Spark's Work

# Drawing Flowcharts in LaTeX

Recently, I have gradually become more interested in visual learning. Simple and intuitive visual representation of abstract concepts is very important, especially in presentations where the audience only have a few minutes to grasp whatever you are talking about.

However, making flowcharts in $\LaTeX$ is not the easiest thing in the world. I have used one reference on Stack Exchange for drawing timelines, which utilizes the tikz package. This particular example worked out very nicely.

As a side note, it may not be the best idea to include raw source code for chunky stuff (such as plots, charts and tables) in the main $\LaTeX$ file, which would make it very messy and difficult to navigate through. This is where the standalone package comes in handy, which essentially outsources part of the document as a standalone .tex file. An example is given here.

A more complicated chart is the causal graph, which contains circles and arrows that indicate certain relationships between different components. One good example of using tikz for drawing causal graphs is given here.

Drawing causal graphs natively in $\LaTeX$ can have a steep learning curve for beginners, or when you are simply short on time. This is where Microsoft Powerpoint comes into play (as suggested by my colleague Samson). Basically, we can draw anything in Powerpoint and just export them as images to be included in the $\LaTeX$ document, which offers the convenience of "what you see is what you get".

A few tips for this approach:

• For $\LaTeX$ math symbols and equations, one can use LaTeXiT for generating smaller images to be included in Powerpoint. (Of course, this may require some work if there are many math symbols, in which case tikz would be the better option.)

• For best quality of the output, export the files in either pdf or svg format, so that the charts will not be blurry when scaled in the $\LaTeX$ file.