How to connect Slack with Overleaf for collaborative authoring

Image for post
Image for post
You can see Slack Post (on the left) and Overleaf (on the right) side by side.

Overleaf is a great tool for writing nicely formatted text that include tables, citations, figures, and other elements of a scholarly documentation. It is particularly good for writing academically styled documents (articles, books, monographs but also almost everything that you can write using LaTeX). On the top of it, once you write a text, you can then very easily share that document to pre-print servers and other channels. These include academic blogs and journal articles. In addition, Overleaf lets you do more. You can also use Overleaf to create slide decks, and process diagrams. If you have a csv file, you can create pretty tables
without invoking any other app.

We love Slack for how well it integrates teams and as a communication app. Research and writing is team work. For many of us, Slack is an indispensable tool for work, not just a great way to collaborate among our friends, and colleagues. A great use case for Slack in academia and for those who write non-fiction is to collaborate on a document. Slack provides a very nice rich text editor that you can use to create collaborative documents and share the work among friends. You can also take in comments, and edit collaboratively. In this sense, it is a little like Overleaf as well (Overleaf too has collaborative document editing features). Plus Slack posts are simple minimalistic and yet have enough features for you to build full length articles that you can work together. It is not usual though for Slack to be used for writing collaborative academic documents, but you can make a start and then move to Overleaf rapidly for the final draft.

Give it a go. Here are the steps.

  1. First create an empty Overleaf document
  2. From the post that you write here in Slack, click on the box with
    ellipsis (also known as “more actions”)
  3. Then, click on “Create Public Link” and copy the Public Link
  4. Then, in Overleaf, click on “Add Files”
  5. In the “Add Files” dialog, select “Add from URL”
  6. Paste the URL you copied earlier from Slack
  7. Rename the file into something like “slack.html”
  8. Overleaf creates a git link for your files. Locate the git share link from Overleaf
  9. Clone that repository from Overleaf to a local folder in a folder in
    your computer, so do something like:

Use pandoc to conver the html to tex

Then use git add, commit, and push the file back to Overleaf. So, do something like:

You have now connected your Slack post to Overleaf, :-)

What can you do with this workflow and what next?

If you keep your references collaboratively in Mendeley, or Zotero, or
Citeulike, keep your images in external servers, then you can
collaboratively build a journal article or any other academic document
in Slack updating the Overleaf later. But this is a rapid and simple way to connect Slack Posts to Overleaf. In a follow up to this post, I will write about connecting Quip, that “Living Document” system come alive and get connected to Overleaf. Quip, of course, can be invoked from Slack. Which means you can now connect Slack, Quip, and Overleaf to create academic documents without worrying about the nitty gritty of LaTeX, but it helps to know the basics.

Originally published at on October 3, 2016.

Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Also in:

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