Survey: Manuscript Editing Environments

Faculty of Science Research Day 2023

Falk Mielke, University of Antwerp, January 25, 2023

research day survey word processing productivity


The University of Antwerp holds regular “Research Days”: internal conferences where everyone gathers to watch workgroups and PhD students present their projects. Great for networking and within-faculty or interdisciplinary exchange. A new edition is due this January. And my writing efforts for the thesis were a bit lame to be presented.

I have previously described my text editor productivity journey on this blog. I am convinced that plain text editing, emacs and vim in particular, would facilitate the work of many colleagues. Vim in particular is a drastic productivity boost.

So I thought I should start a discussion!


I took the plan of making an interactive poster. Given some “word cloud” inspiration, I will note what people tell me about their word processing experience. Hypotheses of the outcome are difficult, since the audience is heterogeneous (the whole faculty of science will join) and I might be biased by prejudice.

Instead, I will just take just took notes on the poster and present the results here.


Here are the results: img

These are the software tools used within the University of Antwerp Faculty of Science for manuscript writing:

department Biology BIR CS Maths Phys Total
MS Word 16 12 1 0 7 36
Libre Office 1 0 0 0 0 1
Google Docs 3 0 1 0 0 4
LaTeX/Overleaf 2 1 15 5 13 36
(R) Markdown 2 0 0 0 1 3
Total 24 13 17 5 21 80

(Note: I left out my own vote, and one colleague from administration to save a column. BIR = BioScience Engineering)


You can download the poster draft here. The poster was created in inkscape.


There were great, brief discussions about this. Main constraint seem to be publishers, supervisors, or just the “standard” in the field. Few of the people who use word actually claim they are happy with it (though I did not follow up that question too rigorously - that column was more a bridge to chat).

A disappointing sidenote is that few to no people actually discussed privacy and proprietary software. I did not enforce that topic, but would wholeheartedly recommend to everyone to use free and open source software. If this is not obvious to you, the Free Software Foundation might be a place to start reading up reasons.

And maybe the most worthy lesson learned: interactive posters are fun! Many people took photos of my poster and expressed their intention to check out new software. If only one of you gets excited by logseq or orgmode, or if only one of you makes an interactive poster in the future, I would be happy and the poster could officially be called a success :)

Thank you all for participating! Stay open for new software tools and try to find those that enable efficient work of a given task. Avoid those which hinder you, or force you to perform repetitive, unnecessary actions and clicks. Good software should make your life easy.

Feedback is welcome!