tracking changes manually or using a separate versioning system like svn/github) whereas Word offers many supporting features withing the "track changes mode". (Some cloud based solutions like "ShareLaTeX" have begun to implement corresponding features but these solutions are still quite "unhandy".)

So, I think that the choice of your writing platform depends very much on the type of work you are going to do.

Martien Lubberink
May 20, 2017


LaTex these days is less of a burden than in the past. The on-line LaTex editor Overleaf makes life easy, especially when working collaboratively. Basically you can work with your co-authors in real-time online. 

Off-line, I use LaTex in a Linux environment with Kile and Sublime as editors; both make life very easy. They take care of references and spelling, offer predictive text input, etc. 

Track change can be done with LaTexdiff.

I wrote a simple macro in Excel that take care of tables, and I am sure that Python and Stata offer modules that enable you to write tables to LaTex.

My 2-cents: Word is great for any document less than two pages long. Once you are on page two, problems start: page counts differ every time you open a docuemnt, footnotes that are on the wrong page, styles that screw up, numbering issues, etc, etc.

Word was never made for academics ;-)



Ties de Kok
May 21, 2017

@Martien, thanks for sharing! I have been playing with the idea of switching over to an on-line LaTex editor (like Overleaf or ShareLaTex) instead of using TexStudio. 

Have you experienced any compromises that you had to make when using an on-line editor compared to a local one? For example, have you experienced any problems with using packages in Overleaf, or any problems with version control (I like to use GitHub)? 

Martien Lubberink
May 25, 2017

Actually it runs like a charm. In particular for collaboration, When I work off-line using Kile under Linux (or Sublime / WinEdt in Windows), I copy the text from Overleaf into my local tex file, and I get the same results. Copying back to Overleaf also leads to no, nada problems. Never had an issue with packages, and I use a lot! (My \begin{document} starts at line 130). 

The only line that is different is this one: \newcommand{\bibpad}{/home/martien/Dropbox/bib/bibmerge_named}
this points to my local bibtex file. In overleaf that line is: \newcommand{\bibpad}{bibmerge_named} with the bibtex file in the project Overleaf folder.

I did not try github with Latex yet, but Overleaf has a facility that enables cloing to github. 

To mark differences, I use Meld and Latexdiff.

Martien Lubberink
May 25, 2017

While we are at it, it would perhaps be useful to share Latex bibliography style files, (or bst files) for specific journals. I generated some bst files for various journals. Anyone interested?

Ties de Kok
May 25, 2017

Great, you convinced me to certainly give Overleaf a try.

With regards to your suggestion, yes! I also might have 1 or 2 bst files that I modified to contribute.

Shall we start a new thread for these (so that it is easier for people to find)?

Martien Lubberink
May 25, 2017

Please yes, start a new thread to share BST files