Slashdot: News for Nerds


Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Fidus Writer: Open Source Collaborative Editor For Non-Geek Academics

timothy posted 1 year,1 day | from the grad-school-procrastination-is-the-most-satisfying-kind dept.

Open Source 160

johanneswilm writes "While writing my Ph.D in anthropology I found out it's almost impossible to get non-geeks to help me with editing my thesis because it was written in Latex. Lyx is almost there, but as it's not web based, it's difficult to use for online collaboration. is online, but typing LaTeX code is a no-go for non-geeks. Google Docs is web based and near-WYSIWYG, but lacks support for professional print formats such as Latex. The Ph.D took longer than expected, so before finishing me and three others were able to code an entirely new editor: Fidus Writer: web based, open source (AGPL), almost-WYSIWYG and with tools for academics such as citation management and formula support and output formats PDF, Epub, Latex, HTML."

cancel ×


trees a crowd, innit? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#44402359)


Editor (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#44402361)

Tree isn't the same thing as three. Do your job or give up on it, jesus christ.

Re:Editor (5, Funny)

Em Adespoton (792954) | 1 year,1 day | (#44402371)

Do your job or give up on it, jesus christ.

Are you calling for the apocalypse, or is there something I don't know about the Slashdot "editorial" staff?

Re:Editor (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 hours | (#44403415)

More Mormonware - runs from the room screaming in horror!

Re:Editor (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 hours | (#44404415)

Do your job or give up on it, jesus christ.

Are you calling for the apocalypse, or is there something I don't know about the Slashdot "editorial" staff?

The outcome depends upon how you roll the ;-)

Re:Editor (2)

iggymanz (596061) | 1 year,1 day | (#44402425)

I would be honored myself if three Ents helped me with a web project while at grad school

Re:Editor (0)

Smivs (1197859) | 1 year,1 day | (#44402459)

Also a typo on the website page [] as well - '...announce that te Fidus Writer source code...'
Not creating a good impression, which is a shame as this actually looks like it has potential.

Re:Editor (1)

johanneswilm (549816) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402631)

My h-key has a problem. I don't think that will influence much how people will see Fidus Writer. But thanks for the pointer!

Re:Editor (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402789)

I don't think that will influence much how people will see Fidus Writer.

You would be wrong. If what you write about Fidus Writer (*) seems sloppy, it's only natural to assume that your code is sloppy too. You want us to at least try your program, not just dismiss it as "probably buggy", right?

(*) Is it "Fidus Writer" or "Fiduswriter"? You use both on the website. Make up your mind and stick with one name. Sloppy!

pop the key off and clean under it, sloppiness (1)

raymorris (2726007) | 1 year,21 hours | (#44403105)

You can probably fix that H key in a few seconds by cleaning under it.
Also, as the AC said, if your work is sloppy, people will think your work is sloppy.

Re:Editor (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402787)

Think about it. He must have really needed help proof-reading his thesis! I mean, he wrote a new program just for the purpose.

Re: Editor (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402625)

Not to mention that it is "and I" not "me and".

grammar nazi (1)

westlake (615356) | 1 year,22 hours | (#44402899)

Tree isn't the same thing as three. Do your job or give up on it, jesus christ.

"me and three others" seems a little off as well.

Re:grammar nazi (1)

icebike (68054) | 1 year,20 hours | (#44403461)

Thought the same thing....

The Ph.D took longer than expected, so before finishing me and three others

Ph.Ds generally do take a bit longer than expected when one starts in the 4th grade.
But if he had waited until he had mastered the 6th grade, his editing task would have been so much easier.

Re:grammar nazi (3, Insightful)

markdavis (642305) | 1 year,20 hours | (#44403529)

>"The Ph.D took longer than expected, so before finishing *me* and three others were able to code an entirely new editor"

A Ph.D that makes a mistake that glaring is a sad thing.... we are talking very basic English.

Re:grammar nazi (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | 1 year,17 hours | (#44404161)

I'm so glad that I decided to check out the comments before saying something about that. Personally, I'm wondering if knowing English grammar is a requirement for a Ph.D at whatever University he's at. And if not, why isn't it?

Tree Others (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#44402369)

Tree others? Sounds like an interesting project.

Re:Tree Others (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | 1 year,1 day | (#44402393)

Tree others? Sounds like an interesting project.

Especially when you look at the Fidus Writer logo... I'm sure people will be hounding them for weeks!

Re:Tree Others (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402493)

Dr. Freud wants his slip back.

Best of both worlds (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#44402451)

LaTeX and online collaboration. What more can you ask for?
MonkeyTeX [] .

Re:Best of both worlds (0)

johanneswilm (549816) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402605)

Yes, problem is that normal people cannot write latex code and will not ever be able to read it.

Re:Best of both worlds (2)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402661)

LaTeX and online collaboration. What more can you ask for?
MonkeyTeX [] .

other people who know latex?

Re:Best of both worlds (2)

mrchaotica (681592) | 1 year,19 hours | (#44403603)

other people who know latex?

I'm sure lots of people know latex (ask around at a sex shop to find out).

That esoteric typesetting system, on the other hand...

Um... for a Ph.D.? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402471)

Sorry, why do you need to collaborate on a Ph.D. thesis? Genuinely curious, as when I did my Ph.D., the work was mine, the text was mine, and it was 10x faster for my advisor to make comments in pen.

Also... "The Ph.D took longer than expected"... hahaha... (a) of course; (b) so, you're American? (As many European countries have fixed Ph.D. lengths.)

Also... what is with people trying to make LaTeX WYSIWYG? That's like trying to make an interface for driving a car by giving the driver an R/C controller.

And finally... why do you need to collaborate on the text of a Ph.D.?

Re:Um... for a Ph.D.? (1)

johanneswilm (549816) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402499)

well, because advisors don't make comments in pen any more, if you are not a native English speaker you are regularly asked to get others to check the text, etc. If you want to publish as a book, you need to collaborate even more.

Re:Um... for a Ph.D.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402743)

Sure they do. But if you find yourself in such a case, it is quite impressive that you do not just do whatever your advisor suggested. To do otherwise needlessly causes friction for everyone, to no obvious benefit.

Re:Um... for a Ph.D.? (3, Interesting)

smoothnorman (1670542) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402785)

In the late 90s (yeah might as well be 12,000 years ago) i did my PhD in Latex; but, two of my Profs *insisted* on editing bits (in retrospect, mostly adding pointless elaboration) with MSWord. (one committee member didn't even understand how any document wasn't the same as a "word file"). So, i learned to use rtf2latex (and similar tools for bibliography and index), back and forth; email RTF, convert it back, (if the addition was over a three sentences). It wasn't bad at all when one learned maintain all tables and figures as merely included files. It was all worth it when the thesis committees, who check tedium like margins to within a millimeter and equation formatting, passed my thesis right off; while my grad-school mates that used MSWord all had their format go wrong when the "approved font" was applied.

Re:Um... for a Ph.D.? (4, Interesting)

gwolf (26339) | 1 year,22 hours | (#44402971)

A book I published almost two years ago underwent a similar, painful process. I (as the coordinator) had it all typeset in LaTeX. It was not perfect, but it was beautiful already. The university (social science research institute) sent it (the PDF I gave them, as per their request) to the style corrector. I got back... An ugly MS Word document with some corrections included in it (but not version-controlled or anything like that, not even MS Word's sorry replacement for a real version correction). Merging that back into the original was way beyond painful.
The second round of style correction was, fortunately, done different. I was able to work through the process with our editor, fixing some details out of common aggreement (and not only accepting their changes as during the first round, where I even spotted places where the style corrector misunderstood and even reversed the meaning of some fo the sentences). The second revision was not a piece of cake, but it made me learn quite a bit about editorial reasons and aesthetics, and had me way happier at the end. And the editor even learnt a bit about LaTeX as well.

Re:Um... for a Ph.D.? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 hours | (#44404037)

Right tool for the job, stop pounding nails with a hammer, etc.

Latex is typesetting tool. It's designed to take final materials and make them look good in print publications.

Word is an editing tool. Word "processing", as they say. It sucks for any sort of high-quality publication, but you can get what you see on your local inkjet printer.

Word -> Tex is used by real publishing houses as a final step. Unlike the typical PhD student, they have mastered the concept of "division of labor" and don't typeset a document until it is finalized.

The problem is Word is not the lack of "print ready". It is that Word's collaborative editing model is firmly rooted in the 1990s model of sneakerware and emailing documents. And kludging SharePoint on the side doesn't really change the nature of the beast.

The endgame here is a collaborative web application, which provides Word-style collaborative editing capability while able to export structured markup to a Latex-style typesetting program. A healthy dose of user-friendly Git-like functionality is needed too. Google Docs is like WordPad.exe compared what could be done in this space.

LaTeX (2)

gd2shoe (747932) | 1 year,22 hours | (#44402837)

Also... what is with people trying to make LaTeX WYSIWYG? That's like trying to make an interface for driving a car by giving the driver an R/C controller.

It's better than climbing beneath the car and moving the steering rack by hand! Seriously, hand-editing of documents is extraordinarily unpractical without WYSIWYG feedback for at least 98% of all edits. Hand editing is for fine tuning only! And people wonder why LaTeX is so unpopular?

Re:LaTeX (1)

gwolf (26339) | 1 year,22 hours | (#44402981)

It might feel old-fashioned for some bits, but the results are completely worth it.

Re:LaTeX (2)

adri (173121) | 1 year,19 hours | (#44403797)

Why? Seriously? Because you want your print layout to be tightly controlled?

It's totally practical to do large scale document editing without WYSIWYG. Know why? Because we all did it before word 6.0 became a defacto standard. We would concentrate on document content first, then design a layout, then flow the content into that layout. Yes, like the HTML/CSS split.

These days people do poster layouts in _excel_.

Gah, sometimes I wish my beard were longer.

Why web-based? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402485)

Why would it be a problem that LyX or other editors are not web-based? Just mail your document to your editors, have them mail their changed versions back, and if needed, keep track of everything in a local version control repository.

Re:Why web-based? (1)

johanneswilm (549816) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402641)

The problem is that mailing docs around is a nihtmar when dealing with more than two people. "Who has the last version?" I tried a combination of Lyx and Dropbox, but also that was borderline too difficult and I needed to perform te installation myself for each person participating in it.

I can't imagine the Ph.D is that interesting (0)

Krishnoid (984597) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402505)

Compared to who you were able to find [] to help you code up the website.

Oh wait, I think there's a typo in there somewhere -- sorry.

booktype (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402509)

This might do the trick:

Re:booktype (2)

johanneswilm (549816) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402569)

not really.Booktype cannot do Latex, nor citation management, nor formulas, nor footnotes nor any of the other things academics need. But Booktype has recently obtained better looking PDF output. I programmed the javascript part of that. Check []

Just use pandoc (1)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402535)

Personally, I use LaTeX but for docs without many formulas pandoc works fine.

You don't need a special editor at all.

Re:Just use pandoc (1)

johanneswilm (549816) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402621)

The trouble is that non-geeks are not able to write or edit latex documents.

Re:Just use pandoc (0)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402627)

That's why I recommended pandoc and not LateX.

Write in a Word Processor, Format in Latex (3, Interesting)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402559)

Why not just create your content in something that all of your non-geek friends are happy to use (Word with track changes, for instance) and then spend a short time formatting it when you're done writing?

Re:Write in a Word Processor, Format in Latex (5, Insightful)

johanneswilm (549816) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402583)

because this is not "a short time". I have had the job of converting Word to Latex for an anthropology journal in Norway before. it took months and months as te original authors found errors and would send me emails wit instructions such as "on page 218, in the third paragraph, please add a comma after the word 'fish'." I would get tons and tons of these emails every day. a cmplete nightmare.

Re:Write in a Word Processor, Format in Latex (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402675)

Formatting a long document takes long time. LaTeX does things right, Word does not.

Re:Write in a Word Processor, Format in Latex (2)

physicsphairy (720718) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402729)

A doctoral thesis may be hundreds of pages and the embedding of figures, equations, citations, footnotes, etc., is something fundamentally important to what is being presented, not something you figure out after-the-fact, and certainly not something you want to figure out twice using an entirely different set of tools. Anyway, your assumption is that the purpose of using LaTeX is 100% stylistic. A lot of us use it because it's easier and saves time for what we are trying to achieve. Your method with be rather counterproductive on that point.

Better yet, edit in an editor (1)

Arker (91948) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402779)

If the poster is sophisticated enough to be using LaTeX I would think he would realise that you shouldnt be editing and typesetting at the same time anyway. Edit in an editor. Once the editing is done, format it with LaTeX.

You can use any editor you want, although MSWord is probably the worst excuse for an editor you will find, it's still capable of spitting out text so it should work.

Re:Better yet, edit in an editor (1)

greg1104 (461138) | 1 year,18 hours | (#44403931)

Separating text creation and formatting into two steps doesn't help with anything but very early editor review. Most of the really useful editing and review happens after formatting. Editing feedback should even include comments on whether the formatting is working usefully to improve the message quality.

Even if you did split these phases up more usefully on the document creation tool side, there are a good chunk of thesis works where the text without formatted equations isn't readable at all. The text side of documentation creation and editing can be a very small fraction of the total work in this sort of paper.

Help Editing? (2)

sk999 (846068) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402561)

Help with editing your thesis?

For my thesis I did have help - wrote everything out longhand, then had three department secretaries typing up various chapters. (This was all on IBM Selectrics with acid-free paper. Figures were outsourced to the Graphic Arts department, where professional artists did a much better job than the computer-generated junk of today.) Editing was done with liquid paper and glue.

What is this "Latex" thing?

Re:Help Editing? (2)

Trepidity (597) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402601)

What is this "Latex" thing?

It's like roff, but better.

Re:Help Editing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 hours | (#44402869)

Ok, we get it, you had other people do the whole editing for you. Great job.

Macintosh, Stupid. (-1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402567)

Write anything in almost any program on a Mac in OS X. Share it using any "collaborative" service you like. Use any math formula editors (including the one supplied by Mozilla). When you are done save it to the NOW STANDARD (as opposed to Latex, which is TOO MANY years old) .PDF format with a simple "Save As...".

It's not QUITE that cut-and-dried, but almost. Trying to find LateX support in modern software is kind of like trying to find COBOL support in modern software. Well, maybe not quite as bad. But still... it's clearly outdated.

I don't necessarily agree with PDF being a standard, either, but it's a hell of a lot better supported than LateX these days. And while you might have trouble finding a way to convert Document X, written in some proprietary standard, to a final PDF, you will have a lot less problem than trying to convert it to LateX.

I strongly suggest you find something that works with the Open Document standard. Open Office (or Libre Office) is a good way to start. You can edit formulas. And it's a global standard.

Re:Macintosh, Stupid. (1)

johanneswilm (549816) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402595)

One only uss Latex to create a PDF with it. The point is that Latex makes really beautiful PDFs. word, Libreoffice, etc. make PDFs, but they are not really nice looking enough to make a book of them.

Re:Macintosh, Stupid. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402753)

"word, Libreoffice, etc. make PDFs, but they are not really nice looking enough to make a book of them."

That's funny, since that's how most books are made these days.

Not Word, granted. But then I am a developer, and I have very few friends who have used Word for anything serious, for many years.

Re:Macintosh, Stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402615)

This requires a Mac why? I'm pretty sure "Print to PDF" isn't an OSX exclusive feature.

Re:Macintosh, Stupid. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | 1 year,21 hours | (#44403161)

It's not exclusive to Mac applications. There are lots of applications from all major OSes that will do that. However, unique to Macs (as far as I know) is that it is built right in to the low-level printer-driver structure of the OS: anything on a Mac that will print at all, will also save to PDF.

Re:Macintosh, Stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,21 hours | (#44403273)

Linux and Windows have had PDF or PS printer drivers for ages.

LaTeX, really? (0)

Gravis Zero (934156) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402587)

While writing my Ph.D in anthropology I found out it's almost impossible to get non-geeks to help me with editing my thesis because it was written in Latex

is this really a surprise? seriously, why would you expect for someone someone that is doing you a favor to learn something that is alien to them?

Google Docs is web based and near-WYSIWYG, but lacks support for professional print formats such as Latex

ok, so you expected people to learn LaTeX but you can be bothered to reformat the page after someone edits it for you? WTF?

i understand you want peer review but people are putting in effort to help you. the very least you could do is to put in some effort to accommodate them in return. it's this kind of bullshit behavior that gives geeks like me a bad name. stop telling people there is/was nothing wrong with GIMP and that they are holding their phone wrong!

johanneswilm, you are ruining geekdom for the rest of us!


Re:LaTeX, really? (1, Interesting)

johanneswilm (549816) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402655)

Yes, my contribution is this very program. The reformatting is a LOT of work. If people use MsWord, Libreoffice or alike, it cannot be done automatically.

Re:LaTeX, really? (1)

Waldeinburg (737568) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402739)

How do you know that he expected them to learn LaTeX? Were in the summary and the linked ./ article does he write that?

Re:LaTeX, really? (1)

johanneswilm (549816) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402791)

You are right, I never did that. I expected there to be tools to handle this type of situation. I looked... and found nothing quite satisfying. Which is why Fidus Writer was started.

Re:LaTeX, really? (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | 1 year,22 hours | (#44402833)

No one has to know LaTeX to edit a LaTeX document. It's the simplest possible thing to do other than editing plain text. Just edit the text and leave the commands alone.

On the other hand, if it's in Word or some other strange format, strangers can and will mess it up by editing it. Most word processors do not discourage editors from tweaking styles and layouts and the look and indentation and whatnot. WYSIWYG is the enemy of good writing.

Re:LaTeX, really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 hours | (#44403651)

When I did my dissertation, I gave people two copies. One as a pdf so all the figures and what-not would show as it would in the end and the other in RTF for actual text. That way, any changes to anything other than the text had to be sent to me in email form for fixing that way, so they didn't have to learn anything new; editing the text could be done in whatever program they wanted; and Word made spotting differences easy as I had a copy of the file I sent them, so I could make the changes in the master document.

Re: LaTeX, really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 hours | (#44403669)

I have 16 books (my second college textbook comes out shortly), 4 peer reviewed journal articles, and over 2,500 published articles to my credit. I can work with latex, but no one I collaborate with does, making latex more than useless to me. I write in word. It just works. Yes, you have quarks to work with, but they are well known.

Re: LaTeX, really? (3)

RoccamOccam (953524) | 1 year,18 hours | (#44403835)

Yes, you have quarks to work with, but they are well known.

And, luckily, there are only six known types.

Re:LaTeX, really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 hours | (#44402989)

i understand you want peer review but people are putting in effort to help you. the very least you could do is to put in some effort to accommodate them in return. it's this kind of bullshit behavior that gives geeks like me a bad name.

You mean like writing an entire WYSIWYG editor with advanced features for academics. Is that the kind of effort you are talking about?

And this, folks, (1)

NoMaster (142776) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402629)

... is why you write your thesis in whatever is the standard editor for your field. In the humanities and some sciences that's often Word; in mathematics / IT / etc it's usually Tex.

First you look at the journals in your field where you're likely to be published, then you choose an editor, and only then do you start properly writing your thesis.

(p.s. Most journals across most fields accept .pdf as a baseline - but you'll have fun when it comes to receiving back revisions, tracking changes, etc.)

Re:And this, folks, (1)

johanneswilm (549816) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402673)

Look, there currently is no working solution.People in the humanities write in Word. But what if they want to publish? Well, word print out looks really crap. So instead someone is hired locally (or 200 people in China) to do the conversion to some format that can be converted into a nice-looking PDF.

Re:And this, folks, (1)

Trepidity (597) | 1 year,22 hours | (#44402925)

Yeah, the standard solution in the humanities right now is basically a person who will laboriously reformat your Word document into the journal's layout, usually using something like Adobe InDesign.

This often produces nice-looking typesetting done by a professional, but it's expensive and one barrier to making things go open-access. If you're in a field where you can expect people to do their own typesetting in LaTeX, then you can run a no-expenses journal [] .

Re:And this, folks, (4, Informative)

pruss (246395) | 1 year,19 hours | (#44403713)

I vaguely recall that early on in my philosophy career, I produced a lovely manuscript in LaTeX. The journal insisted that I convert it to Word. I put the effort in to do that. Finally, I get the galleys, with my Word file typeset by the journal's typesetters in India. And it was obviously LaTeX that they used at the typesetting end! I was annoyed. But eventually, I just switched to using Word for most things.

However, more recently I've gone back to using LaTeX for a fair amount of my philosophical writing, partly as my writing has got more technical. I've noticed that many journals accept LaTeX as is (I don't know if that's a new thing). Some do require Word. But my thinking is that I typically don't know which journal the paper will end up accepted by, LaTeX is more fun to write in, the paper is easier to adapt into a Beamer presentation (I've found Powerpoint too difficult and cumbersome), the manuscript will look prettier to referees for whatever that may be worth, and if I need to do one final conversion after acceptance, that's annoying (it can take a while, as I have to go through the text sentence by sentence to make sure nothing was screwed up) but not a very big deal.

And perhaps most importantly, if I use LaTeX, my content and style aren't biased by the limitations of Word. For instance, it would be a big nuisance to include a Fitch-style formal logic proof in a paper in Word. So I probably wouldn't bother, even if doing so would help the reader. Likewise, perhaps throwing in a formula or some symbols with subscripts would be stylistically optimal, but because these things are harder to type in Word than in LaTeX, I might not bother ($x_2$ is more natural for me to type than ctrl-i x ctrl-i ctrl-= 2 ctrl-=, and with LaTeX you don't have the problem that if in later editing you later try to insert a comma after it, Word wants to subscript the comma).

Moreover, for collaboration, plain text formats work very well with svn (there are no do doubt better rcs's, but svn is what I'm used to) as I and my coauthor can easily view the latest diffs, either from the commandline or the web. I suppose Google Docs has nice good collaboration features, too, but they aren't an option for me as Google Docs doesn't have the automatic cross-referencing features that Word and LaTeX have and that I tend to rely heavily on (I just tried Fidus and couldn't find cross-referencing for numbered lists, nor a way to make the numbering resume after an interruption of a numbered list).

So, yes, even in the humanities it can be worth using LaTeX, though admittedly much of my work is on the technical end of the humanities (e.g., I prove not entirely trivial theorems).

Re:And this, folks, (1)

greg1104 (461138) | 1 year,18 hours | (#44403971)

My publisher takes in Word documents with a very limited style sheet set they provide, and then turn that into a typeset format without a labor intensive manual process in the middle. It is possible to use Word as a simpler tool to make automatic conversions simpler. There isn't very much style discipline in your average Word document though.

The main advantage of newer revision control software in this context is improved merging. If three people work on the same document, and you need to combine all those sets of changes, something like git is going to make that easier. Tools like Subversion that force a more linear flow are fine for when documents are formally passed between two parties, but they don't really scale up to lots of people working in parallel on things.

Re:And this, folks, (1)

ljw1004 (764174) | 1 year,18 hours | (#44403975)

Likewise, perhaps throwing in a formula or some symbols with subscripts would be stylistically optimal, but because these things are harder to type in Word than in LaTeX, I might not bother ($x_2$ is more natural for me to type than ctrl-i x ctrl-i ctrl-= 2 ctrl-=, and with LaTeX you don't have the problem that if in later editing you later try to insert a comma after it, Word wants to subscript the comma).

Have you tried equations in Word? Since 2010, you type them in "linear" mode. So if you wanted x with "2" subscript then you'd write


It doesn't have macro support, so it won't be good for recreating domain-specific notation, but it's fine for normal notation. You'll also find that for equations like "T_2" looks better in Word than in TeX/LaTeX because Word kerns based on which quadrant of the glyph is being subscripted - so you don't have to do manual kerning.

Re:And this, folks, (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | 1 year,22 hours | (#44402923)

And then if it's wrong, it takes 2 minutes to copy all the next to a different format. Provided it doesn't have lots of equations.

HTML with MathML right? You didn't skimp on that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402727)

Or did you just rely on some javascript library?

Re:HTML with MathML right? You didn't skimp on tha (1)

johanneswilm (549816) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402773)

As the implementation of MathML in browsers currently isn't good enough for everyday use we use mathjax for that.

I'm totally weirded out right now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402751)

I think this is how girls feel when guys approach in the wrong way.

We've got a guy hawking editing software. He apparently has a problem with his 'h' key on his keyboard. That seems weird to me because I would think he would have to use that key quite often while coding. But even so, if the key isn't working properly and he's aware of it, you'd think he would look out for that while editing anything he writes (like the submission, and his website).

His responses in these threads seem really defensive (even where that isn't appropriate). But there's nothing really offered as a defense.

Add to that, you go to the website and the first thing you see is The Book of Mormon. Now, I'm not down on anyone's choice of religion, but that really weirded me out.

So anyway, I don't know WHAT is really going on here and I can't be bothered to figure it out. And I'm guessing that's how girls feel when they're creeped out by males using the wrong approach.

Re:I'm totally weirded out right now. (0)

johanneswilm (549816) | 1 year,23 hours | (#44402767)

If it makes you feel better - I am an atheist. I put the Book of Mormon there as a joke. I recognize it is a very particular kind of humor.

Wrong place for humor. (1)

Quasimodem (719423) | 1 year,20 hours | (#44403375)

Seeing that illustration of “The Book of Mormon” under a headline which stated that “Fidus Writer can now create entire books,” I assumed you were claiming that Joseph Smith “translated” it using Fidus Writer? I must confess, I was a trifle dubious.

Welcome to the real world (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 hours | (#44402813)

Simply put, if you are the only one editing the document and you are going to publish as a PDF the by all means use LaTex. BUT, if you are going to have anyone else look at the document then you have two choices: 1. Do it twice, once in the format the other person is comfortable with and then convert to LaTex. Or 2. Do it once in the format the other person is comfortable using.

I have personally fought this battle and I finally resigned myself to using MS Word. There is a reason MS is still in business... Everyone else uses their products even if you and I don't... Therefore, use MS Word... Get to know it... Learn to work around it's problems...

In the long run, my time is more valuable than trying to create a document twice.

Re:Welcome to the real world (1)

greg1104 (461138) | 1 year,17 hours | (#44404027)

You're implying here that Microsoft's products here are only better due to their user base. That's not quite fair. The way Word allows leaving document comments, reviewing them, and even directly accepting edits is the best workflow for review around. Even OpenOffice trails pretty far behind in this area, the UI isn't nearly as slick. There's nothing I'm aware of that allows a similarly powerful editor feedback cycle for formatted documents. As a full time developer / part time writer, I'm fine with using a version control system for handling LaTeX diffs, treating proposed review changes like a source code branch merge. But even with full mastery of tools like git for that, it's still clearly inferior to the review tool chain in Word.

Convert it to something else (2)

wiredlogic (135348) | 1 year,22 hours | (#44402867)

It's not like you can't convert *TeX to some other format that can be reviewed by your colleagues. You know like PDF or *gasp* pain text. Then you just take their notes and use them to revise your thesis. Problem solved.

Re:Convert it to something else (1)

greg1104 (461138) | 1 year,18 hours | (#44403999)

It's hard enough to get reviewers to look at things, provide feedback, and then usefully apply that feedback when it's clear and unambiguous what they are commenting on. If your review feedback annotation isn't very tightly tied to the original document, you're just wasting everyone's time. Good review feedback isn't in the form of scribbled notes. It's very tightly targeted to avoid ambiguity, and easy to merge back into the original document too. Every additional step put into the way makes the process less efficient and useful.

And good editor feedback includes suggestions on whether the formatting is helping communicate your message. Even when it's possible to use plain text, you're reducing the value of the editing by doing that. (It may not be feasible at all if the thesis is formula heavy)

Requires Facebook, Twitter or Google account... (4, Interesting)

knarf (34928) | 1 year,22 hours | (#44402953)

I gave it a try, installed the source, followed the instructions, opened the page in a browser and... was greeted by an error message telling me it needed a 'Facebook app' or some other social drivel.

Facebook? Are they serious? I opened a bug report:

I thought to give Fidus a try by installing the source and following the directions. When I tried to log in to my freshly minted server it told me I couldn't because I had not configured a 'Facebook app'. Looking through the Django config page I noticed it only gives the options of using Facebook, Twitter and Google. Neither of these are acceptable in any environment which has even the slightest respect for an author's privacy and confidentiality.

Please make it possible to use Fidus using either a 'private' 'social' 'app' (lots of quotes there, for different reasons) or by foregoing on the social fad entirely. Since Fidus seems to be about getting work done I don't see the need for more 'social' distraction anyway.

Re:Requires Facebook, Twitter or Google account... (4, Informative)

johanneswilm (549816) | 1 year,21 hours | (#44403137)

We use a django app for that. wat you can do is go to /admin, log in and create a facebook app in which you set the key and secret to an arbitrary value. that takes away the error message. Please go ahead and file that bug report to those who created the django app. [] I was filing it previously and was told to forget about it.

Re:Requires Facebook, Twitter or Google account... (2)

johanneswilm (549816) | 1 year,21 hours | (#44403179)

and yes, I will look into fixing my h key. ;)

Google Docs CAN DO LaTEX (3, Informative)

alfski (2885853) | 1 year,21 hours | (#44403095)

The Latex-lab guys have LaTeX for Google Docs working very well. Our maths faculty use it all the time. See [] Source []

Re:Google Docs CAN DO LaTEX (2)

iliketrash (624051) | 1 year,20 hours | (#44403431)

Well, this does look interesting. I played with it for 15 minutes and: I can't think of anything worse than writing anything of any significant length inside a browser. This bypasses all of the hard work that my OS provider (Apple) has spent for decades polishing a decent user interface. As far as I can tell, everything has to be done using the mouse/trackpad—no keystroke shortcuts.

Also, compiling even the short sample document is excruciatingly slow. There is an option to use my local TeXLive installation but the radio button to select it was disabled. If one really wants an easier-to-use LaTeX editor, there are free ones that also provide one with menu-selectable math items.

Does Not Work (1, Informative)

hduff (570443) | 1 year,21 hours | (#44403261)

Hey there!

Unfortunately, Fiduswriter currently only works on Google Chrome. We are working to provide support for Mozilla Firefox.

I'll be back then.

Re:Does Not Work (1)

johanneswilm (549816) | 1 year,21 hours | (#44403279)

You are welcome to program that part as well. One main problem is that firefox is even more broken than Chrome/Safari when it comes to many editing issues.

Re:Does Not Work (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 hours | (#44403861)

That's because it's a web browser!

Latex? Really? Whatever for? (1)

macbeth66 (204889) | 1 year,21 hours | (#44403321)

Perhaps as an exercise in pain? Any word processor will do.

Nice time management (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 hours | (#44403343)

You managed to write your thesis and develop some software on the side without it being included in the thesis. Impressive management of funding and "real life" on the side.

Re:Nice time management (1)

Shavano (2541114) | 1 year,20 hours | (#44403455)

I didn't get that from the summary. What I learned was that the Ph.D. took longer than expected to finish johanneswilm and others. I hope they paid her well.

the elephant (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | 1 year,20 hours | (#44403539)

Uhm, it's YOUR THESIS. This isn't a collaborative undertaking. You're supposed to write it yourself. (*)

(*) Just an important safety tip, to prevent you from waking up one day and finding out the hard way.

huh...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 hours | (#44403611)

I mean WTF. "Google Docs is web based and near-WYSIWYG, but lacks support for professional print formats..." this is not 1980 when you needed a typesetter to run LaTex for an offset press. Now days any text rich processor will translate just fine into any professional printer.
Is this just an experiment in anthropology? Trying to get a bunch of smart (or semi-smart) folk into chatting about nothing.
Oh's just another Timothy submission.
Nothing to see here... just teenage antics.

Use Bakoma Tex (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 hours | (#44403629)

It is a WYSIWYG editor for Windows.

editors should not edit latex (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | 1 year,18 hours | (#44403803)

I mean, really talk about lazy. You want your editors manually correcting your document files? Editors should be reading final hard copy and you making the corrections.

Latex plus Git (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 hours | (#44403811)

Sure, people might have to learn some new software. But people in academia are smart and should be able to handle that.
In the end you have achieved all goals. Collaborative writing; tables, equations, figures etc can all be produced independently; version control, branches off site backups...
Most people don't know how to use Word properly anyway which is why you often get to see such horribly organized documents.

LaTeX is fine (1)

stenvar (2789879) | 1 year,17 hours | (#44404087)

LaTeX is quite simple for people to learn. In fact, in my experience, many people find it easier than learning some app because all they really need is a cheat sheet listing the commands. Looking at FidusWriter, it doesn't seem easier to me than Writelatex.

Presentation isn't your concern (4, Insightful)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | 1 year,17 hours | (#44404167)

Hello, I've been writing books for close to 20 years. In addition, for most of the last decade, I've also been a co-maintainer of ~30,000 pages of technical documentation for a well-known family of Open Source software products (one of which is used on Slashdot's backend). This documentation is updated and re-published in toto on a daily basis, in about a dozen end-user formats.

If you're an author, then you're supposed to be writing meaningful content. This means that you should be concentrating on data and semantics.

Presentation and layout should not be your concern--leave this to the professionals (editors and layout people).

Otherwise, use DocBook XML and MathML to author your content, then transform to PDF, RTF, Word, HTML, or whatever end-user format(s) are required using the appropriate toolchain and transforms. There are heaps and heaps of XSLT stylesheets out there for this purpose. You can tweak these as desired/necessary, and it's at this stage--and not before--that you should be even the slightest bit worried about how things look.

If there is one thing that many years in this game have taught me, it's that futzing with presentation issues while you're trying to write merely serves as a huge distraction. And that it is counterproductive to reinvent the wheel for every writing project, which is what formats that munge together content and presentation at the expense of semantics invariably force you to do.

I know it's fashionable around here to disparage XML, but text + semantic markup + styles/transforms works very, very well for producing dense technical material that preserves semantics while providing an easy way to publish something that's pleasing to the eye. For the last 10 years or so, I've refused to use anything else for this purpose. I strongly encourage anyone who's planning to write anything over a few paragraphs in length to check it out.

As for collaboration--why do you even have to ask? Pick a revision control system and use it. Depending on the project and who I'm working with, this would be SVN or BZR for me, but there are many choices. Choose one of them.

Re:Presentation isn't your concern (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,16 hours | (#44404275)

Mr. The Mindless,

Can you provide links/examples/resources? Your suggestions make sense and I'd like to give them a try.

Re:Presentation isn't your concern (2)

dkf (304284) | 1 year,16 hours | (#44404419)

use DocBook XML and MathML to author your content

The reasons you give are approximately the same ones as people give for preferring LaTeX; the differences seem to come down to whether people prefer angle brackets or backslashes. (Yeah, there are many more differences, but not so many that most authors actually care about.)

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account