Thursday, March 8, 2012

Write LaTeX in Google Docs, compile locally to pdf

I want to write my MS thesis in LaTeX code, but also from anywhere via Google Docs.

This is how I automatically fetch and compile LaTeX code from Google Docs:

  1. Create the Google Docs document
  2. Put some LaTeX code in it. Hopefully you have some "boilerplate" code you always start with.
  3. (I assume you have a LaTeX compiler installed and know how to write in LaTeX)
  4. Install wget if you don't have it (Windows:, Other:
  5. Press Share in your doc and allow anyone with the link to view it:
  6. Save. Copy the public link. Change the "/edit" in the end to only "/export?format=txt".
  7. Make a folder on your computer where you will be doing the LaTeX compilation.
  8. Make a script which downloads the doc as raw text file and then compiles it with the latex compiler.

This is how my download-and-compile script looks like:

"path/do/wget" "" -O thesis.tex --no-check-certificate
"path/to/pdflatex.exe" -interaction=nonstopmode "thesis.tex"

Those two lines are basically all it takes. When I run build_thesis.bat it downloads the very latest code and compiles it into a pdf.

  • Problems with the UTF-8 BOM sneaking in to the beginning? Try using lualatex.exe instead which supports UTF-8.
  • If you want to split up into many .tex files you can make many docs and wget all of them.
  • If you use images it's easiest to simply have them in your working folder.
  • Images in the Google Doc will be ignored in the raw text, so you can have your images in the doc and the code for LaTeX to compile them in for a nice preview.
  • A ToC in the doc follow as text in raw format, so it's best not to use it and instead rely on scrolling.
Tell me your results. Happy LaTeXing!