Category Archive: iPad

Current state of LaTeX on the iPad

Susan Donovan posted a review of the current state of things in the quest to do LaTeX on the iPad: Using LaTeX on the iPad: The best and worst apps for writing mathematics.

I haven’t tried most of these, I haven’t gotten much beyond installing TexTouch and playing with it a little bit. However, most of the alternatives that Susan reviews are really only alternatives if what you want to do is typeset mathematical formulas for papers or emails, being LaTeX-powered equation editors. I’d find such a thing potentially useful if it allowed drawing trees in emails (which is what I sometimes use LaTeXiT on the Mac for), but that’s not going to happen without pretty much a full local installation of LaTeX (so I can include pstricks and pst-jtree).

The remote compilation that TexTouch does, particularly since you can set it up against your own installation on a desktop machine synced with Dropbox, still seems like a pretty optimal solution for using full-blown TeX. Even if Apple’s guidelines didn’t prohibit it, I’m not at all convinced that I actually want a full TeX install on my iPad proper. My desktop machine has much more disk space and computational prowess, and I’m rarely using the iPad in a situation where it isn’t connected to the net.

Tex Touch: LaTeX on the iPad that doesn’t even hurt much

I just took Tex Touch for a spin on the iPad, and actually did some substantial editing on a paper. It’s not as fast to type on an iPad as it is on a real keyboard, of course, but I’m pretty impressed with how it works.

The fundamental problem with TeX on an iDevice is that Apple forbids any kind of code compilation on the device itself, and so one couldn’t even in principle do a TeX install on the iPad (at least without jailbreaking, I don’t know what options are open for a jailbroken iPad). So, the only way to make it work is to do the compiling remotely. However, TexTouch makes the process pretty transparent.

Tex Touch allows you to connect yourself to a folder in your Dropbox account (and for the space you need, the free account will suffice), and then it will use that folder as a way to connect to your desktop machine, which needs to be running a program that will watch the folder and compile any TeX files that find themselves there. When the compilation is done, and the PDF file is produced, TexTouch picks it up and allows you to display it on the iPad. The folder watching function is accomplished either by the developer’s own program or by using Ramón Figueroa-Centeno’s LaTeXMe script. LaTeXMe is a Mac program, but Tex Touch itself is intended to also work with a Windows machine on the remote compiler end.

Once you have it set up, you barely realize that it’s being compiled remotely. You hit the “TeX!” button and the file is uploaded, it sits for a little bit, then downloads the PDF (or gives you access to the log).

The editor itself is nice too. No syntax coloring yet, but it has support for templates, and it has an elaborate keyboard setup that allows pretty simple access to brackets and slashes and commonly used LaTeX commands and symbols. After working with it briefly, I found it quite acceptable.

I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops, but this looks like the perfect solution for my own setup. I already keep all of my TeX work in my Dropbox folder anyway, so it’s pretty straightforward to copy over a file I want to work on when I’m away from my computer and get still something done. The only problem that I have had so far is that it didn’t find my bibliography file when it was remotely compiling, but I’m sure that (a) this is pretty easily solvable by adding a path to something somewhere, and (b) I’m unlikely to produce the final version of the PDF this way anyway, so I’ll always have a chance to recompile when I get back to my computer.

Reading papers on an iPad

The iPad is a pretty good platform for reading Linguistics papers, not just novels. I actually did all of my grading on the iPad, using a program called iAnnotate, which I would recommend. It lets you add highlights, text notes, drawings to PDFs. It’s a more sophisticated version of Aji Annotate for the iPhone. Getting PDFs in and out requires running a server on your computer to sync a folder over WiFi, and the annotations are all saved not into the original file, but into a copy marked as annotated. But it works pretty well, and it has so far been a nice way to grade and to read journal articles and so forth.

If you’re not trying to annotate, but just to read, I think I like GoodReader best of the PDF readers (universal for iPad and iPhone). Reading with iAnnotate is not bad, but it’s a bit better with GoodReader, and GoodReader has lots of ways of getting documents onto the device (including direct access to your Dropbox folder). It will also read Office and iWork documents, and even works as a video player.