The word processor with a difference

The LaTeX document preparation system is in widespread use throughout the scientific community. Now HZB has a new web application for creating and collaboratively editing LaTeX documents.

In your word processor, you click a button and the highlighted sentence is bolded, italicised or underlined. This is how most document formatting goes on the PC. It works well, provided autocorrect doesn’t come along and mess things up, or until you have to create something a little more complex. “When you come to producing things like complex mathematical formulas, you quickly reach the limits of programs like MS word,” says Katharina Kolatzki, a physics student at TU Berlin and student assistant in the Communication department.

LaTeX is an alternative that takes a completely different approach. Instead of clicking buttons in a menu, you lay the document out by typing code. This means you only discover what it actually looks like after you have rendered the LaTeX file as a PDF. It sounds complicated, but Katharina Kolatzki contends: “You quickly get used to it and learn to appreciate the advantages of the program: the wonderfully clear-cut formatting of headings, graphics, tables and formulas.” LaTeX has therefore established itself as standard software in the scientific community. It costs nothing and is used to create protocols, papers, posters and even presentations.   

Now, HZB has made it easier than ever to work with LaTeX. HZB IT has developed its own ShareLaTex system – a central web application that can be conveniently opened in a web browser. For the first time, several people can collaborate together in real time on a LaTeX document. Among other things, ShareLateX offers a chat function, change approval, and revision history of documents.

If you wish to use ShareLaTex you need only enable access once through the HZB UserApp. Then, you can create projects and invite others via the HZB UserApp so that you can all edit the project together at the same time.

by Silvia Zerbe