LaTeX Expressions – In Graphical Format

Disclaimer #0

  1. Not liking something is NOT THE SAME as hating it.
  2. With above point in mind, I do not like MS Word – reasons for not liking it could actually be another blog entry and I will reserve it for some other day.
  3. With first point still in mind, I do not dislike and/or hate people who like and/or use MS Word.
  4. I LOVE LaTeX – nerds/geeks don’t feel like doing something (be it as simple a task as preparing a document) unless one actually compiles it (and gets error messages for mistakes); and whether you agree with me or not, I am one of them.

What Is LaTeX?

LaTeX is based on Donald E. Knuth’s TeX typesetting language or certain extensions. LaTeX was first developed in 1985 by Leslie Lamport, and is now being maintained and developed by the LaTeX3 Project. Following Wikipedia and other resources, LaTeX is a document preparation system for high-quality typesetting. It is most often used for medium-to-large technical or scientific documents but it can be used for almost any form of publishing.

It is widely used by mathematicians, scientists, philosophers, engineers, and scholars in academia and the commercial world, and by others as a primary or intermediate format (e.g. translating DocBook and other XML-based formats to PDF) because of the quality of typesetting achievable by TeX. It offers programmable desktop publishing features and extensive facilities for automating most aspects of typesetting and desktop publishing, including numbering and cross-referencing, tables and figures, page layout and bibliographies.

Why LaTeX?

Like I mentioned in the disclaimer, I could very well write a complete entry entailing reasons why one should use LaTeX, but for the completeness sake of this entry, here are a few reasons: To produce even the simplest of documents with section headings, author names, etc. in most typesetting or word-processing systems, the author would have to decide what layout to use, so would select (say) 18pt Times Roman for the title, 12pt Times Italic for the name, and so on. This has two results: authors wasting their time with designs; and a lot of badly designed documents! LaTeX contains features for:

  1. Typesetting journal articles, technical reports, books, and slide presentations.
  2. Control over large documents containing sectioning, cross-references, tables and figures.
  3. Typesetting of complex mathematical formulas.
  4. Advanced typesetting of mathematics with AMS-LaTeX.
  5. Automatic generation of bibliographies and indexes.
  6. Multi-lingual typesetting.
  7. Inclusion of artwork, and process or spot colour.
  8. Using PostScript or Metafont fonts.
  9. Accomplishing just about anything, via few hundreds of available packages.

Why LaTeX Expressions in Graphical Format?

It’s a well known and widely established fact that Equation Editor (used inside MS Office products) does not produce decent looking expressions, especially when they are mathematical in Nature. It’s also a well known and well established fact that the mathematical expressions produced by LaTeX are crisp, elegant and provide the biggest bang for the buck (linux is free, LaTeX is free and all one puts in is some time and effort). More often than not, folks in academia find themselves in a situation where they need mathematical expressions as part of their presentations. For those relying on MS Powerpoint but do not wish to use Equation Editor, here’s a solution:

Andreas Reigber wrote a simple, elegant (command line) utility called TeX2Im and released it under GPL. Although I have been using it for few years now and had the idea of webifying it, it wasn’t until this afternoon that I finally mustered enough courage to do it. Using this web-based utility is pretty simple. Just type-in (or paste) the LaTeX code for any given expression (without \begin{equation} and/or \end{equation}) in the form and copy/save the graphic (in PNG format with transparent background) to your computer.


LaTeX Expression in Graphical Format

Just An Example

One can get started by accessing this page.

Disclaimer #1

I understand that this web-based utility might have some bugs. If you have issues/problems using it, please feel free to post your issue/concern as a comment in the form below and either me or some other LaTeX user will respond.


Thanks to Scott and Jon – for helping out with some PHP related issues as well as almost-unique way of naming generated graphics.

19 Replies to “LaTeX Expressions – In Graphical Format”

  1. Hi Gowtham.

    I think this will be an invaluable resource for me — I have a presentation coming up, and in my move I lost my old link for tex2gif.

    So far, I haven’t found any bugs or problems with the interface. I haven’t checked, but I assume you’ve instantiated amsfonts, amsmath, and amssymb so we can use those commands, right?

    Thanks a million, Gowtham. I’ve bookmarked the page and will return often!

  2. @Mike:
    Glad you find this useful: Remember, it all began during Christmas break of 2002 when you initiated me into LaTeX?

    I believe the site/URL with tex2gif was broken last time I checked (I remember you had given it to me while you were here) and yes – amsfonts, amsmath, and amssymb packages have been included.

  3. Thanks.

    Now I feel old.

    Happy writing.

    P.S. — Do you happen to have any Beamer templates I could borrow? The defaults seem fine, but it seems like the kind of thing that you may have personalized and made fancier.

  4. Hi Gowtham,
    This will be extremely useful for me. My current method of getting “beautiful” equations into PowerPoint is cumbersome: I use LaTeX, create a pdf file, copy the equation(s) of interest using the snapshot tool, and then paste as a graphic into PowerPoint.
    Thank you for sharing this with all of us…

  5. Hi Gowtham,
    Is it possible to keep the text as it as after we get the image of the equation. Right now I need to navigate back on html browser to see the text of equation entered.
    Me using it for power point presentation. Thanks!!

  6. Hey,

    I was wondering if in your script there was a way to change font color and back ground color of the produced text in the image. The reason for this is that I was looking at your script to try and use it to produce equations for my website, but since my website’s color scheme isn’t black and white the graphics end up standing out more than I would like. So I guess my suggestion for improvement would be to add options for font and background colors.

  7. @Michael:
    I have added that feature – with three choices: Black Text with White Background; White Text with Black Background and Black Text with Transparent Background. Hope this helps and does what you were looking for.

  8. @Note2Self:
    The utility now has more options: users can pick the Output Type (PNG/GIF/JPG), Background/Text Color (White/Black/Blue/Green/Red/Yellow), Transparent Background, Resolution (150/200/250/300).

  9. found this really useful.. but have one issue…if i give parsed input (multi-line text), then the output must be parsed as well (multi-line)…
    also.. when are u planning to support other languages .. 🙂 i tried greek.. it doesnt work:)

  10. @Bala:
    About Parsed I/O: The line-break character in LaTeX is ‘\\’ (two slashes without quotes). So, insert the line break character in your input and output will promptly display it.

    About other languages: Don’t know how to answer it. LaTeX has built in support for all Greek characters (\alpha \beta \Alpha \Beta and so on). You may want to check the LaTeX documentation (available online) for a complete list of Greek symbols. There is support for Kannada though – although you will have to use this page and the trasnsliteration guide linked from there.

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