Thursday, November 11, 2010

Easy conversion of tables from Excel to Latex

Csilla found this neat little Excel add-in that converts a table from a spreadsheet to Latex in a simple click. Here is the link:

All you have to do it download the file and execute it. It will install itself in the "add-in" tab in Excel.

What is really good about is that it handles merged columns, alignment and font styles automatically. However, it does not support merged rows, lines, and alignment of numbers on the decimal (it is a requirement in certain journals).


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Backup your files, synchronize and share them, using Dropbox

If you work in different computers and transfer information using an USB key or portable HDD, if you would like to have a permanent real time backup of your files, if you often need to access your files from other computers, or if you simply like to share your computer folders with collaborators, try Dropbox . Dropbox allows you to have your folders in the clouds updated in real time. Moreover, it keeps your files in permanent sync across all your computers, allows sharing folders, and provides a convenient backup. One of the handiest tools since zipped files!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Miktex Portable Version

Hey guys,

I guess it has been a very long while since anyone has posted anything on this blog. I don't want to take credit for it (so I won't) but one of the newest PhD students here in the department pointed me to a portable version of the Miktex distribution. The reason why we got interested is because of the recent update of our office computers to Windows 7 and the giant mess it has become to even install or update a package. The good thing about this portable version is that it can be installed on a flash drive and used literally on any computer that has a Windows OS. It even has the TeXworks GUI included so you don't need to install your preferred one (TexnikCenter for most of us). All you have to do is search for it in Google and follow the instructions. So simple!

That's it for today. I hope we can all start sharing some stuff on this blog again.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Multiple graphics windows in R

I have been thinking for the longest time that R could only handle one graphics windows, I should have looked a little deeper. It turns out that it is very easy to do.

To create a new window, simply type: windows() or X11(). This will open a new graphics device and give it the next available number.
To make window k the active window, the command is windows(k).
To close window k, is the way to go.

For more commands and information, see help(dev.cur) in Rgui.


If you would find useful to have the ability to create web pages on the fly, using your web browser as editor, but with WYSIWYG capabilities, you've got to try TiddlyWiki ( From the creators:

"TiddlyWiki is a single html file which has all the characteristics of a wiki - including all of the content, the functionality (including editing, saving, tagging and searching) and the style sheet. Because it's a single file, it's very portable - you can email it, put it on a web server or share it via a USB stick."

This is open source, free, fast, portable across platforms, and easy to use. I found a very nice place for hosting my personal wiki, If you are fond of html, this does not get better.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Puthesis for AGEC thesis

The puthesis template does 99% of your thesis formatting. The 1% left, however, is a pain in the neck. For example, using puthesis out of the shelve gave me the following problems (Ask Lou Ann for the format requirements, do it early):

1. The margins were not as required
2. The spaces between headings and subheadings were not as specified.
3. The little dots of the table of contents did not touch the number pages.
4. The table captions did not met the requirements.
5. The headings and subheadings had a format different than what is needed.
6. The original template I got did not indent the first line after Chapter headings.

To fix 1-3 and 5 I modified the puthesis.cls file and renamed it as
puthesis_mod.cls. (Download puthesis_mod.cls ) You can search over comments starting with NV to see what I did. I counted 16 modifications; sadly, I do not remember why I did half of them. Moreover, the brackets specifying the options for agecon include several tweaks. My fix to the table of contents leaders only works for two subdivisions, if you have more, have fun trying to add extra divisions in a similar way to the ones that I added. To fix 4, and other little things I do not remember, puthesis.cls has built-in options. So, in addition to using puthesis_mod.cls, I used this as the first line of the preamble:


Notice that puthesis_mod.cls is genetically engineered to include the bibliographical AAEA style, which was mentioned in an earlier post.

I also noticed that other people working with puthesis had not the same problems I had, and I ignore why that is the case.

Two more things:

1. Margins work --- but you have to be sure that Page Scaling is set to none when you use Adobe Acrobat Reader to print.
2. Figures and tables that are aligned at the top of the page tend to break the 1 inch top margin. My solution was to use \begin{}[hb]. Itworked (h for here, b for bottom). As a very last resource, for tables that occupy an entire (or more) page, a \vspace{-.1in} statement did the trick. Put it after the \begin{} and before the \caption.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Merging PDFs (and other useful tasks)

If you need to merge two pdfs, as for example, when attaching forms 9 and 20 to the thesis manuscript, pdftk can be useful. Free, portable across platforms, and without the need of administrative privileges, it does a lot of useful things. From the creators: "If PDF is electronic paper, then pdftk is an electronic staple-remover, hole-punch, binder, secret-decoder-ring, and X-Ray-glasses." Can be downloaded from