Many researchers like writing their publications in LaTeX for various reasons. However, when it comes to writing joint publications with more than one party working on the document – often simultaneously, as the deadline looms! – standard editors, e.g., Kile or TeXnicCenter, do not provide any integrated solution.
One approach is to use a version control system, e.g., SVN, GIT, Mercurial or Dropbox-like environments. SVN, Git and Mercurial (with some extension) do have support for locking files; this can be used to ensure that one author’s work is not overwritten by that of another author. However, this process is a little clunky, often requiring checks and co-ordination to ensure that there are not conflicts in the editing process. Further, none of the above systems has a sophisticated document oriented change tracking feature such as that provided by Microsoft Word.
Here, we list some of the more interesting options and highlight some of their main features and pricing options. As interoperability across all major operating systems is desired, solutions that run in the browser are much preferred. The following tools were noted:
A high level comparison of these tools, noting some of the key features and payment options, is included below.
Table 1: Feature comparison of the three online LaTeX editors
|DropBox / Google
|Yes (diff)/Yes (soon)||No/Yes||Yes (diff)|
|Price||Free / $8 – $30
|Free / $50 per year||Free/$95 – $295|
In summary, all three listed online solutions provide quite similar features but differ somewhat in pricing. One important differentiator for ShareTeX is that it has good EPS support, which is quite important when working with LaTeX documents – if EPS support is needed, then this is the only option today. If EPS support is not required and there is significant collaboration, writeLaTeX is probably the best choice due to the unlimited number of collaborators and the promise that it stays free – it has the drawback that there is a storage limit of 1GB, but this is really quite a lot when working with LaTeX documents.
If more advanced features are required, e.g., Dropbox integration or GIT access, SpanDeX is a good choice, although it does involve a cost; it is significantly cheaper than ShareLaTeX and even provides full track change capabilities. ShareLaTeX is undoubtedly a good tool, but it seems difficult to justify its price point today as is evident from the feature set above.