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Sorry this question might seem a bit premature but I'm in a hurry... I was trying to do Version control of a latex project with dropbox. In my imagination Dropbox provides functions like showing which specific textlines have been changed or automatically merging files. Unfortunately I can't find any of those functions. Is recovering old files really everything Dropbox can provide? Which program do I need for accomplishing what I want?

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Why not use a normal version control system such as svn or git, there are plenty of free hosting sites for such repositories. – David Carlisle Feb 25 '13 at 17:34
I agree with @DavidCarlisle; I'm not sure this question makes sense. DropBox is not a version control system; just file storage. Try using a system like Git or Mercurial (I'd personally recommend staying away from old centralized systems like SVN). – Sam Whited Feb 25 '13 at 17:36
I need something which is fast and easy to use also for a person which has not much experience with these tools. Which one would should I choose? – user1234567890 Feb 25 '13 at 17:40
Dropbox keeps older revisions of your files around as you overwrite them, but doesn't do any kind of change tracking or merging. Depending on your platform and how many others you'll be working with: on Windows, I'd suggest TortoiseSVN or TortoiseGIT. For Mac, Github for Mac is incredible. On Linux, I've only used the command-line svn or git tools. – Mike Renfro Feb 25 '13 at 17:48
About @DavidCarlisle's comment (and a bit offtopic). Most of the git repositories I've found are free only for open-source projects. If you want a private repository, the only choice (AFAIK) is Bitbucket, and you are limited to 5 collaborators. Do you know any other free hosting site which allows for private repositories? – JLDiaz Feb 25 '13 at 19:31
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Disclaimer This was meant to be a comment, but it is too long...

No, Dropbox does not provide (AFAIK) the diff feature. It stores old versions of the files, and allows you to restore any of them (with a time limit for free accounts), but it cannot show you the differences between versions.

If you do have experience with distributed control version systems such as git or mercurial I propose the following setup:

  1. Create a folder in Dropbox to store your project. Create also a git or mercurial repository in that folder. Share the folder with the other person.
  2. Tell the other person never delete the .git (or .hg) directory! :-)
  3. Periodically, do a hg status or git status to see what the other person changed. You can also use graphical diff tools to see the individual lines
  4. Do yourself the commits (if you want, you can use git --author to specify the other person name when commiting changes made by the other. I don't know the equivalent option for mercurial)
  5. Good luck!
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In addition to not offering diffs, Dropbox also doesn't guarantee any integrity of the data it stores. You can't know if someone or a bug modified your files behind your back. – Xavier Feb 25 '13 at 20:18
+1 - Although I would suggest to use git server rather then Dropbox folder - GitHub is quite popular. If for any reason you want to keep the code private BitBucket offers a free private repositories for up to 5 people. – Maciej Piechotka Feb 26 '13 at 0:08
@MaciejPiechotka Of course, a proper git server is prefereable over Dropbox, but my answer was targeted to the case in which you are a usual user of git and know well how to use it, while the other person knows nothing about (and doesn't want to learn) git. So Dropbox is used to share the folder so that you are able to see the changes that the other does, but the commits are done only by you, the expert git user. – JLDiaz Feb 26 '13 at 0:15

I have used Dropbox in a LaTeX-based cooperation but switched to Subversion. The main reason is that with TortoiseSVN I knew exactly when my files were committed. While the -- otherwise amazing -- Dropbox client does everything in the background I have more control with Subversion. Of course one needs to be more careful; if one forgets to commit the repository simply won't be updated automatically.

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