Tracking changes in LaTeX

Over the last few years since I’ve been using LaTeX and singing its praises to anyone who will listen, I’ve heard from several people that they love it, but are reluctant to give up their word processors completely because of the ‘track changes’ feature. So, I thought I’d write a mini-post describing one way in which you can track changes in LaTeX. And thereby free yourself from word processors forever! This is probably not the only way to do this, and I’d welcome any suggestions in the comments from LaTeX experts who’ve found a better way. But to date, the following strategy has worked well for my coauthors and me to pass manuscript revisions back and forth. Journals who take LaTeX files (or pdfs) also accept this as a way of tracking changes during the peer-review process. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Copy the following into the preamble of your .tex file.

\documentclass{article}

 %specify packages
 \usepackage[usenames,dvipsnames]{color}

 %command to insert editing comments or track changes
 \newcommand{\emck}[1]{\textcolor{green}{$^{\textrm{emck}}${#1}}}
 \newcommand{\mahv}[1]{\textcolor{blue}{$^{\textrm{mahv}}${#1}}}

Replace ’emck’ or ‘mahv’ in the new command with your own initials. If you have more than one author, make a command for each one with their initials and a different color.

Step 2: Start editing.

When you want to make changes, simply call the command and put the changed text inside curly brackets like this:

\emck{Here is the text you changed.}

\mahv{Here is a comment from the second author.}

Step 3: Compile the .tex file.

The pdf output will look like this:

Step 4: Delete all word processing software from your computer.

Step 5: Do a happy dance.

Ok, maybe don’t delete it, but I find little use for it when I can do so much more in LaTeX. For those interested in doing more, I’ve also posted a fileset on figshare which includes a template for making posters in LaTeX.

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