Writing an Academic Paper: Working with the Best Text Editors

You can’t wait to begin the research topic you have in mind.

You’ve already dug around for information and got your researching gears in motion.

But with all your findings, what are the best text editors to use to write them down?

Do you open up a Word document, Google Doc, or (God forbid) write on a piece of paper?

Choosing which text editor to use to write your research could be the difference between a poorly written paper and a professional-level piece—and you want it to be the latter. 

With this goal in mind, this article will show how you can work with text editors and other helpful tools to produce high-quality research in your chosen field of study, as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Choosing Your Writing Tool

Tools for writing on computers or electronic devices fall into two broad categories: What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) word processing applications, and text editors.

Word Processing Applications

WYSIWYG (pronounced “wiz-ee-wig”) is an editing software system that allows you to write and format according to how you want it to look once displayed as a finished product. The final product could be printed sheets, web pages, slide presentations, and hard-bound books. The most familiar examples of WYSIWYG text editing applications are Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, Google Docs, and HTML emails. Depending on the program, they can sometimes be expensive, or available only to users who have an institutional login.

As part of their function, WYSIWYG text editors have formatting tools already integrated into their platforms. These tools are designed to be user-friendly, allowing real-time adjustments to the appearance of your text without having to manually input the commands. For example, particularly for word processing, WYSIWYG will represent the specific line breaks on the printed product using a printer configuration. This makes it easy to stay consistent and accurately refer to a citation on page 1, even when you’re working on a section 500 pages later in your paper.

As these files are created with rich text, they can be saved in the following formats:

These files are often—if not always—proprietary and unreadable by humans.

The most attractive feature of WYSIWYG is the ability to visualize what you’re writing in real-time. However, some people find that this feature actually distracts from the writing process, as the WYSIWYG approach assumes no separation of content and style.

Text Editors

In contrast to WYSIWYG editors, text editors serve a less “literary” editing need, and as such usually come without the bells and whistles used for mainstream writing or desktop publishing formats. These programs are often referred to as “notepad” software, a name which comes from the famous Microsoft Notepad app.

Text editors are provided by operating systems and software development packages and are able to modify documentation files, configuration files, and programming source code. Compared to WYSIWYG, which operates on rich text, these text editors create and edit with plain text.  This means that they only use simple ASCII or Unicode characters without displaying any additional formatting.

The best text editors prioritize efficiency and versatility, analyzing text in the fastest way possible with complete visibility. Because of this, text editors limit themselves from all types of markup, save for single line breaks and spacing. Instead, they use Markdown—a de facto standard to indicate formatting in plain text documents.

Markdown is meant to be simple and incorporates structured formatting (e.g., headings, hyperlinks, lists, and footnotes) without losing readability. There are ways to convert Markdown into HTML, which is its original target output format, as well other document types as needed.

Some of the common markdown characters include:

  • Asterisk for italics
  • Double asterisk for italics
  • A single hashtag for H1
  • A double hashtag for H2

For a complete list, check out the full Markdown syntax.

Even though you wrote these characters in a plain text file, you have the option to paste them to a rich text editor. Many programs, such as Flowcite, will be able to recognize the Markdown language, and apply the appropriate formatting as indicated. 

When Should You Use Text Editors? 

For any highly-structured research with quantitative analysis, you want to write using one of the best text editors available. There are many kinds of text editors, some of which are more suitable for expert developers, and others for beginners and writers. The best ones provide ease of collaboration, real-time code sharing, and more.

With tools like this, you can write quickly, copy-paste bodies of text into various applications, and be assured that your file can be opened across various research and writing tools, and still retain its proper formatting and appearance.

Here’s a breakdown of the benefits of working with the best text editors:

  • You can write faster, copy-pasting bodies of text into various applications.
  • You can open your file across various research and writing tools and still retain their appearance.
  • When writing code for statistical analysis, the content will have highlighted keywords and operators.
  • If you have a syntactical mistake (e.g., forgetting to insert a quotation mark), the editor will automatically indent it for you or tidy up your code. Some can even work with a linter to check stylistic and syntactical mistakes in real time.

This makes it easy for you to incorporate the most complex numerical data into your scholarly paper and stay in control of the outputs at every stage of the writing process.

Not sure where to start? Within academia, the most commonly used and best text editors use LaTeX—practically an industry-standard, especially for more complicated research.

What are LaTeX Text Editors?

LaTeX (pronounced Lay-tek) is a document preparation system that is frequently used in scientific, mathematical, and technical fields. It allows users to focus on writing the content of their documents, leaving the formatting and typesetting to LaTeX. 

LaTeX also provides the ability to easily write mathematical and scientific notation, and display data and images. In fact, handling and editing number-heavy equations and data are the reasons for LaTeX’s existence and popularity. A study conducted by Authorea showed that roughly 18% of researchers use LaTeX, with those dealing with hard sciences accounting for the majority of these:

  • Mathematics and statistics: 151,085 (92% LaTeX = 138,998)
  • Physics and astronomy: 274,287 (60% LaTeX = 164,572)
  • Computer science: 255,916 (45% LaTeX = 115,162)

There are several online LaTeX text editors that can handle LaTeX in very user-friendly ways. Let’s discuss how using a LaTeX editor online accelerates your speed and accuracy in research writing.

LaTex Editor Advantages for Researchers

Research writing comes with its unique set of challenges—most of which LaTeX editors have been specifically developed to solve. 

Here are the advantages of using a LaTeX editor online vs. a traditional word processor:

Write Without Worrying

In LaTeX, the writing is separated from formatting, and you can define styles for individual elements. Said elements would be seamlessly and consistently styled across your research document. In other words: write now, and format later.

Write Without Limits

There are many packages and macros to solve any complex problems in LaTeX—giving you the ability to practically write anything you want, according to researchers. Check CTAN (aka Comprehensive Tex Archive Network) to browse a full list of options. 

Moreover, you can search expressions like $x^5$ or \footnote with ease, or search using regular expressions. 

Write With Versatility

LaTeX scripts can be opened and read on any platform, as they are in a plain text (.txt) file. As mentioned earlier, plain text files can be opened everywhere, compared to proprietary formats like OOXML, which only work with Microsoft Word. You want maximum compatibility in formatting when you move your files around other word processors.

Write With Confidence

Word processors like Microsoft Word and Pages are prone to crashes But when using a LaTeX editor online, crashes are less frequent. 

Additionally, when using tools that integrate with LaTeX, you won’t have to worry about damaging your original source text, because these tools are primarily built on LaTeX itself, reducing the risk of corrupting the main file when editing. 

Write At Scale

When writing with a LaTeX editor online, you can easily compose large documents, such as theses and books. 

LaTeX also lets you write in chunks before putting them all together. No matter the number of tables, indexes, and LaTeX bibliographies you need to include, the editor can handle them easily across multi-file projects.

Write With Auto-Bibliography

Researchers love how using a LaTeX editor online can help them generate their bibliographies automatically. 

Simply write a bibliography using a .bib file, use the list of references it provides you, and use that in your .tex file using the \cite{} command. A few taps, and you’ll have your LaTeX bibliography in a matter of seconds.

Write for Publishers

In this day and age, journals explicitly ask for papers to be in LaTeX format. And even if you’re submitting to a journal that doesn’t require it, they wouldn’t refuse a LaTeX-created file. Top journals and publishers such as Nature, Elsevier, and SAGE prefer LaTeX for ease in editing prior to final publishing.

It’s no doubt that researchers have minimal complaints against LaTeX text editors and all the praises in the world for their ability to make academic writing easier.

Work with Text Editors That Integrate

If your research paper isn’t scientific or mathematical enough to call for LaTeX, you can consider other text editors to accomplish what you’ve set out to do.The best course of action is to choose one that can be integrated with the research tools you’re already using.

We’ve listed a couple of options here for you to find which one works best for your workflow:

  • Flowcite – Our unashamed recommendation, due to its holistic and innovative solutions for collaborative research, writing, and publishing. It’s a one-stop-shop for researchers looking to write in either a LaTex editor online, or any rich text editor.
  • Sublime Text – This is ideal for heavy coders, since it’s lightweight and has low resource usage.
  • Atom – This fits teams who will coordinate and collaborate a lot on research projects.
  • Notepad++ – This is suitable for all levels of developers, from beginners to advanced.
  • CoffeeCup, The HTML Editor – This is a good starting point for learning coding languages.
  • Vim – Though it has an older interface, it fits those who prefer something via the command line.
  • UltraEdit – This is perfect for uploading and editing large files.
  • Komodo Edit – This is ideal for both beginners and advanced; just use their location-specific versions depending on where you’re located.
  • Visual Studio Code – If an auto-completion feature is what you’re after, try this editor out.
  • Brackets – This fits those who like live previews and extensions.
  • CodeShare – This is suitable for teachers, as it has real-time code sharing and a video chat feature.

At the end of the day, the best text editors are those that facilitate you in writing faster and with ease, so pick the ones which fulfill the most of your needs within a single tool, if possible.

Grammar and Style Checker

Lastly, once you’ve chosen your writing tool and editor, you need to make sure that your research is written professionally—without grammatical mistakes, typos, or anything else. There’s no good in perfectly formatting your research if it’s not polished and proofread!

Aside from writing with LaTeX and rich text formats, Flowcite also makes use of AI-driven assistants integrated into their editors. Our suggestions on style, grammar, and punctuation are provided for you in real-time, empowering you to reach maximum proficiency in writing and complete focus on the actual research work at hand.

For general writing—work emails, school essays, casual articles—you can opt to use other industry-popular grammar checking websites, such as Grammarly. It’s widely used for grammar, spelling, and plagiarism checking to save you from most writing issues.

If you want to find other Flowcite or Grammarly alternatives, here are some suggestions:

Every writer and researcher needs a grammar checking website, proofreader, and plagiarism checker tool for error-free outputs. Use these tools to increase efficiency and be more productive.

Flowcite: A Text Editor, Grammar Checking Website, and Publishing Tool, All in One

The future of research is bright, fast, and innovative. With powerful and diverse text editing tools, such as Flowcite, you’ll have access to all the resources you need to handle every aspect of your paper, with just one sign-up. 

Among Flowcite’s many other features, it also gives you the ability to search through more than 60 million articles, write with either a LaTeX editor online or a rich text editor, and proofread for publishing in Flowcite’s all-in-one platform. 

Everything is designed to have a drag-and-drop application interface that shortens the learning curve for each user, enabling them to have the most efficient academic research process possible.

Stop spending your time managing multiple apps for note-taking, reference collection, collaboration, writing, and formatting your paper. Flowcite has it all in one place.

Check out Flowcite’s Research Management to see how you can find your referencing, writing, style-checking, proofreading, and formatting apps all together in one intuitive platform.

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