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Working on Joint Papers and Paper Presentations

The following is a collection of “ground rules” that I like to follow when working on joint papers and presentations thereof, particularly with my students.

LaTeX for Paper Typesetting

I write my papers in LaTeX and I expect my collaborators to be doing the same. There are multiple reasons for this:

  1. Particularly for typesetting math, LaTeX is both easiest to use (once one learns the syntax, as there’s no need to use a tedious GUI to compose equations) and produces the most appealing results (based on my experience, equations look considerably worse in other typesetting systems)
  2. I like having control over all aspects of a paper, including the positioning of items, so that I can (visually) present a paper exactly as I want; WYSIWYG editors have usually not provided me with the same amount of control
  3. LaTeX is the standard typesetting tool in robotics, so most conferences and journals provide LaTeX templates

Shared Git Repository for Collaboration

My preferred collaboration tool for working on joint papers is a Git repository, which I usually host on GitHub. I like this more than collaboration tools such as Overleaf primarily because of the following reasons:

  1. I (like to) work on papers offline using my preferred TeX editor
  2. Commit messages in a repository make it easier to understand the changes made in different parts of the paper (under the assumption that the commit messages are actually descriptive and not generic, such as Updated file.tex or similarly uninformative)

Thus, when working on a joint paper, one of the co-authors (usually myself) creates a repository to which all co-authors have collaborator access.

Separate LaTeX Source Files per Section

To simplify the editing of papers and avoid editing conflicts as much as possible, I usually split papers into multiple files (one per section); this makes it possible for multiple authors to work on different sections without interfering with each other’s work.

It should be noted that I prefer using the subfiles package for this purpose rather than simply putting the content into different files and then using input/include in the main source file. This is because the full document can be compiled from within any subfile, which makes it more convenient to work on paper sections and directly compile the document without having to leave the window of the TeX editor (which saves quite some time).

LaTeX Beamer for Paper Presentations

For the same reasons as when writing a paper, I use LaTeX (Beamer) for preparing paper presentations. The same repository that is used for writing the paper is also used for hosting the Beamer presentation; this bundles all paper-related materials together, so it should make it easier for all co-authors to access them.