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ScribTeX online LaTeX editor (with git interface) (scribtex.com)
118 points by frossie 2555 days ago | hide | past | web | 34 comments | favorite

Hi, I'm the creator of ScribTeX. I'm a regular reader of HN and it was great to see this on the front page this morning. Most of my effort is focused on the technical side of things and I've been relying on word of mouth for promotion. (Sorry to those of you who have been looking for something like this for a while!)

Thank you for all the positive comments, they really mean a lot. The constructive feedback from HN is excellent as always.

For the interested, here are some features I am working on at the moment: * Better history navigation. The current implementation is quite flat and cumbersome. * A much better editor. Currently it's just a textbox with syntax highlighting, but I'm working on something to rival the functionality of a desktop editor. * Overall design, in particular the splash page and information pages

Push and pull access to the underlying git repository is currently a feature I am testing. Send me an email (james@scribtex.com) if you would like me to enable it for your account.

I'm wondering whether you could monetize ScribTeX by offering an API to submit docs and return PDFs.

I can think of examples in the past where I'd have paid for that in a heartbeat.

Just an idea.

Perhaps this isn't in the right spirit, but because of Pandoc I've become wedded to writing in a mixture of markdown and latex (latex for the fiddly bits, markdown for everything else)... Is this (or something like it) something you might consider in the future? I work with many non-technical people and write collaboratively using this mixture on etherpads... A proper git history would be a very nice addition to our workflow.

An API that would allow for small snapshot images would be useful as well. Say for posting a formula blurb to a forum for instance, would be pretty handy as well.


That's just really nice.

I used LaTeX for two theses and loved it. It was very freeing to just worry about content and not about layout. When I use Word, I constantly fiddle with styling and with Word's occasional bizarre behavior (delete a word and the next paragraph becomes bold... ?!). With LaTeX, I spent an hour up front defining styles and a few minutes toward the end adjusting styles, but otherwise just wrote content (in vim!). I don't think I really ever ran into "OMFG, what is it doing?!" situations.

Okay, so the perfect scenario goes: ScribTex does well; ScribTex gets bought by Google; Google Docs adds Tex documents!

As excited about LaTeX in general as the next guy, I think this project has room for improvement until it's ready for prime time.

As a webapp, it has its intrinsic advantage of zero-installation, ubiquitous availability, mobility, etc. However, it also inherits many problems and needs to compete with some really really nice native and free apps, such as TeXShop. It would need to include well-received features available in TeXShop and others, and add some extra values beyond the webapp advantages.

1. Targeting real LaTeX users, I think it makes sense to add some shortcut key or autocompletion for common commands.

2. Make it easy to go back and forth between source and preview PDF. It would be very helpful if it could highlight in the rendering result the text selected in the source view (or just the cursor position). It would even be better if you could scroll to the highlighted spot [see http://kb2.adobe.com/cps/317/317300.html]

3. Make it sync with Dropbox and/or Google Docs. Most of the target audience is already using one or both. I prefer Dropbox. If I can still use native app such as TeXShop when it is available and move to ScribTeX when I am somewhere else and still moving back without thinking, I am sold.

4. I am not sure about others, but I'd like to see the prolog (like \documentclass) and epilog (\end{document}) and other boilerplate code auto-generated and configurable from a simple panel and then hided nicely. Using different amount of padding to show the structure of the document (such as show \subsubsection with more padding then \subsection) would also be a very nice feature.

Wholeheartedly agree. Who doesn't like LaTeX? This makes it better because it saves me having to install a local copy of one of the absolutely humongous LaTeX packages (MacTeX was 1.6GB last time I looked), which, on my small SSD, is considerable. Also, I can now pump out LaTeX-perfect copy when I'm stuck using a dronebox with nothing but MSWord installed.

Google docs has a latex based equation editor


Sweet! Now they just need a LaTex-based doc editor... ;)

(I submitted this)

I have zero connection with this site, except it made me very happy when I found about it today. I can't believe I haven't heard of this before (searchyc didn't turn anything up).

Granted you may not be as excited if you don't use LaTeX :-)

Maybe it's because no one (like myself) thought of submitting those kinds of links.


  and the parent article's service
edit: formatting

The most attractive feature for a service like this is the collaboration features. I have a linux box set up for wake on lan and Dropbox so I can basically do the same thing as long as I have access to a terminal. What would be great was if the editor with ScribTex was something similar to etherpad had where multiple users can edit the same document at once and you can see updates in realtime.

I found this post this morning, went over there and haven't stopped smiling yet (sad I know). I threw a couple of 10 page or so assignments at it and after uploading a couple of .sty files it all went perfectly and rendered faster than my local machine, which was a bit insulting.

I was a bit taken aback that this has been live since January 2009 (if I'm reading their blog correctly) since an online LaTex editor is something I look out for on a semi regular basis (and has been for years).

Finally the pain of collaboration on LaTeX text due to installation differences will be gone! Kudos!

I'm very surprised by the speed of compilation. Latexlab (another online latex editor) isn't nearly as fast. This is a neat tool!

Very cool. This is headed in the right direction.

I think there's a lot of room for improvement in LaTeX editors. For instance:

Suppose I'm reading a PDF compiled draft and spot an error in an equation. It would be fantastic if I could simply click on the equation and have a mini text box pop up with the relevant LaTeX code. After editing the LaTeX the PDF would seamlessly update.

Or suppose I see an embedded figure and want to change its dimensions. It would be great if I didn't have to guess, compile, check, guess, compile, check, guess, compile, check, etc. If I could see the result as I edit the code, or maybe even have a little GUI to click and drag to scale, that would save me tremendous amounts of time.

I would pay a monthly subscription to have a fast online version of that software.

It would be fantastic if I could simply click on the equation and have a mini text box pop up with the relevant LaTeX code.

Emacs' AUCTeX preview mode renders your equations and tables within the emacs buffer. It's not a PDF, but if I understand correctly, there are format limitations in PDF that prevent instantaneous local updates within a large document. Preview mode is fast.

Just tested with some chinese characters, showed up as blank in the output pdf file. No support for languages other than english is not good.

LaTeX doesn't support Unicode. You need XeLaTeX for that: http://i.imgur.com/Yx9x4.png (code is at http://paste.pocoo.org/show/295774/)

It's hackish, but you can do Unicode in LaTeX with the inputenc and ucs packages. If you do:

then the inputenc macro package does a first pass on the document, handing off all non-ASCII characters to ucs to replace them with LaTeX commands to generate the appropriate characters, if supported. So, ö gets replaced by \"{o}, א gets replaced with \hebalef, etc. Doesn't work for everything, but handles a good portion of common languages.

Huh, it worked for ö, but א gave me:

    ! Undefined control sequence.
    \u-default-1488 #1->\hebalef
And the Japanese example above gave me:

    Package ucs Error: Unknown Unicode character 12371 = U+3053
Either way, there's not much of a point in using LaTeX when XeLaTeX is available, save for intercompatibility. So until sites like this one start moving to XeTeX/XeLaTeX, we'll still often be stuck without (true) Unicode.

I agree, ScribTeX needs support for XeTeX and other LaTeX compilers. As the creator of the site, I guess I'm in a unique position to make this happen! It's been on my todo list for a while now and isn't without its difficulties, but I'll use this conversation as renewed motivation to get it done.

Ah yeah, for things other than the built-in special characters (like umlauts), you also need all the relevant language-specific packages that actually implement the macro, a bit of additional fun. ;-) In the Hebrew case, you need the ivritex package for \hebalef to be defined.

But yeah, XeLaTeX makes that all much simpler. The LaTeX solution is mostly good if you're already using LaTeX for some reason, but need to include non-ASCII text from a limited range of languages (e.g. you're writing a Hebrew document, or an English document with a Greek literature quotation).

I just use:

It seems utf8x is more complete, but not officially supported. I haven't needeced the ucs package. (Maybe needed for extended characters, Chinese?)


By the way, here is a document that can be compiled both with LaTeX and XeLaTeX, with Unicode:


I am able to compile document with text in Ukrainian:



  \title{Вітаю, світе!}


  Вітаю, світе! Як ся маєшся?


Latex compiling is precisely a kind of thing I'd do on _my machine_ than on a web service.

Who in this world knows Latex but doesn't have access to a machine to compile it into a pdf?

While I really like how well the site has been done, I have a hard time imagining how it would be a success, in the market.

My brother is writing his thesis in Economics soon and we live at different ends of our country. I'm trying to convince him that Latex is the way to go and being able to do online help sessions would help a lot.

Besides, to someone who has only ever used WYSIWYG installing compilers and the like is really complicated.

This would be very useful for those who work on a netbook or a thin client. Besides, people do use Google Docs even though they have a full fledged document editing software on their machines.

A lot of users have said they really appreciate how accessible LaTeX is with ScribTeX. I know that's not an important point for everyone but it is a big help to some.

I have access to a machine with TeX installed, but I also have a machine that weighs less than two pounds, gets eight hours of use on battery, and supports websites a whole lot more than it does TeX. If I wrote more papers, this would be quite useful.

I wish I could up vote this more. I've tried LaTeX a few times and I think the reason I don't go back more often is because I have to install it and remember how to compile. This makes it much easier to get your feet wet.

Are you sure hackernews is the right place for you? ;-) j/k

I just tried a medium sized file. About 3 pages. It just says loading......

Awsome! Arrived exactly in the write moment :)

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