This question isn't really about lecture notes in themselves, like these questions (Hand out lecture notes or not? or Is it better to provide students with guided notes or to have them write their own notes, or both?). Rather it's about, if you were to give out notes, would you give them out in an editable format (rather than, say, a static pdf)?

I've sometimes given out class notes, but they've happened to always be pre-printed or pdf format for students to print out. Either way, they can personalize the actual text. And I'm wondering if, in providing notes, I should also provide what made those notes, like an editable document (like Word) or give the LaTeX code.

As how some people learn from their own notes, or from others', or how they learn from writing it by hand, or by computer font, it might be possible they could learn also by adapting and rephrasing things. All the time, I've reworked writings from textbooks for my own learning and teaching but it can be difficult if one has to start from the beginning. Although they might not reformat the equations due to not knowing how to do it, by providing the editable files, they could rework the words in a way that they understand. For example, they could add in ALL CAPS or ***'s around things that need more attention.

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    $\begingroup$ They can still print the pdfs, of course. $\endgroup$
    – Sue VanHattum
    Aug 14, 2020 at 18:19
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    $\begingroup$ What kind of input device are you expecting students to have? If you assume that they have a tablet of some kind, a .pdf is fine, as they can write directly onto the .pdf using something like Notability (I'm sure that there is a Windows equivalent, and probably about 47 open source / Linux act-alikes. On the other hand, if they only have access to a keyboard and mouse, things are likely to be more difficult. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson
    Aug 15, 2020 at 5:22
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    $\begingroup$ Do not give out editable lecture notes. While most students will use them with good intention, you could have your name/notes associated with poorly adapted notes or trolls tarnishing your reputation with inappropriate content added in the notes. $\endgroup$ Aug 15, 2020 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ If lecture was only to take notes, which most of the time are rehashed from textbooks, then there was no reason to begin with. $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2020 at 2:15

2 Answers 2


I wouldn't share my notes' source code so lightly in this context, and the possible costs are greater than the almost inexistent benefits. There certainly are security concerns as @PhysicsMathsLove's comment shows, not to mention possible venues for plagiarism, and most students don't know $\LaTeX$ enough to typeset their own notes or simply can't be bothered to, as it's a very lengthy process.

Many .pdf viewers allow you to insert comments without the need to edit the source code, so if it's just to write some quick notes I don't see the benefit in sharing the original code. Some programs such as Xournal++ even let you type $\LaTeX$ equations over a .pdf, so long as a valid TeX environment is installed in your system.

However there are reasons why I would share source code: for a concrete example, one course I recently took required us to write solutions to a given list of exercises (mostly due to the online format forced upon us by the COVID pandemic), and this list was available in both .pdf and .tex source code precisely so students with less experience typesetting documents could read the source and learn from it. In this case the professor shared the source code because it was necessary for the course to function properly.

That said, many authors share the source code for their books: for instance, Jim Hefferon's Linear Algebra has become a standard reference for many courses and the source code is freely available on his webpage. In this case, any possible issues such as plagiarism, etc. are mitigated by the fact that Hefferon is a well-known professor with a public webpage, and by the fact that he has decided to publish and license his work freely (you may use his book under the GNU or Creative Commons 2.5 license).


Many of the students find it easy to understand the self-written/made notes & many probably have the habit to write key-points or self-help points! So, providing a format which helps adding notes or pins could be useful. Also, the authenticity of your notes will be maintained.


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