How to Create Figures for Latex
This short tip shows how you can create figures for Latex using Powerpoint.
The First Solution - Windows
This method assumes that you have Adobe Acrobat (not just the Reader, but the actual Acrobat) installed on your machine.
Convert your PowerPoint slide to .pdf (you can just do "Save As PDF").
Open the .pdf file in Adobe Acrobat Professional. Delete all the pages but the one that contains your picture (use Document->Delete Pages). Then crop the remaining page so that only the picture is left on it (Document->Crop Pages); use the Margin Controls to do this (lines will appear as you change the values).
Save the file: select File->Save As, and select "Encapsulated PostScript (.eps)" under the file type, to save the same file as an .eps.
Insert into your LaTeX document using the \includegraphics command of the graphicx package (be sure to not specify the file extension in the command; that way, it will compile with both latex (using the .eps) and the pdflatex (using the .pdf)).
The Second Solution - Windows
Instead of using the full acrobat (which costs), one can use the open-source free GIMP image editor available for Windows and Unix. The method is the same as above, except that instead of removing pages, you can add any pdf to GIMP (select the correct page directly; you can add a single page from a large pdf file). From here on, cropping etc is the same as the technique described above. However, since GIMP is an image editor there are many more options.
Creating Figures for Latex in Mac
This task is much easier on a Mac, partly since PDF is native:
Create the figure in any software you like
Select the figure
A .png of the figure is automatically saved to the desktop, and can be included in Latex (it will automatically be converted to PDF; this is the advantage of the fact that PDF is native in Mac).
The first solution was shamelessly stolen from Leo Reyzin's more extensive explanations. After looking for a very long time, this was the first solution that I found worked easily and nicely (I have Acrobat professional so I have no problem with this solution; if you don't have it I suggest buying it - the academic price is very reasonable).
The second solution is due to Ariel Stulman, who wrote to me to let me know of an open source alternative.