NCSU Libraries is offering a new tool to help researchers write, edit and publish their work.
Overleaf offers templates for projects including academic journals, posters, theses and lab reports that allow users to focus on the substance of their work rather than presentation. The program integrates the text markup language LaTeX so writers and researchers can include headings, equations and other specialized formats.
“When you’re ready to send your manuscript to a journal, it’s pretty much formatted,” says Chris Erdmann, chief strategist for research collaboration at the libraries.
Overleaf also simplifies collaboration, he says. Each project generates a link that multiple users can open to make and save changes. That keeps revisions in one place and cuts out the confusion of people sending each other multiple versions of the same document, Erdmann says.
“In the past, you used to send your paper in a Word doc or, if you go way back, WordPerfect,” Erdmann says. “You’d send the file around and people would send it back to you with revisions.”
That system fails for big projects, he says. “You can’t send around a paper to thousands of authors.”
Google Docs offers capabilities to ease document sharing and editing, but Erdmann says Overleaf offers additional features, especially the templates, which are difficult to reproduce through Google.
Overleaf is available for a yearlong trial after which the libraries will determine whether to offer it permanently. That depends on how many people sign up – more than 1,000 have so far – and how much they like it.
“We’ll have conversations with people around campus who are subscribing to the service,” Erdmann says. “We’ll gather feedback from surveys and gather feedback in general to figure out if we want to continue it.” He called the trial part of a larger push from the libraries to help researchers improve their workflows and impact.
People interested in learning more can contact Erdmann, visit Overleaf.com or attend a LaTeX and Overleaf workshop on Tuesday at the D.H. Hill Library.