My Paper Writing Dream Machine 1.0

Martin Fenner
June 14, 2008 1 min read

I’ve written a similar post before (, put I would like to talk about some of the features that I would like to see in an ideal paper writing application.

Intelligent Formatting
Content and formatting should be separated from each other. A manuscript should require as little formatting as possible, and that formatting (including the format of references) should be defined in a Journal style that is automatically applied to the manuscript. Publicon ( by Wolfram Research tried to achieve this, but unfortunately appears to be a dead product.

A reference database should be integrated into the paper writing application. Ideally this would be a web-based database such as Connotea (, CiteULike ( Both Refworks ( and EndNote Web ( already offer some level of integration.

Storing all versions of a manuscript is very important for obvious reasons: backup, keeping track of revisions and coordinating the input from more than one author. Version control is standard practice in software development, using tools like Subversion ( or the newer Git (

Integration with Online Submission Systems
Submitting a manuscript to an online manuscript submission system such as EditorialManager ( or Topaz ( is too complicated. This process could and should be automated.

My Paper Writing Dream Machine will in all likelihood turn out to be a web-based application, using on one of the more advanced platforms Google Gears (, Microsoft Silverlight ( or Adobe Flex ( And the data will be in XML using a standard DTD ( Some of the pieces of the puzzle already exist, but nobody has yet put them together in a way that it creates a compelling alternative to the currently used systems.

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