## How To Enter Equations Quickly In Class? 823

Posted
by
timothy

from the napkins-and-a-digital-camera dept.

from the napkins-and-a-digital-camera dept.

AdmiralXyz writes

*"I'm a university student, and I like to take notes on my (non-tablet) computer whenever possible, so it's easier to sort, categorize, and search through them later. Trouble is, I'm going into higher and higher math classes, and typing "f_X(x) = integral(-infinity, infinity, f(x,y) dy)" just isn't cutting it anymore: I need a way to get real-looking equations into my notes. I'm not particular about the details, the only requirement is that I need to keep up with the lecture, so it has to be fast, fast, fast. Straight LaTeX is way too slow, and Microsoft's Equation Editor isn't even worth mentioning. The platform is not a concern (I'm on a MacBook Pro and can run either Windows or Ubuntu in a virtual box if need be), but the less of a hit to battery life, the better. I've looked at several dedicated equation editing programs, but none of them, or their reviews, make any mention of speed. I've even thought about investing in a low-end Wacom tablet (does anyone know if there are ultra-cheap graphics tablets designed for non-artists?), but I figured I'd see if anyone at Slashdot has a better solution."*
## LyX (Score:5, Informative)

I used LyX quite a bit; the equation editor is pretty quick to work with (better than MS Equation Editor or similar addons).

LyX is generally much faster than straight LaTeX - and there's a much shallower learning curve.

Additionally, LyX works on pretty much whatever platform you want to use.

## What's old is new (Score:5, Informative)

Wacom's low-end Bamboo Pen [wacom.com] ($69) tablet should be more than you need. Amazon has it for $60. [amazon.com] Combine it with Microsoft OneNote or similar and you'll have recreated the fabulous 2-buck pen-and-paper experience. Go you!

## pencil/paper (Score:5, Informative)

## Re:pencil/paper (Score:5, Informative)

Pen and paper got me through my math classes in school. Then I'd transcribe the equations later into digital form.

## Windows 7 (Score:4, Informative)

If you do choose to invest in a Wacom tablet, Windows 7 comes with a math input panel:

http://www.gottabemobile.com/2008/10/29/windows-7-math-input-panel-screenshots

It's not very usable with a mouse, though.

## Analog (Score:2, Informative)

## Windows 7 now has a math input panel (Score:4, Informative)

## Mathematica (Score:2, Informative)

http://www.wolfram.com/products/ [wolfram.com]

is a lot of fun to play with, does computation & all kinds of neat tricks in addition to typesetting.

$139 for the student version, available for the Mac.

## I remember using... (Score:2, Informative)

## Re:LyX (Score:5, Informative)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_curve#Common_terms [wikipedia.org]

You'd think that people would learn that language isn't always sensical, and that terms may have multiple --- even mutually contradictory --- meanings. Hope that's not too inflammatory a hope.

## LyX? (Score:3, Informative)

I don't know if it is up to the speed you need, but the equation editor in LyX is pretty darn cool.

http://www.lyx.org/ [lyx.org]

steveha

## Re:pencil/paper (Score:4, Informative)

## Re:LyX (Score:1, Informative)

Steep refers to the ability to be productive vs. time. If you can't be productive until your good, something like piloting a helicopter, the learning curve is steep. There is a point when your productivity makes a large jump. A shallow learning curve is something like python: productivity grows with knowledge. You never have a large jump.

## I use Mathematica in class. (Score:2, Informative)

## Re:pencil/paper (Score:3, Informative)

## Re:LyX (Score:3, Informative)

## Re:Windows 7 now has a math input panel (Score:2, Informative)

## Re:Tex Faster (Score:4, Informative)

Use the auctex mode in emacs, which *greatly* reduces the number of keystrokes you need.

That combined with x-symbol let me take notes in graduate math classes for an experiment.

## OpenOffice.org (Score:3, Informative)

Your example would almost work as is; it would be entered as:

f_x (x) = int from -infinity to infinity f (x, y) dy

Or, if you prefer your parentheses to stretch (in case you have fractions inside, or what have you):

f_x left ( x right ) = int from -infinity to infinity f left ( x, y right ) dy

Either way, it comes out looking very nice. The one thing that takes some getting used to is that you need to make liberal use of whitespace (e.g. between f and the opening parenthesis of the function), otherwise things will occasionally come out looking a little strange. The best part is, when you don't know what you need to type for a particular symbol, you can select it from the menu and OO will insert the plaintext code, which makes it very easy to learn the code for new items.

## Remap the keystrokes (Score:5, Informative)

I was disabled and taking notes was VERY slow for me if I tried writing. I used a word processor WP or MS Word (I don't remember which one) to take notes. I had a similar problem until I discovered that I could map an entire phrase into a single keystroke. For example: "ALT + CTRL + F " could be "f(X) = " You could even be more elaborate because certain phrases are used time and time again in lectures. My longest remapping was 20 characters. For different classes, I had completely different keystroke mappings. Just be careful not to remap the standard keystrokes.

This technique worked for me all though grad school. I also used a tape recorder (get the professors permission first) and reviewed my notes after class to make sure I got it all.

## Re:LyX (Score:3, Informative)

Some people might think that. It really means that the jump is very sudden, regardless of how big it is. That said, by definition, most sudden jumps are big, or else we wouldn't perceive them as a jump, so that's not a particularly surprising interpretation. And in a relativistic sense, a quantum leap of an electron is fairly large... compared with the size of an atom, that is. Not huge, but certainly not tiny.

## Pulse Smart Pen (Score:4, Informative)

The only downside is that it needs special paper which you can buy in notebook form or which you can print yourself using a laser printer. The windows version has some extra software you can buy to perform OCR on your handwriting but since I have a Mac I have no idea how good it is. There is even an open SDK for you to develop your own applications for it but it unfortunately only supports Java.

## Re:LyX (Score:2, Informative)

No. The notional "learning curve" people are talking about when they say "steep learning curve" is not a plot of how ability varies over time. It's a plot of how much learning is needed to reach a level of competence. A task with a steep learning curve requires you to learn much (plotted on the y axis) before you can make even the smallest amount of headway (plotted on the x axis).

## Re:I remember using... (Score:1, Informative)

Don't know about the cost.... But I used MathCAD somewhat recently (2001 ish) and it was pretty quick once you get the keyboard shortcuts worked out. It definitely satisfies the "real-looking" requirement - good for notes or presentations.

## Re:LyX (Score:3, Informative)

I second this. If you don't know TeX math commands, there are toolbar buttons, menus, and dialog boxes for everything. But once you do learn the commands (and the TeX commands are listed in the menus and appear as tooltips over the buttons), you can just type them. So instead of pressing the subscript button, you press _ and the display switches to subscript mode. Instead of clicking the sine function, you type \sin. Instead of clicking the fraction button, you can type \frac.

Also, text entry is pretty easy. For example, after creating a fraction two empty blue squares appear--the numerator and the denomerator. Focus is in the numerator, and you can press Tab to switch to the denomerator. Pressing the spacebar exits the fraction, putting the cursor just after it.

## Re:LyX (Score:3, Informative)

And if you want a specific recommendation that works very well, any of the Canon Digital Rebel series with an 18-85mm lens are great choices for that. Pricey, but priceless.

## Infty Editor (Score:3, Informative)

## Re:pencil/paper (Score:3, Informative)

! first set caps lock to be a group shift key

Maybe you don't need as much greek, and instead need more random mathematical symbols. Easy to change things out. The hex codes are 0x01######, where ###### is the unicode hex code for the symbol. In general, with the ucs package, LaTeX understands these.keycode 66 = Mode_switch

! Now set up all the keys: first two are the normal qwerty en_US keys, 3rd and 4th are greek characters (or others)

keysym a = a A Greek_alpha Greek_ALPHA

keysym b = b B Greek_beta Greek_BETA

keysym c = c C Greek_psi Greek_PSI

keysym d = d D Greek_delta Greek_DELTA

! there exists

keysym e = e E Greek_epsilon 0x01002203

keysym f = f F Greek_phi Greek_PHI

keysym g = g G Greek_gamma Greek_GAMMA

!hbar

keysym h = h H Greek_eta 0x0100210F

! set ownership

keysym i = i I Greek_iota 0x01002208

keysym j = j J Greek_xi Greek_XI

keysym k = k K Greek_kappa Greek_KAPPA

keysym l = l L Greek_lamda Greek_LAMDA

keysym m = m M Greek_mu Greek_MU

keysym n = n N Greek_nu Greek_NU

keysym o = o O Greek_omicron Greek_OMICRON

keysym p = p P Greek_pi Greek_PI

! partial, del

keysym q = q Q 0x01002202 0x01002207

keysym r = r R Greek_rho Greek_RHO

keysym s = s S Greek_sigma Greek_SIGMA

! dagger

keysym t = t T Greek_tau 0x01002020

keysym u = u U Greek_theta Greek_THETA

keysym v = v V Greek_omega Greek_OMEGA

! times

keysym x = x X Greek_chi 0x010000D7

keysym y = y Y Greek_upsilon Greek_UPSILON

keysym w = w W Greek_finalsmallsigma Greek_SIGMA

! cdot

keysym period = period greater 0x010022C5

!infinity

keysym 8 = 8 asterisk 0x0100221E

! equiv

keysym equal = equal plus 0x01002261

## Re:OpenOffice.org (Score:3, Informative)

I second using OpenOffice.org to enter equations. I liked to take notes on the computer in classes that had much of any written text in the notes (I took notes in a notebook for calculus, statics/strengths, physics and such that had almost all equations as notes). Since I was an engineering major, just about every class had at least some equations as part of the notes and I could bang out equations pretty easy with the text math symbol input in OpenOffice.org Writer. One other neat trick is to do the Ctrl-Shift-U + Unicode key code or key code + Alt-X shortcut to quickly put Greek symbols in notes.

## Re:Mathematica (Score:2, Informative)

## Re:LyX (Score:2, Informative)