A brief survey of free and open source Journal and article software and apps

A colleague asked me and sent me recently a link about a service called typeset.io. This looked a decent typesetting service for you to write your paper and submitting to various journals. Then to help her, I wrote this little list that I know of and use several of them. If you use these and want to add more, how about writing in the comments section?

Here is my tentative list

1. Authorea (http://www.authorea.com), my favourite editor for its simplicity, you can use Word, LaTeX, Markdown, format into several journal and thesis styles. For theses, you will need to create individual Authorea chapters and then “stitch” them. They even have their own bibliography editor. Several of our students did their Master theses writing ENTIRELY in Authorea and submitted on time with proper formatting. Five of us used Authorea to write our Book Chapter on our upcoming book on Telehealth using Authorea. So it works excellently.

2. ANY LaTeX installation will give you seamless integration with formatting to ANY journal and thesis format. Entirely free and you can download MikTeX from our software repository and pair it with TeXstudio (entirely free, thousands of journals), nothing to pay and no restrictions whatsoever.

3. If you want to use LyX (https://www.lyx.org/), even better. But you cannot install LyX in a university provided computer because they do not give you administration rights. Hence a no go, sadly in some specific cases, but otherwise excellent.

4. Overleaf (http://www.overleaf.com) is excellent. I am a big fan of Overleaf, I have used it with my Master and PhD students and they love it once they get the hang of it. I also have written several tutorials for Overleaf. Love it. Free, plenty of space to https://www.rstudio.com/work with. You can also get an annual rate. I have tried to get a University licence and perhaps they will buy it. If your university subscribes to Overleaf, you should change to it for writing everything. It’s an incredible little tool and you will soon wonder, why people ever used proprietary word processing products?

5. A little more work but works excellently. Any Jupyter Notebook instance with R/Python installed in it. Again, plenty of free text to work with. Use Microsoft Azure notebooks (check it out: https://notebooks.azure.com/), or Google Colab ( https://colab.research.google.com/notebook) are excellent tools for using Jupyter for work. I use it all the time, my best go to software

6. Rstudio (https://www.rstudio.com/) paired with R software is excellent for writing theses and journal articles and push it everywhere. Use markdown to format things. Again a bit of learning curve but worth it. I cannot praise it enough.

7. Stencila, https://stenci.la/, an excellent little suite (our Kiwi home grown, built in Kaikoura by Nokome Bentley) and Alexandra Pawlik, formerly from NeSI champions it and has hosted workshops at UC. Excellent for seamlessly integrating text that can be exported and formatted as you like, bibliography in-built, analyses. It is getting popular. Happy to hold hands if anyone needs it, I have used it.

8. Madoko is an excellent alternative for those scared of LaTeX writing, here: https://www.madoko.net/; you can export documents from Madoko and add your formatting and style file to the documents, but you will probably do not need to.

Verdict: if you are looking for free and great alternatives:

1. If you are willing to learn and negotiate a learning curve, MikTeX and TexStudio is the BEST bet. You can download from software repositories, and work with it. If you pair it with Pandoc (https://pandoc.org/), you can write everything in Word and convert to LaTeX without writing a word of LaTeX but you will need to know how to convert to various formats.

2. If you want a web based solutions with all bells and whistles, still free, use Overleaf or Authorea. Both of them are excellent writing tools. Again pair up with Pandoc to convert from Word (only for Overleaf). For authorea, import directly into Authorea and work directly with it.

Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Also in: https://refind.com/arinbasu

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