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Collaborative LaTeX Editor With Preview In Your Web Browser 99

Posted by timothy
from the but-office-365-is-there-for-you dept.
Celarent Darii writes "Slashdot readers have undoubtedly heard of Google Docs and the many other online word processing solutions that run in the browser. However, as a long-time user of TeX and LaTeX, these solutions are not my favorite way of doing things. Wouldn't it be nice to TeX something in your browser? Well, look no further, there is now an online collaborative LaTeX editor with integrated rapid preview. Some fantastic features: quasi-instant preview, automatic versioning of source, easy collaboration and you can even upload files and pictures. Download your project later when you get home. Are you a TeX guru with some masterpieces? Might I suggest uploading them? For the beginner: you can start here."
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Collaborative LaTeX Editor With Preview In Your Web Browser

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  • Try LyX! (Score:5, Informative)

    by gatzke (2977) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:40PM (#42898503) Homepage Journal

    LyX is a great free cross-platform document processor that uses LaTeX on the back end for export.

    Not exactly WYSIWYG, but close enough. You export to PS or PDF as needed.

    You can see basically what your equations look like while editing before you tex it. You can still use normal LaTeX commands too, but anyone with basic Word experience can jump right in.

    I have used it for tons of things for over a decade now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by WillAdams (45638)

      Agreed.

      LyX is the most innovative opensource tool I've found yet, and one of the most effective --- the book manuscripts which I get which are submitted by LyX users are the cleanest, and most straight-forward, making for the most profitable typesetting jobs.

      I really wish that there were a similar vector graphics tool --- I want something which is parametric and shows both drawn vector and under-lying code and which allows one to edit either representation.

      • by gatzke (2977)

        I use tgif for vector graphics editing fairly well.

        I have managed to get a couple of scripts to automatically run that let me have WYSIWYG type 1 eps equations in tgif. Click on the equation object in LyX, edit, save and close, the lyx file is dumped to ps then eps and pulled into tgif.

        I have even gotten that to work on a cygwin PC too.

      • by lannocc (568669)

        I want something which is parametric and shows both drawn vector and under-lying code and which allows one to edit either representation.

        Agreed! all sophisticated GUI applications should operate in a sort of "CAD" mode, where GUI actions are displayed as commands and vice-versa.

      • Actually AutoCAD has an integrated lisp interpreter, so you could load Visual Lisp files and edit the source and see the output. There might be other programs like this elsewhere, but I know AutoCad let's you do this. There are lots of Visual Lisp files on the net.

        You could also use emacs to do some drawing in SVG [w3.org] format, rendering it using the Emacs SVG mode [emacswiki.org]. You could also write it all in elisp and use an s-expression to xml conversion script in an auto-revert buffer. Whether you would want to do that is

        • by WillAdams (45638)

          The AutoCAD angle is interesting --- since I've just gotten a Shapeoko CNC mill up and running, I'll have to look into it --- are there any opensource CAD programs which would work thus?

          Emacs won't work for me, I prefer a stylus over a keyboard, and what I really want is the ability to draw w/ the stylus and tweak the dimensions using numbers at need.

    • Oooh handy! I was just trying to figure out how I'd get some people at my company to face the terrifying interface of LaTeX (seriously, it looks like an IDE). This could be very helpful.

      • by frisket (149522)

        Oooh handy! I was just trying to figure out how I'd get some people at my company to face the terrifying interface of LaTeX (seriously, it looks like an IDE)

        That's basically what it is: an IDE for creating PDFs.

    • by richtopia (924742)
      I'm writing my thesis in LyX as I post, and it is a very good option for writing a technical paper. However, the posted article is dealing with collaboration tools, which is something the LyX team has been striving for (it tracks changes currently), but is still lacking. When the installation requires MikTex or Texlive it is a large program and difficult to encourage new users to join in.
      • by gatzke (2977)

        The windows installer installs and configures it all automatically, so you don't have to worry with the LaTeX stuff. I think Mac is similar, just click to install. Linux variants generally install LaTeX with ease for most distributions.

        LyX has had version control for a long time. CVS was standard years ago, I think they are open to various version control now. It may not be multi-user simultaneous edits, but many version control systems will sort out non-conflicting edits.

    • Re:Try LyX! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by manicb (1633645) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:58PM (#42899949)

      For me LyX was "LaTeX with training wheels"; after about a year of LyX I've moved to pure LaTeX for more complex functionality. However, I found LaTeX far less intimidating that it might have been as I was already familiar with the concepts and with the names of most functions.

      Where it really excels though is in the well-thought-out system of keyboard shortcuts. I used it in the final year of my degree to take down lecture notes, including equations and derivations, and found I was generally able to keep up with a blackboard. Try that with Equation Editor!

    • Yes, LyX is a great tool. But when you travel, you don't always have the possibility (company computer without the program installed for example), but this works through the web so if you have a web connection you can at least get something done. I wouldn't leave a project on this website, but you can always download and keep the source on your computer when you get home and use whatever you want with it later.

      Plus the collaboration tools aren't in LyX yet (though they will be in the near future supposedly)

    • by islisis (589694)

      The use of keyboard shortcuts in Lyx is amazing. Not to mention intuitive response with WYSIWYM [wikipedia.org]. The problem, apart from familiarity among researchers, is making it _exactly_ what you mean, which will never beat plain text - but no reason why it can't come close enough (Lyx is mainly backward compatible with latex after all). This would beat the standard of using wikis for building documentation for sure.

    • It's an interesting tool, but I've always been somewhat skeptical of tools that write the code for me, especially when collaborating with someone else who may not be using the same tool. There's also the issue of using the templates provided by e.g. conferences, how does that work?

  • Awesome (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cryptizard (2629853) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:42PM (#42898539) Homepage
    Most exciting thing I've seen all day! Right now I use a subversion repository to collaborate with my coauthors, but my advisor isn't very technical and can't seem to figure it out half the time. This is going to be much easier.
    • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JohnHammersley (2841497) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:09PM (#42901135)

      Most exciting thing I've seen all day! Right now I use a subversion repository to collaborate with my coauthors, but my advisor isn't very technical and can't seem to figure it out half the time. This is going to be much easier.

      Thanks - we've designed writeLaTeX to make it easier to collaborate especially with users who are new to LaTeX or used to WYSIWYG editors. (I'm one of the developers of writeLaTeX and have just returned from my valentine meal out to find us on slashdot!!) Hope the site has been performing ok during the spike in traffic, and if you've any questions just let me know or contact us through the site. Any and all feedback appreciated! John

      • Hey! Your site is awesome - it's only been down once so far when I have tried to use it.

        One question - how do you make the decision of when to update the preview? I've found that it's a little over-eager - I have had multiple updates cascade while typing a single sentence, and since it's not an immediate update (and I'd be shocked if it was, since it isn't for desktop LaTeX ;-) that seems like extra cycles for not much benefit.

        • Hey! Your site is awesome - it's only been down once so far when I have tried to use it.

          One question - how do you make the decision of when to update the preview? I've found that it's a little over-eager - I have had multiple updates cascade while typing a single sentence, and since it's not an immediate update (and I'd be shocked if it was, since it isn't for desktop LaTeX ;-) that seems like extra cycles for not much benefit.

          Thanks - and sorry you found the site down once, that's one more time than we're aiming for! At the moment the decision on preview updates is fairly simplistic, but we're continuously updating things behind the scenes to make it "cleverer" :-) We've also had requests from some users to be able to turn it off (so they can decide when to update), which makes sense, and we've lots more options/tweaks to add to the UI. In fact, this weekend we've finally finished a package of updates on the front end, which w

  • Not just this one. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Skidge (316075) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:55PM (#42898809) Homepage

    While the summary makes it sound like this is some breakthrough idea, there are several similar sites out there:

    https://www.sharelatex.com/ [sharelatex.com]

    http://spandex.io/ [spandex.io]

    And others, I'm sure. Is the submitter the owner of this particular version? The marketing speak is a bit over-the-top.

    I used sharelatex for a group project last semester and it worked fine. Several features were added since then that make it likely I'll use it again.

    • While the summary makes it sound like this is some breakthrough idea, there are several similar sites out there:

      Breakthrough idea, maybe not. A different realization with distinct advantages, maybe.

      https://www.sharelatex.com/ [sharelatex.com]

      This lacks continuously-updated rendering, which I think is a key feature of writelatex.

      http://spandex.io/ [spandex.io]

      This looks like it might actually be better than writelatex for most uses (I particularly like the advertised dropbox integration, and revision

    • by Celarent Darii (1561999) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:47PM (#42899761)

      Is the submitter the owner of this particular version?

      I wish I were. Nope, just a fan - sorry for the over enthusiasm.

      Some other people also gave me by message these sites: http://www.scribtex.com/ [scribtex.com] as well as this one emulating Google docs: http://docs.latexlab.org/ [latexlab.org]

      Didn't know that all these services were available. Only found this by accident a few days ago and found it really useful, hence the story submission.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:00PM (#42898895)

    I loved using Latex when I was in school. I used it not only for dissertations, but also for assignments. But I can't find any use for it outside academia. At least not at my current job. Does anyone have any stories where they use Latex outside a university?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I use it for daily document work (letters, speech outlines, handouts, posters etc.) and for books I typeset for friends. It's great to have a 20+ year library of documents that I can (usually) run through the engine without having to make changes or change file formats, and without the accompanying formatting/data loss issues.

    • by WillAdams (45638) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:20PM (#42899257) Homepage

      I work in publishing, so use it quite a bit for any .pdf manipulation which isn't suited to pdftk, and which justifies it (as opposed to using Enfocus PitStop). Examples:

        - in-house ad design system for HS ads in phone books
        - batch processing ads to add a yellow or white background, or to scale them, sometimes asymmetrically
        - batch print graphics w/ filenames --- one instance of that was a several thousand page government publication
        - print processed graphics side-by-side w/ the original to make proofreading easier (while I worked up an AppleScript which would page forward in both .pdfs displayed in Adobe Acrobat w/ a single click people never used it)
        - unreleased system for creating galley versions of magazine / journal articles when the source text was in Typo3
        - custom typesetting system for custom story books, since taken off-line

      I also use it for my own design and typesetting:

        - the freely distributed .pdf version of Mike Brotherton's Star Dragon: http://www.mikebrotherton.com/2005/04/20/new-star-dragon-pdf/ [mikebrotherton.com] (this design made it into the Memoir documentclass along w/ some other things I contributed)
        - some entries in the TeX Showcase: http://www.tug.org/texshowcase/onetype.pdf [tug.org] and http://www.tug.org/texshowcase/peace_on_earth.pdf [tug.org]
        - books which I typeset and print so as to bind them by hand: http://mysite.verizon.net/william_franklin_adams/portfolio/typography/thebookoftea.pdf [verizon.net]

      William

    • I used it recently at work to write a research paper. The formatting and presentation is much more professional than anything created in Word. My wife and I also republished some public domain works, re-typesetting the books and cleaning up the pictures. The Memoir class was invaluable for this. Other than that I guess it's mostly letters and little projects of my own.
    • by N7DR (536428)

      Does anyone have any stories where they use Latex outside a university?

      I've never been a fan of LaTeX, but I use TeX for novels, and have done for about two decades now.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This [federalreserve.gov] gets built from LaTeX.

    • by frisket (149522)
      My consultancy develops LaTeX systems for various industries, and we also do typesetting for publishers through LaTeX. It's used extensively outside academia (see the list of consultants at [tug.org] but most people keep it quiet because it gives them an advantage over their competitors (there now! I've let the cat out of the bag...)
  • I just looked at the package called Chemfig, for drawing organic molecules in LateX. Wow, let's toss out 25 years of progress.
    • by Trogre (513942)

      That's kind of cool. But how is it throwing out progress? Are you saying that using LaTeX to draw organic molecules is regressive in some way?

      • by frisket (149522)
        No, the OP misses the point. S/he thinks that using a GUI molecule-drawing program is "better" than chemfig because it's GUI. It may be quicker than chemfig for one molecule, but if you want to generate PDFs for a whole bunch of them from a database, using LaTeX as an API for PDFs is significantly more effective than drawing them all by hand.
        • by methano (519830)
          I don't miss any point. It would make about as much sense, maybe more, to draw molecules with postscript as it would be to use Chemfig. Similar learning curve. Learning to use Chemfig would require so much time that you wouldn't be able to learn enough chemistry to tell you that the structure was right or wrong. Chemfig might be appropriate for maybe 6 or 7 currently living people. No one I know. Maybe it would work for those guys at Chem Abstracts. But they already have a program like this. Maybe t
    • by manicb (1633645)

      Agreed that Chemfig is painful, but I've yet to find a decent workflow with ChemDraw. Currently using Inkscape, which at least has a comprehensive set of shortcuts and doesn't prevent annotation. What do you recommend?

  • it would be super cool to be able to rsync my figures to my account. that's probably asking too much though. plus they don't take .eps files??
    • by EvanED (569694)

      plus they don't take .eps files??

      My total speculative guess is that they're using pdflatex to render rather than traditional latex, and haven't bothered to implement conversions between image formats.

      • by jt_04 (2687097)
        yes i completely agree, that is probably the reason why. still rather disappointed, though.
        • Thanks for the comments - accepting .eps files (and some other improvements to file management) are on our work-in-progress list (I'm one of the developers at writeLaTeX). We've been rolling out updates fairly regularly, and so the site will continue to evolve and (hopefully) improve over the coming weeks and months.
        • I'm one of the developers. Your speculation is correct! but we are working on a converter. Thanks for the feedback :)
          • by jt_04 (2687097)
            great job, keep up the good work! I'll convert some of my figures, it's worth giving your site a try.
  • There is a pretty good looking editor for Latex called Bakoma. What I have never understood with latex is that it is hard to find an editor that does exactly what this website does. You type on the left and it appears on the right. But I want one step further. You also can edit on the right. To me this would be the best of both worlds. You can go all hard core for formulas and other complicated formatting but then you can go all WYSIWYG if you want. Oh and I want a spell check in both the the latex and WYSI
    • Re:Bakoma costs (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You neglect to mention it costs 55 euros at its cheapest.

    • by frisket (149522)

      There is a pretty good looking editor for Latex called Bakoma. What I have never understood with latex is that it is hard to find an editor that does exactly what this website does. You type on the left and it appears on the right. But I want one step further. You also can edit on the right.

      The problem with that is that for many graphical interactions there will be more than one interpretation, so a computer cannot know what you actually wanted to do: all it can see is the effect of you having done it. If you can solve that non-contiguity, you'll have a really nice, saleable product...

  • Talking with peers in the TeX world, I find that few professionals are writing in LaTeX directly anymore. LaTeX's typesetting abilities remain sexy, but it is far between to keep a document in a semantic markup like Docbook XML, transforming it to LaTeX via an XSL stylesheet only when one wants to produce final print output.

    Writing a LaTeX document directly might be OK for students who do only one or two papers a year, or someone who needs to quickly get a math notation graphic. But if LaTeX is something you do regularly, far better to setup a workflow where it is just a stage transforming data kept in a more structured format.

    • by frisket (149522)

      Talking with peers in the TeX world, I find that few professionals are writing in LaTeX directly anymore. LaTeX's typesetting abilities remain sexy, but it is far [better] to keep a document in a semantic markup like Docbook XML, transforming it to LaTeX via an XSL stylesheet only when one wants to produce final print output.

      We use this route all the time: DocBook through XSLT through LaTeX to PDF. It's fast, effective, and utterly reliable. I haven't written a document of any significance directly in LaTeX for at least two decades.

      • How do you handle complicated math that require special packages in DocBook?

        What do you write Docbook in? Surely not direct XML?

        I find myself using LaTeX for print documents, and Sphinx for multiformat documents. But I'd be interested to find out if a Docbook based workflow is actually practical for writing mathematical documents.

      • by EvanED (569694)

        I've been slightly interested in toolchains like this, and investigated a little bit AsciiDoc -> Docbook -> Latex -> PDF, but I didn't put a ton of time into it.

        How does the flexibility of this approach differ from working right in Latex to when it comes to things like page layout (both margins and placement of floats and images and such), fonts, etc.?

  • Purpose of LaTeX (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ossifer (703813) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @03:04PM (#42900041)

    While there is certainly value in continuous as-you-type output rendering of LaTex, remember that the purpose of LaTeX is typesetting, not word processing. The value is that you describe to (La)TeX how you want things to be rendered and rely upon it doing the right thing, which it nearly always does, beautifully.

    You can change something, restructure, re-order, re-design etc. and everything falls perfectly (usually) into place. This is not the case with the WYSIWYG word processing systems--the closest they get to this is the rather limited "styles" presets.

    • While there is certainly value in continuous as-you-type output rendering of LaTex, remember that the purpose of LaTeX is typesetting, not word processing. The value is that you describe to (La)TeX how you want things to be rendered and rely upon it doing the right thing, which it nearly always does, beautifully.

      I think the value of as-you-type rendering is very loosely analogous to that of having automated continuous as-you-type parsing and syntax error highlighting combined with compile/build/test cycle

      • by Ossifer (703813)

        Indeed. When I first started using LaTeX (1992), it reminded me when I first started using computers (1979). Writing (card punching) some code, sending it off to be compiled, then running another time to get the output. Compilers used to be all-or-nothing, start each time from scratch. Find an error, attempt to fix it, and start over again. Now if I use modern IDE, even Eclipse, I see much of this process with each keystroke. The compiler is different now--able to make incremental changes on the fly.

        • What you describe you can do in Emacs with AUCTeX [gnu.org]. I believe JEdit has something similar.

          • by Ossifer (703813)

            Well sort of. The big problem is that there is no iterative compiler for TeX. AucTeX can give you some syntax checking, but far from complete. The preview feature for snippets of code "works", but you lose the document as a whole. I want to be able to press a key in Emacs in the middle of some 100 page document and immediately see the effect *on the whole document* in a parallel window...

            • I do believe some people are working on that, but actually with the speed of today's machines you can compile most documents (even fairly large documents) in about 1-2 seconds tops, of course depending on your machine. On my notebook it is almost instantaneous for documents of 10 pages in length. Thus you can just put a view buffer (xdvi window) on auto refresh and have autosave set to 10 seconds with a compile hook and you get very good results, but with a lag that you might not find acceptable.

              It might be

  • VP for Community Development of SpanDeX here. I just wanted to second Skidge's point that there are other options out there, one being SpanDeX. To an earlier comment, we also just released our API so that users can open what would otherwise be downloadable templates and TeX files directly into SpanDeX from inside their browser.

    SpanDeX Site Integration [spandex.io]

    Always good to spread the news about the rapidly-expanding cloud-based LaTeX options, but there are many and there should be as much exposure to the l
  • by sustik (90111) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:23PM (#42901345)

    \includegraphics[width=0.49\textwidth]{numiter.eps}

    When I tried to upload the numiter.eps file, I am getting a message that it has an unsupported extension.
    -Matyas

    • I'm one of the developers. We use pdflatex on the back end, so you're right: eps files aren't yet supported, but we are working on a converter. Thanks for the feedback :)
  • Thanks to Timothy for posting about writeLaTeX on here - I'm one of the developers and just got in from my Valentines day meal out to see the post! It's great to see the whole cloud-based LaTeX community taking off (as others have pointed out, there are lots of options out there for online LaTeX editing) - we've done a lot of work with the guys at LaTeX-Community.org and TeXample.net to allow all of their LaTeX examples to be opened in writeLaTeX with a single click for editing and sharing - we hope this i

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