I teach a class in which students write several lab reports in LaTeX, and up until very recently I required students to use Overleaf. This allowed groups of 3-4 to write lab reports in LaTeX with real-time collaboration. It was pretty awesome!

All of a sudden today, people in my class started noticing that the ability to collaborate on a given document with more than 1 other person was now behind a paywall. Since the minimum group size in my class is 3, Overleaf is no longer nearly as useful to us. (While it is possible that my institution will one day provide a site license, that would take ~a year, and I'm ideally looking for solutions that I can implement this week!)

Are there any free alternative online LaTeX editors that allow real-time collaboration, but do not charge for the ability to have multiple collaborators?

(By the way, I am aware of this question, but the question and its answers focus on editors that do not require a sign-in, and not on the ability to collaborate. Requiring a sign-in is not the issue for me.)

  • Those lab reports absolutely need to be done with LaTex? – BlackBird Sep 17 '19 at 22:36
  • Is it a physics class or a LaTeX class? Anyway, install it on one machine, and let the students do their job. – BlackBird Sep 18 '19 at 1:52
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    [BIG CAVEAT AND DISCLAIMER: I'm a support personnel at Overleaf.] Might the link-sharing feature be useful here? This allows users on the Free plan to work with more collaborators, using a shareable read-and-edit link. overleaf.com/learn/how-to/Sharing_a_project – imnothere Sep 18 '19 at 3:38
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    +1, I would add "with the ability to have multiple collaborators but with no charge" to the title of your question. – CarLaTeX Sep 18 '19 at 4:58
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    Not at all, go ahead! :D For completeness' sake might I suggest to include the link overleaf.com/learn/how-to/Sharing_a_project to your answer, to cover different ways of sharing a project? – imnothere Sep 19 '19 at 1:53

With many thanks to @LianTzeLim, the solution to my problem is so simple that it is actually contained within Overleaf itself!

Adding collaborators may be behind a paywall, but "link sharing" is still a free service. To collaborate in real-time on your LaTeX document via link sharing, you can do the following:

  1. Have one group member create a project in Overleaf as you normally would.
  2. Click the "Share" Button in the top, right-hand corner of the screen.
  3. Press the "Turn On Link Sharing" link in the box that appears.
  4. Copy the link beneath the box titled "Anyone with this link can edit this project," and share the link with the other members of your group (e.g. via email)
  5. Anyone with that link should be able to edit the LaTeX document, and you should be able to all edit it in real-time!

At present I have not heard any complaints from my students. I will update this if that changes.

source: https://www.overleaf.com/learn/how-to/Sharing_a_project

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    Nope @Daniel -- Currently using link sharing in the class I'm teaching, and all 4 group-members are collaborating just fine! – Bunji Jun 1 at 18:23
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    Oops, you're correct. Sharing via link and sharing with collaborators are different things. – Daniel Jun 1 at 18:37

You may also consider HandWiki encyclopedia for collaborative editing. It is totally free. Note that you will use the Wiki syntax, and later can convert it to LaTeX. Handwiki is particularly friendly to LaTeX since it allows to import BibTeX files, and your math equations will use the same LaTeX syntax

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