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Context: I prepare my scientific documents using LaTeX and compile to a PDF. I often need to seek comments on drafts from collaborators who do not use LaTeX. Most of these collaborators use Windows OS. Assume also that the collaborator does not need to edit the document. They only need to be able to add comments to the document. Most would be familiar with the commenting system in MS Word, for example. I'd like to be able to give the collaborator some clear instructions about what software and system they should use to comment on the draft. This should involve free software and an easy to use interface.

Question: What is a good strategy for getting comments on draft documents when the collaborator does not know LaTeX?

Initial thoughts: I know Adobe professional allows you to add comments to a PDF. However, some collaborators don't have this software and it costs money.

I could send the raw LaTeX to the collaborator. However, given all the markup, the collaborator may find LaTeX source a bit mysterious.

UPDATE: After posting I noticed Andrew Stacey's answer to a similar question. Along with a number of other good tips (such as printing and getting paper comments), he mentions jarnal, xournal, and gournal as free cross-platform PDF annotators. I'd be curious to know whether experts have found them adequate for the above mentioned purpose and whether any of them are to be preferred. Others mention FoXIt. And yet others discuss the option of exporting to MS Word or Open Office and using the reviewing system within these programs.

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This question doesn't have anything to do with TeX. It's about getting comments/annotations on a PDF. There are probably better fora for this question. Voting to close. –  TH. Oct 24 '10 at 13:07
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@TH I disagree. PDF is not the only solution to the broader challenge of collaborating with people who do not use LaTeX while wanting to continue to use LaTeX. As I have mentioned, you could export to a number of different formats (HTML, Open Office, PDF). I am seeking advice from users of LaTeX on how best to deal with this situation which is intrinsic to working with LaTeX. I would think this would be of interest to other LaTeX users in a similar situation to me. –  Jeromy Anglim Oct 24 '10 at 13:22
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Teach your collaborators LaTeX. They will thank you. Eventually. –  Seamus Oct 26 '10 at 11:55
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@Seamus - I think I would have had better luck achieving World peace than I would have at getting my committee members to use LaTeX. –  KennyPeanuts May 20 '11 at 13:42
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Collaborative editing is one place where Word-like systems have us beat pretty good. Unless you happen to be blessed with a team that knows both LaTeX and version control. –  Sharpie May 20 '11 at 18:31
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7 Answers

up vote 21 down vote accepted

Get them to print the document and mark on it, then fax it to you. (If they have a fast scanner, they could scan and email, instead of faxing.)

Then, collect all of the marked-up documents and make the first-author decisions as to what to change. (Yes, there will be conflicts in the suggestions.)

Alternatively, turn on line numbering and get them to send you plain-text emails with comments tied to lines.

These methods work. Twiddling with PDF comments may be of use in text-only material, but scientific work normally is awash in symbols and diagrams, and suggesting changes to these is very hard in text-only form.

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+1 for line numbering. –  Seamus Oct 26 '10 at 11:56
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+1 @Dan Thanks. Plain text comments based on line numbers is an elegant solution –  Jeromy Anglim Oct 28 '10 at 5:04
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The problem with this approach is that some peoples handwriting is hard to interpret (mine included). –  N.N. Jun 22 '11 at 20:39
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If you have Acrobat Professional then you can use it to activate your document so that collaborators can comment using Adobe Reader. As far as I know this lets them use the same commenting tools that Acrobat Pro has, for what that is worth (maybe ok for small edits, not so good for major rewriting).

Its in the menu at: Advanced -> Extend features in Adobe Reader...

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Thanks. I didn't know that. –  Jeromy Anglim Oct 24 '10 at 6:58
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http://www.crocodoc.com

The site is completely free. You can upload any document or PDF to the site, share the link with people, and everyone can comment online using the commenting tools the site offers.

The best of it is that each person can reply to comments. You can highlight text, strike it out, draw and comment.

I used this for my master dissertation, I had three supervisors, one with Windows, one with Linux and one with Mac. This worked great as no one needs to install anything.

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In addition to the hard-copy solution mentioned by @dan, I have used latex2rtf with some success.

You simply compile the LaTeX code with latex2rtf and it generates a rich-text document that can be opened in Word.

It doesn't handle some packages but the text and figures are usually well formatted (even if they are not completely true to the intended LaTeX formatting)

The nice thing about this is that it allows those collaborators heavily invested in Word's track changes to operate comfortably. It does mean that you have to manually incorporate changes back to the original document but this is true of the hard-copy solution as well.

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This is how I do it these days. –  Memming Mar 16 '12 at 14:18
    
@Memming I have not tried it but I have also heard great things about pandoc –  KennyPeanuts Mar 16 '12 at 20:44
    
I just tried it. It seems that pandoc still needs improvements to support LaTeX better. It chokes on graphicspath and align among many more. Or maybe I just don't know how to use it properly. –  Memming Mar 16 '12 at 20:53
    
@Memming huh. good to know. Thanks for the beta. –  KennyPeanuts Mar 17 '12 at 0:46
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I'm using, for my own reviewing, GoodReader on the iPad, which allows extensive annotations. I then review my corrections on the Mac, though there’s one gotcha: Apple Preview doesn’t show some annotations, so for once I have to use something called Reader, from a company called Adobe, which also doesn’t seem to have a very good grasp of PDFs: CMU Unicode looks horrible at actual size, though zooming it to 200% shows the fonts correctly.

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My professor's been annotating my PDF documents using neu.Annotate on his iPad. I can view the annotations just fine in any of the Poppler-based PDF readers (xpdf, okular, evince, etc.) on Linux. I assume it works fine in the standard PDF readers on Windows and the Mac as well.

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One option is to write your paper on the web (in LaTeX or Markdown), and render it to HTML5. Authorea is an online word processor for the collaborative writing of research articles which does just that (full disclosure, I am a co-founder). In Authorea, once you are done writing your article (or not) you can open it (make it public, Open Science) and allow the public to comment. Comments can be made on the entire article, on text blocks (e.g. paragraphs) and inline. You do not have to make your articles public however. You can restrict commenting to your (editing and non-editing) collaborators online. In addition to article comments, all collaborators can also use an article-based chat to discuss the article.

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