Using SourceTree and Git for Research (Part 1)
A Version control system (VCS) helps you manage changes to documents and programs. This goes beyond using Track Changes in Microsoft Word. For example, you can revert to older versions of a LaTeX document or program written in Stata, SAS, or R. With a distributed version control system (DVCS), you can track changes to all your documents and programs while collaborating with coauthors. Bitbucket offers for free an unlimited number of private repositories with up to 5 collaborators. If you authorize an academic (*.edu) email account you get unlimited contributors! A popular alternative is Github, but since Github does not offer free private repositories (and keeping your research private is important!) we will use Bitbucket.
Bitbucket makes use of two DVCSs: Mercurial (Hg) and Git. We’ll be using Git for this tutorial, but you could use Mercurial instead if you prefer (intro to working with Mercurial). To make using
Using a DVCS allows you to link a repository to the documents on your local machine. This repository will allow you to track changes to your documents and keep a record of your document history.
To see how this system works. This tutorial will trace the following steps:
Part 2 of this tutorial will cover connecting this repository to a Bitbucket.org repository to put the D in DVCS and take a look at collaborating with coauthors.
Step 1: Setup LaTeX file
Step 2: Setup a Bitbucket account
Go to bitbucket.org and sign up for a new account (if you don’t already have one).
Step 3: Install SourceTree
Go to http://sourcetreeapp.com/ and click the large “Download SourceTree Free” button in the middle of the page. Your button may appear different if you are using Windows.
Open the SourceTree application. You will see a screen similar to the one below. Fill this form out with your fullname and the email address you used to setup your Bitbucket account. Make sure both check boxes are checked to allow SourceTree to manage your Mercurial and Git configurations and to agree to the license agreement. Click “Next”.
Click “Finish” to complete the initial setup process.
Step 4: Setup your repository
Change the “Repository Type” from “Mercurial” to “Git” (you can also change the default bookmark name if you like). Click “Create”.
Add “itn.tex” to the staging area
Notice that “itn.tex” has been moved from “Files in the working directory” to “Files staged in the index”. This means that if we commit changes, changes to “itn.tex” will be updated to the repository.
Commit to initialize the repository
Step 5: Making a change to the LaTeX file
Now we want to see how this version control system deals with changes. Add the following paragraph to “itn.tex”:
In the analysis of international trade as a network phenomenon, we must answer the question of how the network structure is determined. More precisely, if we assume the network structure is given to us exogenously, our analysis will focus on the game played on the given network. If, however, the formation of the network structure is endogenous, our analysis must broaden to consider the formation process. This survey focuses on what information the network itself can provide regarding the formation process.
Click “Stage File” or “Add”. Click “Commit”, choose an appropriate message and click “Commit” to commit these changes to your repository.
Step 6: Viewing your history
Click the two log entries to see the changes that were added at each commit.
We’ve covered quite a bit here, but there is much more to learn. Though our example worked with a LaTeX source file, you could follow the same process with any filetype. In fact, version control systems were developed with programmers in mind. As a result this is the perfect way to manage your source files for Stata, SAS, R, Python, HTML, etc. Here are a few
Be sure to check out the next part of this tutorial as we connect our repository to the Bitbucket site and collaborate with a coauthor.
Any tips or nagging questions? I would love to hear them!