Choosing the Best Text Editor for Academic Writing: Word, LaTeX, or Rich Text?

Your best writing happens when you can write without hindrances. Technology and advanced tools can streamline the process and make it easier to write, and no tool is more important than your text editor when it comes to saving time and simplifying academic writing.

This guide will help you choose the best text editor to get all your thoughts from your brain to the screen without a hitch, depending on the type of research you do and your personal preferences when it comes to writing an academic paper.

Using Microsoft Word in Academic Writing

Microsoft Word is one of the most popular word processing (WP) softwares used today, and it’s already been installed on 1 billion devices worldwide. This user-friendly tool helps both home and business users create a wide variety of text-based documents quickly and easily.

Nevertheless, there are pros and cons to the well-loved software that you should keep in mind.

Pros of Microsoft Word

Beyond spelling and grammar checkers, there are many advanced features built into Word to help you write your academic paper.

There are two main tools that can help you with research, specifically:

  • Word Researcher helps you find and incorporate reliable sources into your paper without leaving the editing page. The data is reliable, credible, and safe for use, and citations are automatically created and added to your report.
  • Word Editor improves your writing style by flagging unclear phrases, marking complex words, and suggesting alternatives to improve the readability of your paper. The tool uses a combination of machine learning and human input to bring your writing up to a professional level.

Cons of Microsoft Word

As Word was developed to encompass all types of writing, you might find that the software is not exactly designed for writing academic papers. Here are some challenges you might encounter with Word when writing up academic research:

  • Collaboration between multiple contributors is difficult, as only one person can make corrections at any given time. Shared documents can not be edited in real-time, and formatting could change drastically between different users and computers.
  • Virus attacks are common, because Word is installed on more computers than any other word processor. Sharing documents over networks requires competent virus scanners and malware detectors, as the files may expose your computer to threats.

Word is unquestionably a powerful word processing package, despite the fact that it caters to the general public. As a researcher, you might find Word to be both limiting and distracting for writing academic papers, and it definitely lacks some specialized features which other text editors have.

Using LaTeX in Academic Writing

LaTeX (pronounced lay-tek) is the de facto standard, high-quality typesetting system for writing in scientific, mathematical, and technical fields. The system takes care of formatting and typesetting, allowing users to focus on writing without any distractions.

Pros of LaTex Editors

  • Number-heavy equations and data are easy to handle, manage, and edit.
  • It is platform-independent—the Java compiled code can run on all operating systems, and you can even use a LaTeX editor online.
  • Editing is easier, as it uses plain text instead of rich text, ciphertext, encrypted, or encoded text.
  • Complex structures are generated easily, such as footnotes, references, table of contents, and a LaTeX bibliography.

Cons of LaTex Editors

  • Reviewing manuscripts (what you’ll submit for publication) will be a struggle.
  • Libraries or the installation of additional packages are required for many of the features.
  • Customizing layout and typesetting is tedious on LaTeX.

Unlike Word that follows the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) approach, you need to shift to a WYSIWYM (what you see is what you mean) mindset when writing with a LaTeX editor online.

While there are many LaTeX editors online available for you to use, we’d recommend that you use Flowcite. With our online LaTeX editor, you can choose your preferred template and pre-format your paper—simply select from over 7,000 citation styles, or change your style mid-writing with ease.

Recently, we’ve also integrated Scribendi services for high-quality editing of your academic paper. You can access the features through the “Apps” section to proofread and generate a LaTeX bibliography as you write. This ensures that your work is judged based on its content and not rejected due to formatting, poor grammar, and other avoidable errors.

Using Rich Text Format (RTF) in Academic Writing

The opposite of plain text is Rich Text Format, or RTF for short. This file format is a widely-used method to share documents, as it allows you to exchange text between different WPs and operating systems.

For example, you can write in Windows 98, save it as RTF, and someone can open it using WordPerfect 6.0 or Windows 3.1 without a problem. On Microsoft Word, you can go to the “Save As” menu and choose “Rich Text Format” to convert the file.

Pros of Rich Text Editors

RTF is a good choice when you don’t know what system the receiver of your document uses. The format uses its own RTF language, defining control words and symbols that are “common denominators” of formatting commands.

  • RTF is widely readable—all major word processors or programs can open and read the format.
  • RTF preserves basic formatting, so you don’t have to worry about losing your fonts and styles.
  • RTF is not prone to virus attacks, as there’s no macro or programming capability.

Because RTF can be opened on a wide variety of software and operating systems, it’s great for working with multiple authors or moving text document files from one user to another.

However, it’s really security that makes RTF different from Word files, as Word macro viruses are one of the biggest virus problems on the internet. Antivirus products can help, but it’s easier to just save and send your documents as RTF files that cannot hide macros.

Cons of Rich Text Editors

There aren’t many cons to the format. However, it’s still good to keep the following the mind:

  • RTF documents are larger in size if they are not compressed. However, Word automatically shrinks your file for easier uploading and downloading when you’re working with RTF files.
  • RTF will not retain complex formatting, such as tables, charts, imagine alignments, paginations, or macros.
  • RTF files cannot be protected with a password or other forms of encryption—which essential if your document is highly confidential.

Additional Tools for Writing

Every researcher needs a grammar checking website, proofreader, and plagiarism checker tool for error-free submissions. Using automated tools like these help increase your efficiency and productivity.

Once you’re all set and you’ve drafted your academic paper, make sure to run it through grammar checking websites to polish your final output.

One of the more popular ones is Grammarly—a widely-used grammar, spelling, and plagiarism checker for general writing. Should you want Grammarly alternatives, you can also check out ProWritingAid or WhiteSmoke—both work in a similar fashion.

However, most of these tools are paid for separately, if you want the premium version, and they require you to sign into different accounts and switch between platforms when polishing your work. The ideal solution would be a single platform that combines all of these features in one.

Flowcite: All-in-One Platform with Text Editors, Grammar Checking Website, and a Publishing Tool

At the end of the day, you want a text editor that enables distraction-free writing, collaboration with others, and encryption that offers protection for your original content.

That’s why we created Flowcite – the only fully-integrated academic writing platform that provides everything researchers need to create professional, ready-to-publish papers in a single place.

With Flowcite, working with any text editor is easy. You’ll find referencing, writing (whether with LaTeX or rich text), style-checking, proofreading (with AI-driven assistants), and formatting apps all in one intuitive and unified interface.

Flowcite empowers you with all the tools you need to focus completely on writing your academic paper. We help you simplify every stage of the researching, writing, and publishing process with end-to-end academic writing services, including:

  • A reference management tool. This is the core feature of Flowcite, which lets you find and save relevant references & citations for your project, then insert them into your paper with a single click.
  • LaTeX, Word, and Rich Text editors that are fully interchangeable, so you and your peers can each work in whichever text editor you prefer.
  • Research collaboration tools that let you comment, share, and edit papers with colleagues or fellow students in real time.
  • An AI-driven article summarizer. This add-on service gives you an AI-generated summary of an academic paper, letting you evaluate sources in 30 seconds, rather than having to read through an entire journal article just to discover it’s not relevant for your research.
  • Proofreading, peer review, and publishing services to help you polish your paper and fulfill all the requirements for publishing, then help you find the perfect journal to submit your work to.

No other academic writing platform brings all of these together in one place.

This lets you consolidate your workflow in one platform, saving you time and energy spent on the (let’s face it) boring side of academia, like referencing, formatting, and proofreading.

If you want to handle every aspect of your paper with ease, sign up for Flowcite for free today!

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