Howto Write a Thesis using LaTeX: Export Scalable Graphs from Excel to Inkscape

The trick with creating nice looking and scalable graphs is the same as discussed in Howto Write a Thesis using LaTeX: Generate Resolution Independent Figures Using Inkscape. Instead of saving the graph as ‘common’ image, meaning as bitmap, jpeg or png, graphs should also be generated as vector graphics.

Unfortunately, Excel does not provide an obvious way to export graphs as vector graphics (at least, I do not know any). But, fortunately, there is a little workaround which I will describe in this little tutorial.

First, assume we have some data present in an Excel sheet and generated any plot from the data. In the example below, I put in some data from the top of my head (without any scientific verification!) on how probable it is to went totally crazy, formatting your hard drive, destroy all your lab equipment and move to any abbey in Tibet for the rest of your live dependent on the amount of time you spend already to prepare your thesis.
PFreakingOut

To export this nice and somehow scary graph from Excel and to import it in our LaTeX document, we first need to select the graph by clicking on it, you should see a border around the figure. Note that it is important to select the figure only as we just want to export the graph and not the whole document!

Next, we select File->Save As … from the context menu and save it as PDF! See the screenshot below (Sorry, my installation of Excel is German)

PFreakingOutSaveAsPDF

That’s all that needs to be done in Excel. Actually, we would be easily able to import the PDF just generated into our LaTeX document, but there is some beautification needed which is best to be done with Inkscape.

To do so, we first open Inkscape and select File->Open (do NOT use Import!) from the context menu. Browse to the recently generated PDF file and press the Open button.
OpenGraphInInkscape

It might take a few seconds until the next dialogue should pop up. Do not touch any configuration at the import dialogue, simply press OK. The graph may be placed like that:
GraphImported

Note that the imported graph behaves like it would have been created with Inkscape meaning that you can easily click elements, remove or edit them. I personally do not like the grey border around the graph, so I remove it by clicking the border and removing it. You might want to change the colour, axis titles, font size or whatever…

Next, we go to File->Document Properties… to set the page size to fit the graph with some spacing of 10px.
Inkscape_resize_to_content

Last, we save the plot as PDF file by selecting File->Save as from the context menu.
Remind that you need to select PDF as file type. That’s it, we just created a resolution independent scalable graph with Excel and Inkscape. Of course, this PDF can be included in our LaTeX document in the same way as any other image, namely by writing:

A scary and maybe exaggerated Graph is shown in Figure ??.
\begin{figure}[ht]
	\centering
    \includegraphics[width=0.5\textwidth]{fig/FreakingOut.pdf}
    \caption[Short caption]{Detailed caption}
    \label{fig:imageGraph}
\end{figure}

Also, the graphicx package should be added to the preamble of the Thesis.tex file:

\usepackage{graphicx}

Howto write a thesis using LaTeX, Part 3: Tips and Tricks

We’ve already seen in part 1 and part 2 of this tutorial, how to install and set up software components and howto organize folders and files. Also, we have created a basic structure of our thesis. In this final part 3, I will give you some tips and tricks that made my live easier while creating my PhD thesis.

To be easier found by search engines, I’m gonna create a separate post for each single tip, trick or hack, whatever name you prefer. But, in order to preserve the scope of this tutorial, we will see how to include the generated stuff into our test thesis.

So, here you go, a list of tips, tricks and hacks helping you with your thesis:

Assume you have generated an image like described in the link above, you can use the following code to include it to your thesis:

An example figure is shown in Figure ??.
\begin{figure}[ht]
	\centering
    \includegraphics[width=0.5\textwidth]{fig/image.pdf}
    \caption[Short caption]{Detailed caption}
    \label{fig:image}
\end{figure}

And of course, we need to import the graphicx package in the preamble of the Thesis.tex file:

\usepackage{graphicx}

Source files generated within this tutorial can be download here:
Thesis Template

If you are a student of the faculty “Biologie und Vorklinische Medizin der Universität Regensburg” in Germany, you can also download the predefined title page:
UR-Titlepage
Thesis Template with UR title page included

I hope you enjoyed reading this tutorial. Now you are all set, you are prepared to write a thesis so fancy that you supervisor is forced to give you the best mark available without reading even a single word of you’ve written. I’m just kidding, of course, content is most important, but at least, you do not have to figure out every problem with LaTeX on your own and you can invest your time on writing text.

If you like this tutorial, please recommend it and leave a command, if you don’t like, tell me what you want me to improve or just don’t tell anybody 😉

Howto Write a Thesis using LaTeX: Generate Resolution Independent Figures Using Inkscape

When you are about to write your thesis, you have probably spend the last years working on a topic that has twisted your brain plenty of times and now your finally made it, you understand what your Professor was talking about the last years and you can be really proud. With a huge amount of self-confidence, you start writing down your hard work and you proofread every sentence and every word you are writing carefully. But at the end, the first thing anyone reading your thesis sees, is a figure like that:

Golum Figure

Do you really want to have that Golum of a figure in your thesis? Of course not!
Any figure you create for your thesis should be a vector graphic. Remind from part 1 of this tutorial, that there is a general difference between vector graphics and “common” images. Vector graphics do not save pixel values, but generate a description of the image, like you would say: “There is a circle in the left part of the image and another one in the right part. Both have a black border and gray background. The circles are further connected by an arrow.” Well, the real description might be a bit more accurate and fortunately, LaTeX can understand that description if we provide it in the correct format.

Sorry friends, but this is not going to be a tutorial in Inkscape, you will find many of them in the web. This is more a guide on how to use a vector graphic in LaTeX. Let’s assume we have drawn an image in Inkscape that may look like:

inkscape_figure

First, we have to resize the document to the content to avoid extra spacing around the image. From the top menu, select File->Document Properties. A new dialog will pop up. Notice that there is an area called Resize page to content:

Inkscape_resize_to_content

I usually use margins of 10.00 at each side. Then, simple press the “Resize page …” button and you will see that your document has been resized to your content. Be aware not to select a specific object while resizing, otherwise the document will be resized to the object size.

Once the image is ready, you can save the image as PDF by selecting File->Save As and choosing “Save as type” to be “Portable Document Format (*.pdf)”. You can simply use the default PDF setting and click OK in the dialog shown next. And that’s it! Inkscape is automatically generating a vector graphic based PDF. Please note that the default format for vector graphics is SVG, but as we want to use the graphic with LaTeX, we prefer to have a PDF file.

Let’s save the PDF image to the images subfolder (called fig) of our thesis project folder and name it image.pdf. All we have to do now, is to display the image in the thesis. For example, lets show the image in our “Boring Stuff” chapter. We are including figures by LaTeX command:

\chapter{Boring Stuff}
An example figure is shown in Figure ??.
\begin{figure}[ht]
	\centering
    \includegraphics[width=0.5\textwidth]{fig/image.pdf}
    \caption[Short caption]{Detailed caption}
    \label{fig:image}
\end{figure}

To get this working, we need to import the graphicx package in the preamble of the Thesis.tex file:

\usepackage{graphicx}

Once we translated the file to pdf (twice to update also the reference), we will see the figure in the Thesis.pdf file.

Inkscape_image_in_thesis

Please note, that also the list of figures at the end of the document has been updated and now includes an entry with the short description of the figure. To see the benefit of the vector graphic, here is a part of the image within the document, rescaled to 500%:

Inkscape_image_500

As you see, the figure can be scaled to any dimension without loosing resolution.