SciFlow does Spelling and Grammar

Just a short shout that SciFlow has been checking spelling and grammar for a bit now. It’s an integration of LanguageTool, a bit like the suggestion I mentioned before. Integration is nice, but depending on the length of the document, it can take a while because the entire document is checked.

For a fuller description, see the post at SciFlow.

Could not connect to SciFlow

In the past few days, I could not log into SciFlow:

Something went wrong.
No session found

Please try again. If the problem persist, please reach out to
support@sciflow.net.

Well, I did contact the excellent customer service, and it turns out that they tweaked their cookie settings. Which simply means: clear out your SciFlow cookies, and keep writing!

More Support and Templates in SciFlow

SciFlow is an online editor for academics. They have recently updated and expanded the documentation, so should you ever get stuck, here’s how to. That said, the interface is pretty intuitive, so I’m not sure you’ll ever need to navigate to the support pages for basic editing.

There are some useful hints, though, like using zbib (Zotero) with Sciflow (instructions here). This gets pretty close to Authorea’s citation feature, and is also useful for collaborative texts (and doesn’t suffer from the slowness of direct Zotero/Mendeley connections if you have a large database of references).

The SciFlow team have also recently updated the Templates feature:

There are many journal styles to choose from. It’s not quite (yet) like typeset.io, but the social sciences are not well covered by typeset anyway. SciFlow offers some useful templates, but in most cases, it’s necessary to do some finishing before submitting to a journal. On the other hand, there’s a template for minutes — that’s useful for anyone working in a team, and who isn’t?

In most cases the generic templates will do, including the SciFlow templates which support many common citation styles.

Collaborative writing in SciFlow now with Zotero

This deserves mentioning: The collaborating writing service SciFlow now supports Zotero. You can find instructions here and here; all you need is an account with Zotero for syncing. Like the Mendeley link they provide, fetching references from the connected (Zotero) account can be a bit sluggish if you have a large library. If you’re a student writing up a term paper or a Master thesis, you will probably not notice this. If you have a more substantial collection of references, you will notice this. A downside of the Zotero link is that it searches your complete library, including notes and extracted annotations if you have this. I would have liked a more selective sync to speed up things.

So I’m still waiting for a reference search like in Authorea or ZoteroBib. With the many export styles to choose from, SciFlow easily beats Google Docs, and it works in a limited way on a mobile phone (you can log in and edit the text, but formatting etc. are now disabled in recent versions).

SciFlow for Collaborative Writing

There are a few solutions out there for collaborative writing, and currently I like SciFlow best. The thing about collaborative writing platforms is that while there are many options out there, we’ll have to consider the least technical of the co-authors. Yes, we could use LaTeX (or perhaps better: Markdown because most journals want Word documents during submission) on GitHub, but in the social sciences this is often no realistic because many shy away from anything that doesn’t quite look like a word processor.

I guess a widely approach consists of a Word document that is either e-mailed around, or these days shared on Dropbox. It’s not too bad as long as one of the authors knows how to combine different versions of the same document, tracked changes are accepted from time to time, and someone is willing to clean up the messed-up formatting in the end.

In terms of collaboration, an online platform can be better: there is only one version — the latest one –, and all authors can write on the document at once. SciFlow offers a basic service for just this, and the “basic” part makes it just so suitable: the least technical of the co-authors is likely to handle it well. It offers all the necessary bits without distracting from the most important bit: writing.

It handles basic formatting, footnotes, references, figures, and equations. We are forced to use styles rather than direct formatting — something we should be doing in Word, too, but the least technical of the co-authors typically doesn’t do. Citations are built in (though not quite as nicely as in Authorea, where we can import references from the web, too!), and there are many templates to format the document and export it to PDF or Word documents as needed.