JotGit: A new open source project from writeLaTeX

By John Lees-Miller

One of our major goals for writeLaTeX has always been to help LaTeX geeks (like us) collaborate with non-LaTeX geeks (like most of the people we work with). It's why we have a real time preview and a rich text editor for LaTeX, and it's why we've just started a new open source project called JotGit: JotGit brings together git, for powerful version control and offline working, with online, collaborative rich text editing. Here's a quick demo of the prototype (after 48h!):


The code's here on GitHub. JotGit's still a prototype, but we're releasing early and will be releasing often. To make it easy for you to run, host and hack JotGit yourself, we've built it with the meteor web framework, which is very easy to get running on any Mac or Linux system and has minimal dependencies. Meteor makes it really fun to develop for the real time web, so even if you haven't done any web development before, it's a great way to start!

The big idea behind JotGit is that everyone should be able to contribute to a project using the tools and processes they love. If you're used to writing your papers in LaTeX with powerful scripting, version control and history features, you probably cringe when someone hands you a Word document. But, if you're used to Word, you probably have the same reaction when someone hands you a bunch of computer code files that don't look anything like a paper. With JotGit, we use powerful tools like git, latex and markdown on the back end, but we wrap them up in a simple, collaborative, WYSIWYG front end — you can use whichever tools you prefer.

We're also excited about the opportunities for collaborating on and sharing projects afforded by a distributed version control system like git. GitHub has really revolutionised open source software with its fork and pull request collaboration model. Can we do the same for the scientific record? What does it mean to “fork” a paper? Right now JotGit works with local git repositories, but soon we'll be hooking it up to GitHub, so maybe we'll find out…

That's all for now — watch for more updates soon. There's a short roadmap in the repo with next steps, and if you have any questions, just drop us a line or open up an issue for discussion. Happy hacking!

John Lees-Miller

Co-founder, CTO

Computer scientist, mathematician and co-founder of Overleaf. I make things that work.