Is MS Word giving you too much trouble?

Have you ever had problems with missing images and captions in Microsoft Word documents? Images that don’t stand still on a page? Have you ever spent hours formatting texts, indexes, and lists of figures?

Well, if so, this post is definitely for you. It really doesn’t matter if you are a high school student, university student or even a researcher or teacher, we have all had our moments of despair working with our dear Microsoft Word. Now imagine producing documents with 350 pages of text, with dozens, if not hundreds of images, constantly bouncing from page to page, when we have countless projects and activities to finish. A real panic … Well, welcome to the world of a PhD student.

However, we have good news!! The world does not end in MS Word, and there are some very competent alternatives for this software. One of them is Rmarkdown.

Right now, you might be wondering what is Rmarkdown. 

First, the Markdown part. This is a simple computational language (an easy-to-write plain text format), with which we have all worked. Where? In all the README files, in blogs and discussion forums or even on our PC’s notepad. It is a language that, like all languages, has its own syntax, with codes that allow you to personalize the texts with links, headers, quotes, lists, among others. In the end, it allows you to create HTML documents (websites), pdf or if you really want to go back, MS word.

But what about Rmarkdown? This basically corresponds to the combination of the Markdown and the language R (a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics). The symbiosis between these two languages ​​allows the creation of dynamic text documents that incorporate images, references, and links in an easy way, but that mainly allow the integration of statistical analysis and data visualization.

It looks extremely complex, right? However, it is much simpler since it allows us to focus on the writing and the results we obtained (the most important research part) without having to waste an infinite amount of time for the images to stay where we want and switching between different software.

Rmarkdown is now becoming more commonly used to prepare and write texts, articles, thesis and even books. However, it is not as popular as Word.

As such, and to have a hands-on with this tool (that will hopefully save us from painful hours), ICArEHB’s PhD students who have not yet engaged themselves in the arduous task of writing their thesis in MS Word, contacted the ICArEHB’s researcher João Cascalheira and colleague Joana Belmiro, both with experience in Rmarkdown (Joana did her master thesis on it).

This contact resulted in an entire afternoon workshop, with some of the students being already converted to this language (look at our happy faces).

From this workshop, a workgroup that intends to explore the use of R (such statistical language) in Archaeology was formed, but this is information for another “chapter”.

Stay strong and do not surrender to word without a fight!

Some of the ICArEHB PhD students in the Rmarkdown workshop.

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