[OS X TeX] Version controls for LaTeX book production

George Gratzer gratzer at ms.umanitoba.ca
Mon Nov 12 03:47:21 CET 2007

I do not disagree with Gary, because he writes books jointly with  
(many) others.

I wrote some 20 book, all of them by myself.  If I want to go back to  
an earlier version in something, I do not have to explain why. I know.  
I was stupid.

I also wrote some 250 research papers, most of the joint work, with  
over 60 co-authors -- with more than one, more than 50 papers each.  
Here I use a simple system. Each section is owned by a co-author at  
any one time. When he is finished, the section is passed over to the  
other author, saying, now you own it. Explanation for the changes are  
commented and the comments are deleted as soon as the changes are  
accepted or further changed.

Not very fancy, but very efficient.


On Nov 11, 2007, at 7:45 PM, Gary L. Gray wrote:

> I disagree with George ... see below.
> On Nov 11, 2007, at 8:20 PM, George Gratzer wrote:
>> On Nov 11, 2007, at 7:03 PM, David Oliver wrote:
>>> I'd welcome comments from book authors on this list with  
>>> experience with version controls, such as CVS,  for LaTeX produced  
>>> books. Do you find them useful?
>> NO
>>> Do you find them useful even if you are the only user or author  
>>> accessing the material?
>> NO
>>> Recommendation for a particular system?
>> I think Time Machine is all you need.
>> I think good backup is very important, version control?
> Time Machine doesn't do some of the things that version control can  
> do -- things that make version control *very* useful, even for a  
> single author.
> I can say that, for the project we are working on, svn has been a  
> wonderful tool and brings much peace of mind. Here are some details  
> and how we use it.
> The project involves two textbooks (sophomore-level engineering  
> statics and dynamics for those who are familiar), both written  
> entirely in LaTeX by three different authors. Each book is currently  
> over 600 pages and will eventually be well over 700 pages. In  
> addition, each has a substantial solutions manual that must be kept  
> in sync with the books. Each solutions manual will probably be 1000+  
> pages and there have been 6 or 7 student authors on the solutions  
> manuals (as well as us). Finally, there are many custom LaTeX  
> settings files that, at least initially, changed frequently. All of  
> this is under version control with svn.
> With multiple authors, svn gives them the ability to work on the  
> same source files at the same time. In addition, since each time  
> work is "committed" to the repository, it can (and should) have  
> substantial comments associated with it. Authors can describe in  
> detail what has changed or been added in that commit. This allows  
> one to go back in time (much like Time Machine), but with the  
> additional knowledge of *precisely* what is different at each time  
> step rather than having to search through documents to know what is  
> different. You can go back to previous versions of what you have  
> written and bring it back to incorporate into what you have now or  
> to replace what you have now. Unfortunately, Time Machine will only  
> backup to one disk, so unless you choose just your manuscript to  
> backup, you are going to be limited how far back you can go. In  
> addition, Time Machine works best on local disks. svn keeps  
> everything from day one of the project and it only controls what you  
> tell it to. It also works nicely from *anywhere*. I have version  
> control from home, Starbucks, my office, ..., anywhere I have a  
> network connection.
> I should add that svn can do even more than this, but just the above  
> has made it worthwhile for us.
> Now, with all this said, setting up an svn repository is a little  
> work, but once it is done, it is easy to work with and there are a  
> number of GUI tools for daily interaction that some people find to  
> be useful. By the way, one nice surprise I found in Leopard is that  
> it installs the latest version of svn.
> So, even when (if?) I write a book on my own, I will definitely use  
> svn to keep track of it. I still backup, in fact, I backup like  
> crazy, but svn serves a purpose over and above that of good backups.
> I hope this helps.
> All the best,
>  Gary
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