Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Online and collaborative TeX: ShareLaTeX

A handy tool for people who write papers in \(\rm\TeX\)

This blog entry is just a very short reference to
ShareLaTeX.com (click)
You must register (ten seconds, no confirmations) but once you do, you will have the opportunity to start with \(\rm\LaTeX\) in the most pedagogical way possible, to edit your \(\rm\LaTeX\) sources from any place in the world, to collaborate on the files with other people in the world, and to instantly see the resulting document in PDF.

A sophisticated Javascript does the job. No need to install complicated \(\rm\TeX\) compilers on your PC. No lockings. A simple debugging of the logs. Many templates, customization.

I believe that all physicists who are co-authoring papers in \(\rm\TeX\) should try this gadget and it seems likely that I would have been using it if it were available when we were writing such things.

Quite generally, I think that the sophistication of the software industry has reached high enough levels so that even rather specialized activities – like writing papers in \(\rm\LaTeX\) – are now being given state-of-the-art software solutions with all the recent IT developments like collaboration, clouds, and so on. In particular, I've been very happy about MathJax that does the \(\LaTeX\) job on this blog but there's still room for improvements.

Four minutes of work with ShareLaTeX. See more YouTube videos.


  1. I've bookmarked it. Not that I have any immediate use. I've been using TeX and LaTeX for about 20 years now and have always had the supporting software available on my computing platform of the day (Amiga, Unix, Solaris and now Linux).

    My introduction to TeX was during translations work that I was doing for a friend. I'd used other markup languages for a decade or more before then, so the concept wasn't entirely foreign.

  2. Wow, TeX on Amiga. Sounds cool. As a C64 boy, I would think about getting an Amiga at some point, but then the arrival of PCs made that thing obsolete.

    It must have been slow, must it not? Even on PCs in 1994 or so, it took 15 minutes to compile our linear algebra textbook. Because I like to frequently compile it and see the updated DVI, it had to be pretty hard to write the textbook.

  3. Interesting, I knew this one: https://www.writelatex.com/ .

  4. Wow, I didn't expect that there was already this kind of competition in this "sub-industry".

  5. Beni Cherniavsky-PaskinApr 24, 2013, 10:27:00 AM

    There is also SpanDeX.io, supporting offline work via Dropbox.

    AFAIK the full history is:

    * Verbosus.com and MonkeyTeX.bradcater.webfactional.com were the first online compilers, but with rudimentary editor and nothing to support simultaneous editing.

    * LaTeXlab.org (based on google docs) looked promising but never became usable.

    * Then came ScribTeX.com, and quickly gained merging (though not real-time) and offline editing support via git. It no longer accepts new users; ScribTeX's creator has joined ShareLaTeX.

    * ShareLaTeX itself was competition to ScribTeX, featuring near–realtime merging (but no offline mode yet).

    * Then came WriteLaTeX, with constant compilation and inline preview (image-based) and very easy to get started.

    * The last entrant is SpanDeX.io, the first to support offline work via Dropbox. Also does constant compilation and inline preview (pdf.js-based).

  6. Interesting concept, I wonder what happens when two people edit simultaneously?

    There is also this multiprotocol instant messaging app which uses Mathjax to display properly LaTeX contained in instant messages. Useful when collaborating. http://blog.instantbird.org/2013/04/latex-support-brings-prettier-math-to-your-messages/