Academics: How do you manage multiple versions of a working paper?

Hi there,

I am working on a paper with my colleagues and I get multiple rounds of review on both the structure and the content of a paper I am drafting, which requires substantive edits and scrambling.

The problem I currently have is two-fold:

  1. My colleagues need a neat PDF/LaTeX/Word file to comment on (I cannot coerce them into Obsidian collaboration),
  2. I want to keep track/record of what has changed from this week to the next.

My solution to the first issue has been exporting to PDF using the native Obsidian functionality, which doesn’t give an easy-to-read-and-comment output.

The other option I’m looking into is using Export to TeX plugin (which does not work properly at the moment EDIT: the bug with the plugin is solved with a patch in v. 0.1.0) or taking a break from—and cheating on—Obsidian by making use of Zettlr export or VS Code Pandoc export (which are tedious and fail to process embedded notes/snippets).

For the second problem, I do not have any clear idea. I do version control using the Git extension, though if it does autosave for you (committing changes every x minutes), you do not have concrete “versions” of the documents to compare.

The other solution could be having multiple notes prefixed/suffixed by the “last major edit” timestamp (My sad manuscript_20201230.md, My sad manuscript_20210118.md and so on) but this screws search/backlink functionalities of Obsidian.

Has any of you folks any experience dealing with (either of) these matters? Thanks in advance.

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I just use Overleaf. The appropriate tool for appropriate tasks.
In Overleap you can assign label, version, track changes etc directly with in Tex, that is the place for collaborration.
Obisidian is for you to explore your ideas and notes.

You just need to sync between these two platform from times to times (just before you ask them to review … ). And though it can be cumbersome to do this often, I guess the Tex plugin you mentioned can help a bit.

Thanks, @PhucLe.

So you would write the working draft totally on Overleaf, then? I wished there was a solution to include it in the Obsidian workflow, especially given the second issue: How do I keep track of the “syncing” in my vault?

Hi @psyguy,
We do exactly as you explained. We use overleaf for drafting and writing. The initiator of the doc should be a paid used for overleaf, so that you can share with others and save the history on your cloud. You can also connect it to your zotero.
But, we take our own notes on obsidian. Not super awesome, but works. You can save the obsidian vault in the same cloud and people can write on it, but not at the same time. However, when you use overleaf, you do not need it that much as you can write your notes there with %.
Also, sharing obsidian notes via slack works really fine, no need to have obsidian for the other person, if they use mac.

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If all you want is version numbering in Obsidian, you could use tags printed from template on each output page, along with title, date and time, whatever. Don’t know what else version control needs to include, but tags are sophisticated. You could also use an embedded template. If needed, info could be stored in front matter as well.

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You do though! That’s what each commit hash is! If you do git checkout <commit hash> you can go back to each of the versions. I think the “problem” is that the extension itself creates commits for everything on your vault, rather than just the manuscript related to your paper. I don’t use the plugin and do manual commits instead for this reason. It’s a compromise in the end: automatic commits with the plugin vs “semantic” commits done manually.

I would say that it might also depend on what type of changes you want to track and why. Keeping track of ideas included/removed is different than keeping track of just phrasing, and the reasons why you’d want to back up one vs the other will also have tradeoffs.

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