Do you use Overleaf? (Survey Results)

In the April EdTech Tip Sheet, we surveyed FASE to find out if Overleaf (a collaborative online Latex editor) was a tool in (or desired for) use. 199 people sharing how they use Overleaf, making it by far our most heavily responded to survey - ever!

Summary of Survey Results

The goal of this survey was to explore whether a tool of this type would be useful to the Faculty. In total, 199 people responded to the survey.

You can see the resondents break down by role in this chart (or the text table below):

Respondent Main role
  # of responses % of total responses
Grad Student 151    76%
Instructor 31    16%
N/A 8    4%
Postdoc 5      3%
Staff 4       2%
Grand Total 199     


Across respondents, Overleaf is used most for academic papers, with course assignments, student projects, and lab reports also being well represented. This can be seen in the "What types of activities are you interested in using Overleaf for?" graph, below:

While the use of Overleaf (or a similar tool) is very popular, there was mixed opinion as to whether or not this particular tool was the right tool to be licensed across FASE. Also flagged was the idea that the free version might serve most users for their teaching and research activities. Postivies include shared libraries, cross-platoform use, and generating figures and tables. Drawbacks included sharing with external reviewers. Many flagged that this might be a tool that could be licensed through the library, following the example of other applications (e.g. NVivo).

What happens now?

Results from the survey have been shared with the FASE IT Office as well as the Department of Math. This survey demonstrated the wide interest in the tool and the next steps are to ensure this is the right tool and that it can be cost-effectively licensed. We hope that within the next few months, there will be more information about how the FASE community can access Overleaf (or simliar) tool but it will take some time to complete an environemental scan and security assessment. 

Selected comments from Instructors

  • I haven't used LaTeX for years, but some of my students do.  I usually end up having to edit their papers in Word since I no longer have a functioning LaTeX install.  Overleaf might be beneficial for team writing/editing in LaTeX in my lab
  • I love Overleaf, hope we get a license for it!
  • I many use overleaf for preparing assignment documents (so undergraduate students don't use it). In grad classes, I encourage use for submitting assignment documentation but it is not required.  I use it much more in research than in teaching.
  • I would like to have easy access to Overleaf using my laptop in Toronto and elsewhere when I travel.
  • Not sure the faculty shd spend its money on this - for those who want to use latex, tehre are many free software packages. For those who desperately want Overleaf, they can pay for it using their UTFA account (assuming their society doesn't provide it already)
  • Professional license would be useful for all faculty
  • What is the incremental benefit of a license?

Selected comments from Grad Students

  • Accessing to liscensed version of overleaf is essential for writting papers involving more people
  • Don't really use it. I use Vscode and git.
  • I don't understand why the questions are limited to course work? I am research based PhD student and I need Overleaf for all my manuscripts. I share with my collaborators and supervisor and they can comment and edit. writing big manuscripts is way more efficient in Latex than in Word and Overleaf is the only platform for collaboration on Latex projects
  • I enjoy using Overleaf already, would love to use the collaborative aspects.
  • I paid for Overleaf myself for my PhD thesis, and it was fantastic. I can't recommend it highly enough. The only drawback of Overleaf is the inability for an external reviewer (i.e. supervisor) to collaborate with comments on the PDF. He/she can only comment on Latex code, or separately on a generated PDF (which requires the student to manually fix each issue by cross referencing the PDF with the LaTex code. Once the changes are made, the change comments are lost). I imagine Overleaf is aware of this shortcoming.
  • I personally have been using the free version of Overleaf since my fourth year of undergrad, especially for generating reports with a large amount of figures and tables. I have found it incredibly useful to be able to load in figures using the software and at this point it has probably saved me hours of formatting work whenever a figure needs to be replaced.
  • I really hope Overleaf is supported by the university since it's such an important tool for graduate students, whether for academic papers or teaching activities.
  • I think one of the immediate benefits of having an institutional license for Overleaf would be the ability to share and collaborate on documents. With basic plan you can only share with one person.
  • I use the free version which works fine for me. I'd use a paid version if there were useful features (not sure if there are or not).
  • I would be so grateful if I could have access to overleaf for my articles as it provides a great chance for me to prepare a decent format while my supervisor can also edit it in a shared space.
  • Indeed, I think having an overleaf license will be very very very very helpful for research students
  • It is a good idea, unless it’s ridiculously expensive
  • It's great resource to have. One of the reasons people shy away from Latex is library dependencies and cross platform use. But given overleaf is a cloud solution, it overcomes that problem.
  • Licensing overleaf would be wonderful! Thanks :)
  • Overleaf is a game-changer for me
  • Overleaf is an integral part of research. You need it to write any academic/professional document. It's surprising we do not have a license from UofT already.
  • Please buy this software.
  • Please do it
  • The faculty provides workshops on how to use overleaf/ latex but then we don't have access to the professional version (which provides pretty essential perks like longer compiling times and integration of reference managers). The professional version is so useful but fairly costly (~$20 / month) for a grad student.
  • This is a really good idea, Overleaf is extremely useful and would be a great tool for UofT students.
  • Would be great to have a license for the software!
Article Category: General Information