Friday, 3 September 2010

Finding symbols in LaTeX

There are a lot of symbols in LaTeX and finding the right one, especially when first learning, can be a bit of a pain. It happens very infrequently now that I've been using LaTeX for more than four years, but when I need to find some symbol, I look to two resources.

Cheat Sheets and Reference Cards

A few people have put together one or two page tables of the most commonly used constructs. They're generally referred to as "cheat sheets", "reference cards" or something like that. Googling them will give you plenty of hits. The two that have sat on my desk since I started using LaTeX are Winston Chang's LaTeX 2e Cheat Sheet and J. H. Silverman's TeX Reference Card. Print out the PDFs and just stick them somewhere nearby and accessible.

DeTeXify

DeTeXify is an amazing HTML5 tool by Philipp Kühl and Daniel Kirsch. Just try to draw the symbol you want and the script will give you its best guesses. If you're a seasoned LaTeX user, I'd recommend visiting it and trying your most obscure symbols so you can teach it. This tool should be spread as far and wide across the Internet as possible.

Note that because the applet uses HTML5, you'll need a recent browser. The page itself claims that Opera 9.6+, Firefox 3.5+ and Safari 4+ work. Google Chrome will almost certainly work too.

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