Using git-latexdiff to track changes in tex-file graphically

It’s been a while since I started using git. The version control system helps to track changes in computer files and coordinating work on those files among multiple people. Composing a manuscript is nothing unlike developing a program. If multiple authors work on the same manuscript, git can be very helpful to avoid conflicts. If you are the only author, git can help you to document what has been changed since the last commit or put your advisor’s comment in another branch.

I’m a big fan of $\Latex$. It’s powerful and elegant. With a given template, one should only focus on the content. However, when it comes to tracking changes, $\Latex$ is a lightyear behind Word. Fortunately, I recently bumped into a program latexdiff, which visually tracks changes between $\Latex$ generated pdfs, much like how Word does. Before, I often manually color the lines I changed when sending to my advisor.

git-latexdiff is a wrapper around git and latexdiff. Instead of manually generating dummy tex files of different names (and also the auxiliary files), git-latexdiff can graphically show the differences between various versions of a LaTeX-generated pdf. Below is an example of how I incorporate these tools to my workflow.

Git basics

  • You can turn any folders into git-tracking folders by typing the command git init . in the targeting folder.
  • git add .: add all files in the folder to staging
  • git commit: commit changes to head (the changes are still local)
  • These committed changes can then be pushed to a remote repository hosted on GitHub or gitlab.
  • git checkout -b branchname to create and switch to new branch (git checkout branchname to switch after commit if the branch already exists)
  • git status to check current branch and status
  • After you are satisfied with the changes you made in a developing branch, merge back to master by git merge branchname, assuming the current branch is master.
  • Many GUI git clients can save the day if you are not used to command lines. For now, I am using GitKraken.

Track changes

latexdiff works like this:

latexdiff draft.tex revision.tex > diff.tex

To compare the difference between first two versions of .tex, a third dummy diff.tex is created, along with many auxiliary files. Check this link for better control over latexdiff. Using git-latexdiff, one can track the differences between the same file on different branches or versions, like this:

git latexdiff --latexmk --append-context2cmd="abstract" --main Largescale_eddy_interannual_AL.tex master advisor

git-latexdiff also has many additional options. More detailed information can be found here and the gitlab page of git-latexdiff project.

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