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I am currently the CTO at a healthcare consultancy company. Currently, we are working on producing a series of reports using Microsoft Word. Each file is around a hundred pages long and they are include graphics (graphs, tables and other supporting images). When working with several of these documents open and several large Excel spreadsheets, the laptop being used would often freeze up.

To prevent this, we invested in a high-quality custom built, desktop computer from PC Specialist. (i7 core, 32GB RAM, 120GB SSD) This provided a minor improvement, but we are still experiencing similar problems. To attempt to solve this problem we have also re-installed MS Word and split the files up as much as is possible. What can we do to prevent this from happening, and which alternative text processing software would you recommend.

Bear in mind, that an international team of over 20 researchers are involved in this project and so it will need to be easy to use and have most of the same functionality as MS Word, especially in the area of reviewing and commenting. It will also need to work offline and run on Windows 7/8+.

  • Up the page file on windows. Helps drastically. – DankyNanky Nov 26 '16 at 2:28
  • You might look at google docs which can convert to/from word, allows multiple users simultaneous editing, and can be shared to a limited set of people identified by their email. – meuh Nov 26 '16 at 16:59
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I would strongly recommend taking a look at the combination of the Jupyter/iPython/Pandas stack and a decent version control & reviewing tool chain.

In Jupyter you work inside of your web browser to produce a series of cells each containing one of:

  1. Code in the iPython, or any of a number of other kernels such as R - this code can be executed and the output included, including using the Pandas tool chain. This can do things such as querying the latest statistics from online sources or form databases at the touch of a button then regenerating the plots, etc. from the results.
  2. Text formatted in Markdown, like this site, including embedding Images and formulae using MathJax

The resulting "Notebooks" can be rendered as publication quality output in any of html for a web site or pdf.

All of the above are:

  • Free, Gratis & Open Source
  • Cross Platform - will work on and co-operate between Windows, OS-X, Linux and a large number of other platforms from Raspberry Pi up to Super Computer Clusters so it doesn't matter what your researchers are running on.
  • Small and memory efficient.

One of the really nice things is that the jupyter notebook format is version controllable, being plain text, and so you can use tools such as GitLab for version control and for review. GitLab is available as a Free or Paid online service or can be internally hosted, Free but with paid for support available

Many other researchers are using this tool chain, see the arguments in favour of this workflow here, and see the gallery of reproducible academic publications for a sample. O'Reilly have some interesting examples and have announced plans to make Jupyter Notebooks "First Class Citizens" of the publishing world.

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