What is an effective tool for managing the communication within a small team of coauthors working on a paper (when face-to-face interaction is not possible)?

I've previously used back-and-forth email exchanges, but it gets inconvenient very fast if the exchanges are many. I've also used Skype, but I'm not quite convinced by its text-chat environment.

Do you have any other tools (or particular arrangements) that proved to be useful?


closed as off-topic by Alexandre Eremenko, Ben Linowitz, Andy Putman, David Handelman, Stefan Waldmann Jan 10 at 11:53

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    $\begingroup$ I recommend you to use overleaf - maybe in the premium version - which you need to pay for. But even the free version is great. $\endgroup$ – user66288 Jan 7 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ One more flow of upvotes to an off-topic non-mathematical discussion to come...! $\endgroup$ – YCor Jan 7 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ @YCor: so why don't you vote to close it? $\endgroup$ – Alexandre Eremenko Jan 7 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ @user66288 I think that's for LaTeX sharing rather than chatting. Or is there a chat room (associated to each document) that I'm not aware of? $\endgroup$ – Dal Jan 7 at 17:40
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    $\begingroup$ @YCor The soft-question tag is exists for a reason, though. $\endgroup$ – Dal Jan 7 at 17:41

I've used slack for such collaborations, at the time there was little/no support for TeX, but I understand that there are some third party options (I've not tried them).

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    $\begingroup$ Slack does indeed seem like a nice tool to use. $\endgroup$ – Dal Jan 7 at 17:36

I think the best solution is a version-control system such as git with a hosting service like github. Github is free for everyone if your repository is public, while academic users can get free accounts that allow private repositories as well. A github project has an "issue tracker" than can be used like a collection of "chat rooms" to carry on multiple discussions at once, and you can also add comments and carry on discussions about particular lines of a source code commit or pull request.

(Using version control allows many people to work on the TeX code at the same time without losing history or overwriting each other's changes. A real-time collaboration site like overleaf also allows multiple people to work on the file at once, but limits you to using their in-browser editor instead of much better ones like AucTeX, and doesn't save previous commits in an explicitly labeled way or allow other useful features such as branching and forking. There's a bit of a learning curve, but I think most mathematicians should be able to figure it out.)

Another tool I've found useful for collaboration is the LaTeX package fixme, which lets you all insert comments into the document itself (labeled by author, and even color-coded). Not so great for carrying on long conversations, but good for making notes about things that need to be fixed that will be visible in just the right place and not get lost.


I have played around with various tools and here are some notable ones that help me whenever I am collaborating with others:

  • HackMD: This is a great editor for working on documents with other team members and has $\LaTeX$ support. It works similarly to Pandoc and because I use Sublime Text a lot, I love the added bonus of having that "Sublime-feel" while writing.
  • Slack or gitter.im: These tools are great for communication and have worked better for me than Email. It is worth mentioning though that Slack's free plan does not store more than 10'000 messages and there is no in-built $\LaTeX$ support. So a solid alternative is gitter.im which allows you to use KaTeX.
  • Git and GitHub: I have a pro plan on GitHub which allowed me to create private repositories, but GitHub just announced that they will be enabling private repositories for the free plan too. GitHub can be extremely useful for tracking issues and tasks. Unfortunately, GitHub issues do not support $\LaTeX$, so maybe GitLab might be better suited for you since it has KaTeX support.
  • Explain Everything: Whenever I need a whiteboard, Explain Everything is my go-to application. If you have an iPad with the Apple Pencil, this application can be extremely useful.

I recommend you to use overleaf - maybe in the premium version - which you need to pay for. But even the free version is great.

Since version two has been launched, many new features are implemented. For example, live-chat in each document is possible.

Here is the press release: https://www.overleaf.com/blog/overleaf-launch-official-press-release

This tool simplified my life a lot.


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