LaTeX on the iPad – using apps for mathematical typesetting I

What is LaTeX mobile actually for? The question regarding the sense and purpose of mobile LaTeX programming is soon on people’s lips. For us, there are three solid reasons to address the Topic:

    1. 2. LaTeX is still the best typesetting software on the market. It offers valuable support in creating scientific and technical documents by allowing the top-class typographical representation of mathematical typesetting.
      [Abbildung 1: Textsatz ohne und mit LaTex] Figure 1:  typeset with/without Latex
    2. Meanwhile, mobile terminal devices are commonplace, as a large number of studies on mobile web usage, sales figures for tablets and, last but not least, our own observations at ETH-Bibliothek’s study spaces reveal.
    3. Our users’ interest in LaTeX applications is often evident in questions posed during our course iPad for study and work.iPad for study and work..

The LaTeX applications for the iPad evaluated in this and the following blog post were tested by Alfred Gautschy – an expert in physics and astronomy and our specialist on questions related to LaTeX, BibTeX and JabRef. A subsequent post will examine the corresponding apps for Android.

The following essentially applies to “TeX-ting” on the iPad: due to the hardware limitation that still exists, there are constraints compared to Desktop computers. LaTeX compilers that run locally on the iPad are often scaled down heavily. And not all applications offer packet extensions that can additionally be integrated in the app to make up for this flaw.

tex_k  TeX Writer

TeX Writer is the LaTeX editor and compiler. Its reduced user interface makes for easy orientation. The visual impression is dominated by an editor window without any significant setting or user aids. Registration or the creation of a user account is not necessary to use the application. Users can get “TeX-ting” as soon as they’ve downloaded the app.

TeX Writer can also be used directly with an elementary knowledge of TeX. The editor works with a modified onscreen keypad containing key TeX functionalities. If tech characters that are more awkward to enter are frequently used, two additional “assistant keyboards” can be activated individually and used without switching back and forth. The user ultimately arrives at the PDF result directly from the finished TeX input with one click.

Files are exported in the formats .tex or, if compiled, .PDF via e-mail or data synchronisation with Dropbox. Another form of data synchronisation is not currently possible.

Tex Writer Editor, Quelle:

Figure 2: Tex Writer Editor

Pro & cons

TeX Writer is a straightforward workhorse that, thanks to the possibilities offered by the assistant keyboards, can be adapted to the user’s own way of working. Typing on the virtual keypad and navigating through the TeX file isn’t always foolproof. The documentation on using the application is a little lacking.

The expert gives


LogoTeX Expert TeX Expert

TeX Expert is a ready-to-use editor and compiler. The work environment looks spartan and clean. It is operated by way of a few icons, which are not described in detail but soon become clear in their range of functions after they have been used for a short time. Two assistant keyboards also offer support with editing here by enabling the use of TeX characters that are tricky to enter without having to switch back and forth. Moreover, an additional customised command bar with rapid commands for the editing mode can be set up.

[Abbildung 2: TeX Expert Editor, Screenshot]

Figure 3: TeX Expert Editor, Screenshot

tex. formats or the processed .PDF end product can be exported from the app. Synchronisation with Dropbox works perfectly after a one-off user identification.

Pro & cons

The rapid compiler and the possibility to create customised toolbars are positive. With only one readme.tex that can also be compiled immediately as an exercise, however, the user guidance is somewhat poor. Moreover, .PDF contents look blurred on the display as evidently no vector fonts were used.

The expert gives


Other applications, such as TeX Touch and VerbTeX, will be presented in the next blog post.

Authors: Maximiliane Okonnek, Dr. Alfred Gautschy

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Public License.

DOI Link: 10.16911/ethz-ib-1226-en

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