The Future of Research Communications and e-Scholarship

Close this search box.

FidusWriter – could a web-based writing tool become the first real CMS for collaborative science after WordPress?

Good news everyone!

as many of you have figured out at their own expenses, there's a gap in the offer of web based writing tools targetting the academic community.

Many of us use Google Docs for their collaborative writings. For instance here at Leukippos Institute we use Google Docs for writing our papers. Unfortunately this tool is not open, extendable and thereof satifying. In particular, Google Docs doesn't allow you to manage reference with the common reference managers like Mendeley, Papers etc. The build-in reference tool named "Tools>Research" allow you to add reference but in customizable way. It create a footnote and not endnotes. Also, it doesn't allow to add personalized reference syles. You can see this here.

In my opinion we absolutely need something that works with an embedded Mendeley plug-in. The good thing of Google Docs is that allow live multiple writings: for instance, I'm writing a part and John another, so we should be able to work on the same paper at the same time.

A few days ago, while I was struggling to find the best solution, Daniel Frebel, the community manager of FidusWriter asked on HackYourPhD Facebook Page for volounteers in translating the GUI in other languages, and I offered to translate it in Italian. So I had an flash Hangout with him and we've discuss his project and the main issues they're challenging.

I then told him what are the fetaures I'd add if it were my choice.

  • First, it has to be open and let people hack in to it. In this way you eventually end with a growing and dynamic community like community which provide custom solutions for the various needs at a zero cost.  In fact, as a biologist I don't need equations manager so much and other things, but I know that other people in other fields does. Plus, every fields have their own need. Of course this will depends on the business model they want to run. 
  • Second, it has to give the option to work live at same project like Google Docs does.
  • Third, and most important, it has to provide a scalable and modular interaction with the major ref managers otherwise it's useless for me.
  • Fourth, it can start as a web based writing tool… and became only God knows what… In Force11 we know that from annotations, to project management, from quantification of contributions to authorships, from data-mining to data-wrangling everything does matter… In my view, this can be the base for a like community targeting academics.

But I'll be down to earth now since we could add the idea of novel methods of peer-review as well… BUT: working live with others, and an open API for ref managers are critical fetaures to add in my opinion.

As I said we all have our necessities and for this I'll invite you to join an hangout for asking to the developers of FidusWriter your questions and to give your suggestions. They're looking exactly for your help.  In order to get organized I set this doodle here.

Pick here your dates/hours available to discuss.

I suggest you all to play with the test mock-up here and to comments either here on the bottom of this page or on their FAQ page.

The next step I suggest will be an Hackathon, but maybe it's too early for this now.. Just I'm so excited about this project! 🙂


Welcome to Force11, FidusWriting!


Eugenio Battaglia







5 thoughts on “FidusWriter – could a web-based writing tool become the first real CMS for collaborative science after WordPress?”

  1. Your ears must have been tingling

    Thanks Eugenio.  The FORCE11 exec committee was just having a vigorous discussion about new authoring tools that we might use to update the Manifesto. Hope one or more of us can join the hangout.

  2. clarifications

    Hi Eugenio,
    thanks for your effort and interest! I am one of the two developers of Fidus Writer.

    Good that you like Fidus Writer. We have been working hard at it for the past year. We are excited about your interest n Fidus Writer, but I think i should clarify a few points:

    • Fidus Writer recently launched version 1.0 after more than a year of development. It's therefore slightly beyond the mockup stage and should be usable as is within many academic disciplines.
    • As for our business modell and open source: We are already open source (AGPL) and are working toward a business modell very similar to that of WordPress. 
    • Web browsers are unfortunately extremely broken when it comes to creating editing environments within web pages. They provide some simple commands when it comes to the basic editing you can do in most rich-text comment fields. For Google Docs it's not enough, so they have created different applications in Javascript for each browser (Firefox, IE, Chrome, Safari, etc.) that work outside of the built-in functions and with the weight of Google have been able to create a real-time rich-text editor. The task becomes even harder when you add complex contents, such as formulas or citations. This is probably why noone has done it before. I have filed bugs both with Firefox  (😉 and Chrome ( ). The Chrome team will discuss how to deal with it at a conference in September. I have not heard from the Firefox team. Until this is fixed, I don't think it's feasible to try to work on realtime collaboration in a complex editor like this, unless we get a team as big as the Google Docs development team.
    • Interaction with ref managers: We are currently trying to make sure that we can use the export formats of Mendeley and Zotero. As we want the app to be web-based and for people to be able to use it from any computer, we cannot require them to have a certain reference manager installed in order to wok on a certain document. That way we can just as well use Word. And the reference managers do not interact well with oneanother, so hat it would not be feasible to let people with different ref managers work on the same document, AFAIK.

    Ok, so much for clarification. I hope that helped a bit. And I am really looking forward to meeting you guys!

    • HI Johnathan! Thanks for your clarifications. All good news to hear BTW…. 

      Concerning the reference thing, I'd add in that case also an importer so that who are using a ref manager (the majority of people i guess), could prepare and update a list using for instance mendeley and upload it to FidusWriter when it has to be used. In this case you allow both types of users to exploit their usual work-flow and tools.

      Also, I'd put the ref manager of FidusWriter in the page where I'm writing, and not in another page. In the other page maybe just to uploading list or to modifying the list. While I should be able to pick the ref without leaving the page.



      Looking forward to hear you.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Articles


FORCE11 annual conference: 1-3 August

UCLA Los Angeles


Join the FORCE11 community and take part in our groups, conference, summer school, post on FORCE11, and attend other events.


FORCE2023 Sponsors

The FORCE11 community thanks the following organizations for their financial support of the
FORCE2023 annual conference.