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I've just started using git for tracking changes in a LaTeX paper I'm writing, and for collaboration with co-authors.

However, I cannot find easily private git repositories with reasonable plans for scientific collaboration (I'm not asking about discounts, just about a different workflow, so no "one team of n developers", but there are "many small project, with different people").

There is ScribTeX, but unfortunately they are going down :/.


  • GitHub free for students (otherwise $7/month): only 5 repos
    (it will work but not for a long time or I will need to delete my repositories)
  • Bitbucket free: only n=5, next ($10/month): only n=10
  • Assembla free: priv, but no bug-tracking; next ($9/month): n=3

So, is there a (La)TeX-oriented Git (or, say, Mercurial) repository service?

That is, I'm looking for a repository (free or reasonably priced - i.e. for one with a PhD student salary, not a programmer salary :))

  • allowing for:
    • many collaborators,
    • many private repositories,
  • but can have strong limits on:
    • users per repository,
    • repository size.
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migrated from tex.stackexchange.com Nov 13 '12 at 16:40

This question came from our site for users of TeX, LaTeX, ConTeXt, and related typesetting systems.

You can install gitolite. –  Paul Gaborit Nov 12 '12 at 23:24
Bitbucket offers unlimited private repos for academic users: atlassian.com/software/views/bitbucket-academic-license.jsp –  Aditya Nov 13 '12 at 6:54
I confirm Aditya's comment, I'm currently using an academic licence for Bitbucket, and I have unlimited private repo for an unlimited number of collaborators. –  user102 Nov 13 '12 at 18:53
May I ask how this will help me as a "new" researcher? I got SugarSync for writing papers. I usually create folder and invite my supervisor to the join so he can also see and update the folder. –  seteropere Nov 14 '12 at 21:05
@seteropere I see, SugarSync is something like Dropbox - to backup and share folders. (I use the latter also for backing up research files, BTW.) However, it's not version control system indented for working on the same piece of code. It may fail when many people work on the same file. Plus, it gives to insight in changes, plus - it is not (as) easy to get any version you want. But to make it full + post screenshots - could you post is as a question (i.e. "Why use version control systems for writing a paper"). I would love to answer. –  Piotr Migdal Nov 15 '12 at 0:40

3 Answers 3

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Aditya's comment should be the accepted answer:

Bitbucket offers unlimited private repos for academic users.

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Sounds the best, I will test it. –  Piotr Migdal Nov 14 '12 at 20:50
Is this for all academic personal or only students? –  crash Nov 15 '12 at 14:09
It seems to be for everyone. There are no specific terms, but they only ask What University are you associated with?, and test for an academic e-mail account. –  Federico Poloni Nov 15 '12 at 16:44

Consider asking your research institute/university IT services.

  • In terms of fees, I'd consider such a tool as necessary for scientific work as your office chair, or backup disks/servers. My personal experience with asking for a git repository on a file server was that our director immediately answered "if that's what is needed for work, it needs to be installed." - that was it.

  • The far more important concern is, where research in progress and possibly data will end up. Storing such sensitive data outside the collaborating institutes is by default a big NO, even though lots of people send their research data by skype or dropbox.
    You'd be totally screwed up if you run into ownership/privacy problems.
    Even Bitbucket (who have "academic license") have write in their terms such statements (there are other statements about you retaining ownership of your data, privacy etc.):

    End User hereby grants Atlassian a non-exclusive license to copy, distribute, perform, display, store, modify, and otherwise use End User Data in connection with operating the Hosted Services.

  • For some areas of research it is even more NO, e.g. I work with patient data...

  • git works very well with distributed systems, even if they are only seldom connected. Worst case, people can email patches.

  • But installing git on a server is easy and people may get an ssh login, and that is all you need to have for your private git repository inside your institution IT structure, which avoids all that privacy trouble.

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Good point with the privacy and tricky EULAs! Hopefully, in my case (theoretical physics) it is not an issue. But when it comes to asking local IT service... well, I have very mixed experience with them. That is, sometimes they can install you ask (and clearly not always), but also it's likely to break without a notice, in an unpredictable moment; I have had much, much better experience with external (usually commercial) services. Moreover, even in the most optimistically-unrealistic case (where everything works well), I won't be at the same place for more than a few years. –  Piotr Migdal Nov 13 '12 at 19:33
The restrictive words in that EULA are in connection with operating the Hosted Services. To me, it means that they may perform those operations if and only if they are related to providing you the Hosted Services, i.e., they can show you the source files when you click on your repositories or you write git pull, but they may not put them online on the internet or have their employees read them if it's a private repo. IANAL, but I'd trust them if this is the exact wording. –  Federico Poloni Nov 14 '12 at 10:08
@PiotrMigdal: I agree with your IT services experience. One of the advantages of git is that no master is needed. You can just copy your repo and it will work. That is, 1) you can copy it and take it with you when you change jobs (if permitted by employer) 2) failure of the IT department's server does not affect syncing your local repo with the colleagues repos. Not convenient (ask for IP address, allow connection [talk to IT because of firewall - that hassle may make them repair the server ASAP], sync, deny connections again), but work can go on. You can also email patches. –  cbeleites Nov 14 '12 at 11:51
@FedericoPoloni: Neither am I a lawyer. But I'd at least get official approval for using that service. As a (relevant) side note: the DFN (German national research and education network) has its own doodle replacement because of such concerns. And doodle is just about scheduling meetings, not about upload of your research. –  cbeleites Nov 14 '12 at 12:12

Personally I am using Bitbucket and create a new user for each project. If you have Gmail you can create an infinite number of email addresses using the + syntax, e.g. yourname+tag@gmail.com where tag can be any word.

Another option is to share a bitbucket user account with many people. Just add everybody's public key to that account and locally set the author of the git repository to their individual name and email. Push and pull do not care who's pushing and pulling whose commit. Disadvantage of this approach is that all users will be able to access all repositories. So it works best for collaboration within a research group.

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This is totally unnecessary. –  David Ketcheson Nov 14 '12 at 16:52
It’s still useful for people without an academic email address who cannot apply for unlimited repos. –  akuhn Nov 14 '12 at 19:20
@akuhn I used that trick to test my webservice, but never thought about ab(using) it to generate more accounts somewhere. Thanks! :) However, in this case, it is not that much of my interest, as I want to have things is one place. –  Piotr Migdal Nov 14 '12 at 19:36
Fair enough, I hadn't thought of that. But if you're in industry, doesn't your company provide a solution? And if not, I bet Bitbucket would give you the same thing they give academics, if you asked. –  David Ketcheson Nov 16 '12 at 5:16

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