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Can you recommend any tools or processes that are similar to MS Word track changes?

I am not looking to use a source control system (no svn or git), this is for working with non-programmers.

Do any of the widely-used latex frontends support tracking changes? Any web applications that do this?

The main features of track changes people like are

  1. See who changed what parts of the document
  2. Add side-comments (marginal comments) to a document which don't appear when printed
  3. Ability to accept or ignore someone elses' changes
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For those of us without MS Word, could you describe the essential features of its "track changes" that you wish to replicate. –  Loop Space Oct 1 '10 at 12:54
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See related question, Workflow for reviewing PDFs generated from TeX? –  Charles Stewart Oct 1 '10 at 13:02
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And to clarify the above comment: You can simply use MS Word to edit Latex source code. Then you will get a change-tracking tool that works exactly like MS Word. –  Jukka Suomela Oct 1 '10 at 14:30
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@SamB: You can work directly editing the source in Word, it works fine, I have done this many times with clients. Look at my answer in the other thread. You can differentiate content in .docx files using content controls, which you can use to do such things as make text uneditable, or be concealed. It's straightforward to do things like change the fonts and colouring of all the commands, Latex preamble, maths mode, etc. using macros, and it is possible to do some rough and ready parsing of Latex in VBA. –  Charles Stewart Oct 2 '10 at 9:11
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latexdiff is mentioned in tex.stackexchange.com/questions/161/… which would be useful on your end to see the changes your collaborators make, even if they make changes to the way the document is formatted. –  András Salamon Oct 2 '10 at 16:46

7 Answers 7

I've personally used the changes package http://www.ctan.org/tex-archive/macros/latex/contrib/changes/ to great effect, and if your collaborators are also users familiar with LaTeX, then it is simple to learn to use, though the markup may be a bit primitive. Also this doesn't satisfy part 3 of your question, since I don't know of any editors that incorporates this package.

A quick google search also brought up TrackChanges: http://trackchanges.sourceforge.net/ which has similar syntax and also a GUI program to accept/reject changes. Though I have not use it myself, so cannot offer recommendations for or against it.

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I know that you asked for answers not involving version control, but I'd like to look at them slightly obliquely. One approach is for you to send out plain LaTeX sources to your collaborators, receive them back and then for you to check them into a version control system of your choice. The idea here is that as far as everyone else is concerned there is nothing happening in terms of versions, except that you can tell them what changes they previously made when then change stuff back again! You gain the benefits of version control, your collaborators don't have to worry about it and hopefully things work out.

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I use a combination of this and the changes package mentioned by Willie Wong. –  Loop Space Oct 1 '10 at 18:14

I take it that you've considered using a full copy of Acrobat to make the PDFs commentable, and that this is not an option?

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Ahh, no, I had not. I guess this would work fine when the other people only want to make small comments. Also, I note that the built-in Viewer in the Mac lets one comment pdfs....good. –  jmvidal Oct 1 '10 at 12:35
    
Still, I am often co-authoring with other people who do use latex, and do want to edit large parts of the document. –  jmvidal Oct 1 '10 at 14:25
    
There's also PDF XChange Viewer which has a free (as in beer) demo version with annotation. It's written for windows, but it works well in Wine. –  naught101 Oct 2 '12 at 8:03

try LyX. It can handle change tracking with different colors in the source and the output file. See http://wiki.lyx.org/Tips/ChangeTrackingLyx1-3-2 for some more informations. It is really easy to use.

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If they can handle LaTeX, they can handle a version control system: they are computer people! Of course, SVN is not really appropriate (not distributed/sucks at merging), and git certainly has a rather sprawling user interface, so they might not be the best choices...

As to the marginal comments, you could use \marginpar (perhaps conditionally, if you're really set on this not showing up in all copies...), or you could just forget about the "marginal" aspect and use plain-old % TeX comments

Now, the accept/ignore thing might be a bit trickier, but if you're the only one that has to do that part I'm sure you can figure it out. Actually, this would be very easy with darcs, as long as you can get the changes committed in small enough pieces. (Unfortunately, the way it makes this easy leaves it with no real concept of history.)

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I've used SVN quite successfully for collaboration with people across the globe for writing papers in LaTeX. I don't see "not distributed" as being an issue at all. Having a single central repository is for the document is far better than having to update with everyone else. SVN merges lines at a time. If you're very careful, you could probably have multiple people edit a paragraph at a time, but practically, that's your limit. I don't find that particularly onerous. –  TH. Oct 1 '10 at 20:16
    
Okay, I suppose it probably works reasonably well for that, once you get a repository set up to be accessible to everyone. It doesn't really provide the accept/ignore functionality (feature 3), though. –  SamB Oct 2 '10 at 3:51

http://docs.latexlab.org/ is build on google docs, which does revision control i believe.

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http://docs.latexlab.org/ would be fantastic but the revision control is not working yet... If it does become available one day, it will be the best, everyone can edit the same latex file and see the resulting PDF online.

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