In a Word: LaTeX to Word and vice versa

Here’s a quick tech tip. We’ve been writing papers in TeX recently, using Overleaf as a way to write collaboratively. This works great but sometimes, a Word file is required by the publisher. So how do you convert from one to the other quickly and with the least hassle?

If you Google this question (as I did), you will find a number of suggestions which vary in the amount of effort required. Methods include latex2rtf or pandoc. Here’s what worked for me:

  • Exporting the TeX file as PDF from Overleaf
  • Opening it in Microsoft Word
  • That was it!

OK, that wasn’t quite it. It did not work at all on a Mac. I had to use a Windows machine running Word. The formatting was maintained and the pictures imported OK. Note that this was a short article with three figures and hardly any special notation (it’s possible this doesn’t work as well on more complex documents). A couple of corrections were needed: hyphenation at the end of the line was deleted during the import which borked actual hyphenated words which happened to span two lines; and the units generated by siunitx were missing a space between the number and unit. Otherwise it was pretty straightforward. So straightforward that I thought I’d write a quick post in case it helps other people.

What about going the other way?

Again, on Windows I used Apache OpenOffice to open my Word document and save it as an otd file. I then used the writer2latex filter to make a .tex file with all the embedded images saved in a folder. These could then be uploaded to Overleaf. With a bit of formatting work, I was up-and-running.

I had heard that many publishers, even those that say that they accept manuscripts as TeX files actually require a Word document for typesetting. This is because, I guess, they have workflows set up to make the publisher version which must start with a Word document and nothing else. What’s more worrying is that in these cases, if you don’t supply one, they will convert it for you before putting into the workflow. It’s probably better to do this yourself and check the conversion to reduce errors at the proof stage.

The post title is taken from “In A Word” the compilation album by Nottingham noise-rockers Fudge Tunnel.

11 thoughts on “In a Word: LaTeX to Word and vice versa

  1. This saved me a good deal of headache and works much better than expected, even with tables! I needed it move tables I made in LaTeX to Word. Thanks a lot for the post.

  2. Wow, you just saved me a day of work and tons of frustration!
    Thanks a lot. Already sent it to my colleagues at the university.

  3. Simple and effective ! Big thanks !
    ( signed up just to upvote you and write this comment )

  4. Hey! You saved my life and many hours of work! I got the company PC which blocked all scripts and thats why i think i could not install any converter. Your idea won!

  5. Hi all, maybe a small addition: I transfered a german document the way it was described here (using utf-8 encoding) and had problems with umlaut and some ligatures that disappeared in the Word document. I was however able to fix it by using the helvet package in latex, which seems to produce a PDF that is more digestible by Word.

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