Statisfaction

Collaborative writing of LaTeX documents

Posted in LaTeX by Pierre Jacob on 16 February 2011

Hi!

The other day I came upon this webpage on wikibooks: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/LaTeX/Collaborative_Writing_of_LaTeX_Documents. It lists possible methods to write LaTeX documents with co-authors, and there seems to be plenty of solutions, from fully online LaTeX editors to convenient way to sync local files.

The “usual” options are [0) to send an email to the coauthors each time you edit something (please don’t do that)] 1) to use subversion or other versioning systems to sync their files, but this requires a SVN server somewhere, which for instance we haven’t got at CREST, and it requires that all authors sync their files on a regular basis, ie that all authors know how to use a versioning software (which is probably the case in some research areas but not necessarily in statistics). Option 2) is to sync the files using for instance Dropbox as cited on the page, which allows to conveniently share the documents but doesn’t have a lot of versioning features. So basically, if two authors edit the same file at the same time, it results in a conflict case instead of trying to merge the files on the fly, like a real versioning software should do.

To go further than these two options, some solutions listed in the webpage look very cool, especially:

  • Gobby: it’s a text editor (not LaTeX specific) to write collaboratively. You have to install it locally (available on Windows and Linux, there’s also documentation on how to install it on Mac OS), but then it seems very convenient, with the files on top of the window and a little chat window below, where you can communicate with the connected co-authors. Since it’s a “local” solution you don’t need to trust a web-service, which might be a big plus for the paranoids among us.
  • TitanPad, ScribTex, MonkeyTex… these are all web services, so you can edit your files from any web-browser, it’s the ultimate nomad solution. However since it’s online, you have the trust the host. Plus I didn’t test them but it might provide less editing functions than a local software. It’s also the only solution available if one of the authors can’t install LaTeX locally.

At some point in the writing of LaTeX document, one usually wants to use a LaTeX-specific editor with advanced functionalities, to handle the bibliography, the index, etc. But for a first draft at the beginning of a team project, next time I’ll definitely try one of these online solutions!

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5 Responses

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  1. vzemlys said, on 17 February 2011 at 12:43

    Instead of subversion, you can use git. It is a distributed versioning system, meaning that you have whole copy of all the changes locally. To communicate you either send changes, or use the central repository. There are several sites offering to host your repositories. I personally use github.com. For a payment repositories can be made private. The biggest attraction of git is that it is very good of merging changes. Also for daily usage there are only several commands to learn.

    • Pierre Jacob said, on 17 February 2011 at 13:05

      Nice, thanks for the tip! I used mercurial at some point, which is also distributed and quite easy to use compared to SVN. However these solutions are necessarily more complicated for the user than online editors, and they become efficient only if all users agree to use them [regularly], otherwise they’re useless. So I think there is definitely room for online editors that are possibly as easy to use as google docs.

      • vzemlys said, on 17 February 2011 at 14:14

        I think the technology is there. Look at math.stackexchange.com, it is dedicated for the questions and answers about mathematics. It supports latex via Mathjax and it tracks changes. The only thing necessary is the export to latex document. Of course this might be a tad problematic, due to formatting.

  2. itcouldbeanyone said, on 14 May 2011 at 19:47

    Another collaborative (browser based) LaTeX solution can be found at https://www.verbosus.com – Conflicting changes between two documents can be merged in an easy-to-use merge tool.

  3. beckleone said, on 10 February 2012 at 15:43

    http://www.sharelatex.com is another new one which gives google docs style real time collaberation


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