This should be probably cross-posted to tex.stackexchange.com. However, since my question is more oriented towards writers who also have a firm grasp of technology, I'm posting it here in hopes of getting a better answer. (I hope the collaboration part won't stir up a hornets' nest, it's merely meant to facilitate discussion.

LaTex provides a really good document preparation system, but the specifics can be a bit stiff for newbies to learn. Similarly, UNIX tools like git, etc. provide a good form of version control for something like a novel (This concept has been already explored in Flashbake - http://bitbucketlabs.net/flashbake/)

I was wondering whether there was a tool that combines both of these with a newbie-accessible frontend, so an author can generate the complete manuscript of his work whenever needed, and rollback if needed as well. Is there such a tool in production; or have people on this board ever thought of making one?

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    Sounds like a task for... Scrivener! Except I have no idea if Scrivener actually does that or not. =P I'll just have to wait and see if Lauren Ipsum shows up with her Scrivener rec. (I really hope she gets paid for all that advertising!) Commented Apr 20, 2011 at 3:00
  • Lyx is a front-end for latex, and it makes nicely formatted (ascii) latex files, so it will work well with a VCS. It's a good way to make the tex learning curve a little less daunting. Most VCSs have a decent GUI available, I've always appreciated the Unix philosophy of "Do one thing well", rather than one program that tries to do everything.. I can't really see how programs like Scrivener could be better than the Latex+VCS combo - you're just going to end up with a half baked editor AND half-baked version control.
    – naught101
    Commented Jul 12, 2012 at 1:06

2 Answers 2


I've been playing around with Scrivener (for Windows) for a few days now because of * ahem * Lauren Ipsum's almost evangelical zeal regarding the product ; I must admit I'm quite impressed with it so far, and am seriously considering using it permanently.

Scrivener 2 does have a form of version control in the form of "Snapshots". I haven't used it as yet, but it is available in the Windows version. From the blurb on their website:

Take a snapshot of the document before you embark on an edit or major rewrite and you can always roll back to the previous. This is a much more complete version control as compared to the collaboration tools you find in other text editors. You can actually saving the whole document rather than just tracking changes.

Since I've just started with Scrivener, I can honestly say it's been very, very easy to grasp and use (spent about 5 minutes just having a look at the introductory video, and off I went). Definitely easy for newbies to grasp immediately.

Generating the manuscript when you're ready appears to be very straight forward, too, and you can also send it to different formats (PDF, Word .doc and .docx, printer, .odt ...).

I must say, I've found it very useful, easy to use, and a great way to help you structure and plan your work. One nice thing about it is that it's not cluttered with things I don't actually need.

I'm still trying it out, but so far, thumbs up, and would recommend it.


I've been using Celtx for writing screenplays, since it takes care of all of those messy formatting details. And it's free.

I had to manually incorporate version control in my writing process, since it doesn't appear that Celtx is capable of version control at this time. I use mercurial for version control. Every time I commit changes to the repository, I export a separate text version of the document and check it in alongside the original file. The text document is the version which I use to diff against, since the diff tool won't recognize the Celtx format.

It's a hack of a solution, but it works for me. Hope that helps.

  • As far as I remember, Celtx is designed as somewhat of an open source clone of scrivener, right?
    – naught101
    Commented Jul 12, 2012 at 1:04
  • That seems like a good analysis naught101. Since I wrote my comment above, I've switched over to Scrivener.
    – RobotNerd
    Commented Sep 1, 2012 at 19:26

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