Authorea: Simple Research Collaboration

Document collaboration is an area that many are trying to innovate in. For general usage, Google has been at the forefront of increasing collaboration with Google Drive but the options become significantly limited when you want to specialise in a specific genre.

Authorea is all about writing educational and research papers in your browser in a convinent and intuitive manner while easing the process of collaborating with others.

Getting Started

When you’re ready to get started, you’ll need to head over to your dashboard and create a new article. Here, a simple form processes your chosen article name, choice of article format (with the option of Markdown or LaTeX), who you want to let comment and the privacy level of your document. Conveniently, you’ll get the option of either releasing your document into public view or keep it private, although the number of documents you can keep private is limited to how much you’re willing to pay for the service.

Authorea Creating New

Before you get started writing your content, you’ll need to select a few article options first.

Composing your article takes place in your browser, presented just like an article on any other webpage when you’re not actively editing it. You can read, click links and view tables, maths data and images. Atop your article is your title, which is easily changed by simply double-clicking it.

Adding a new section of the document is another easy process, simply requiring you to hover over the document and choose the Insert option to add a new section (the same double-click method works for editing sections too, after initially adding them). The process of adding or editing a section is not unfamiliar to most forms of large text inputs in other web apps, featuring buttons for easy formatting of your text. You’ll also be able to select from a range of formats — everything from HTML to MediaWiki syntax — and, if you’re editing rather than creating, set a summary of your changes.

Adding a new section is a familiar process.

Adding or editing a new section is a familiar process.

By managing sections as individual components, Authorea automatically creates an index in the sidebar, providing a welcome convenience of links to skip to certain sections, tables, images and other elements. Authorea also manages your individual sections in Folder view, allowing you to upload files and download individual sections already in your document in their native format that you chose when composing them. Managing your document is a really simple process and is automatic to enough of an extent that it is of minimal worry.

As your document evolves, you can edit the article’s settings to update its status, going from Rough Draft to Peer Reviewed to Postprint, a tool especially useful for educational documents that simply isn’t available in rival web apps.

Collaboration and Communication

Of course, a key feature of Authorea is the ability to collaborate. The app employs a number of features which makes sure that letting one or more co-authors in is a smooth process. Adding a new collaborator is super simple, requiring only an email address to invite an author to the service and to your document.

Although it works just fine when you’re authoring a document alone, the Newsfeed view shows a time-organised listing of what’s been happening to your document, showing things like the adding or removing of sections of the document. Each entry in the Newsfeed is associated with a particular commit — making the process very similar to services like Github for software — that allows you to view changes and handily undo them when necessary.

Authorea includes some really handy tools for collaboration with multiple authors.

Authorea includes some really handy tools for collaboration with multiple authors.

Furthermore, Authorea actually allows authors to “lock” section of the document to prevent editing by other users, ensuring there are no conflicts. This all ties the app together as a fantastic app for collaboration that sets the standard for any type of web app that involves managing content from multiple users.

Pricing and Availability

Authorea certainly has an emphasis on open, public articles allowing all accounts at any tier, including free, to compose and publish unlimited public articles. The real limits understandably come from how many private articles you want to have, although your first one is on the house. From there, Authorea charges monthly at $5, $10 and $25 rates, where the number of private articles allowed is equal to the number of dollars you’ll be paying.

The free model will satisfy many, but the paid plans are far from lacking in value.

Final Thoughts

Authorea is a really cool app and, by tailoring their product for collaboration, sets a benchmark for any web app concerned with collaboration on documents. (Take notice, Google!) It does this in a package that is clean and minimalist — utilising Twitter’s Bootstrap styles — that does little to detract your attention away from your content.

Authorea might not be for everyone and, in an accredited educational context, might not even be allowed. However, it does everything you could want it to do in a manner that is intuitive and allows for smooth collaboration and productivity.


Summary

Authorea is a web app all about composing research and educational documents with ease of collaboration.

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