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Github and Overleaf integration
Apr 4, 2020

I manage my manuscripts on Github while many collaborators prefer Overleaf. My Github projects generally contain extra files including large Jupyter Notebooks for generating figures, which are futile on Overleaf, increase sync time considerably and occasionally exceeds the 50Mb storage limit. Thus, it is difficult to use the default Github sync feature of Overleaf. The raw access to Overleaf git server allows maintaining the project on Github and Overleaf git servers simulataneously while ignoring certain files from either server.

The idea is simple: the Github remote server, so called origin needs two branches, say master and overleaf. The Overleaf remote server, I call it overleaf, allows a single branch called master. I push changes in origin master and my collaborators push changes in overleaf master. The origin overleaf is required as a filter to hide files unnecessary for the other side. At a regular interval, I merge and sync between the three manually.

The overleaf branch on Github requires a separate .gitignore file to hide unnecessary files on Overleaf.

git checkout -b overleaf
vim .gitignore
git add .gitignore
git commit -m "Track overleaf branch"
git push origin overleaf

Next, I add the overleaf remote (the link can be found in Overleaf settings)

git remote add overleaf
git remote -v

The .git/config file needs manual editing to include the pushurl for Overleaf and separate tracking for overleaf branch of Github:

[branch "overleaf"]
    remote = origin
    merge = refs/heads/overleaf
[remote "overleaf"]
    url =
    fetch = +refs/heads/*:refs/remotes/overleaf/*
    pushurl =

If I am working on a secure machine, I also store my login credentials for Overleaf:

git config credential.helper store

Now, I can merge the empty Overleaf project on to my working project, fix merge conflicts and push it back to Overleaf:

git pull overleaf master --allow-unrelated-histories
# fix the merge conflicts 
git commit -m "Start of overleaf collaboration"
git push overleaf overleaf:master


The three remotes in the project are:

  • origin master (Github master branch)
  • origin overleaf (Github overleaf branch)
  • overleaf master (Overleaf)

I push changes in origin master and my collaborators push changes in overleaf master. Occasionally, I have to merge and push between the three manually. Merging and syncing between the three always proceeds via origin overleaf. For example, here is how I merge overleaf master on to origin master:

# merge overleaf master on to origin overleaf
git checkout overleaf
git pull overleaf master
# fix merge if necessary
git push origin overleaf

# merge origin overleaf on to origin master
git checkout master
git merge --no-commit --no-ff overleaf
git commit -m "Merge overleaf onto master"
git push origin master

And here is the opposite:

git checkout overleaf
git merge --no-commit --no-ff master
git commit -m "Merge master onto overleaf"
git push origin overleaf
git push overleaf overleaf:master

However, most of the time, I have to do a combination of the two.

Warning: Merging may accidentally delete files.

Security note

GitHub public repos with public Overleaf project: the default log message of merge commit reveals “secret” Overleaf URL, enabling anyone to edit public Overleaf project. I prefer private Overleaf project.

Other resources

  1. Git and Overleaf integration by Santiago Casas
  2. Git and Overleaf integration by Jeff Naecker

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