Friday, September 6, 2013

SciCommTips episode 1 - How to move a figure from MS Office to Illustrator

Many scientists love to use Microsoft Office products for their work. Excel offers quick data organization and analysis while Powerpoint provides means to create figures for papers and presentations. However, sometimes the formatting limitations of these programs makes it hard to get the data exactly the way you want to present it. My personal solution is to take the figures and images I make in MS Office and bring them into Adobe Illustrator for final edits. How to do this is one of the most common questions I get when I present my data. I also find that I'm teaching my friends and colleagues how to do this with their projects. So what better 'how to' to start the Science Communication Tips (SciCommTips) episode series.

Learning to use illustrator can be a daunting task. Research labs often use Adobe Photoshop to edit their images and figures for publication. But when they try to play in Illustrator, all of the skills that you learn in Photoshop no longer apply. Strange how two programs from the same parent company can be so different from each other. However, Adobe Illustrator is a useful program when it comes to presenting scientific data as the clean crisp continuity of vector art creates a firm polished end product. Vector graphics are useful in that they are infinitely scaleable without loss of resolution, making it easy to adjust a single figure for multiple purposes. Plus, the MS Office graphics engine produces vector art for its shapes, smart art, and charts.

In this episode I will take you through the process of creating a new figure in Excel and how we can make adjustments to then import it into Illustrator without much hassle of learning advanced Illustrator techniques. This same tutorial will apply to Powerpoint figures, although I may revisit it in a future episode.

Please feel free to comment below. If you have any questions or recommendations about this tip or if you would like to see additional tips please recommend them in the comments section or direct message me on twitter: @liveinsymbiosis 

Video is on my youtube channel:

Episode Notes:

Software used: MS Excel 2011 (Mac) and Adobe Illustrator CS6
Note: This tutorial should work on any version of Adobe CS and MS Office

Some of the Illustrator shortcut keys used (mac, sub 'Control' for PC):
Command+C = Copy
Command+V = Paste
V = Selection tool
A = Direct selection tool
Z = Magnifying glass
Command+0 = zoom to fill window
With selection tool hold 'alt/option' key click and drag to create a duplicate of an object

The dataset is from McNulty et al., 2013 PLoS Biology:;jsessionid=22636C4DDB0793F5E87F85D0D612FB8B#s4


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