Mathematical typesetting


There's been recent discussion of math programs. And HP manuals. Combining the two, I'm curious: What are best programs/systems for designing truly beautiful documentation. In particular, showing complex mathematical and computer examples.

In the 1970s & 1980s, Don Knuth's TeX was the gold standard. I've lost touch. If you were writing a calculator manual or math paper today, and wanted highest visual quality, what would you use? Why? Can you post PDF examples showing elegance?

My own answer used to be Frame Maker (now from Adobe). But I had to switch to MS Word. It is "good," but fails several tests for true high-quality output.


I used FrameMaker when I worked for Cisco as a documentation specialist. I was told that it handled multi-chapter documents better than MS-Word. I did not use it to create mathematical docuemnts.

Perhaps MathCAD can help. Alos someone on this website mentioned Mackichan Software's Scientific Notebook. Check the Mackichan Website to see their math software.


I've used MathCAD and found it to be quite poor for typesetting. Indeed, it is a poor program, period, using an outdated subset of Maple 5 commands. It has its users but I don't see how they are doing heavy duty engineering problems with it. Try solving even the most simple symbolic difeq with it. If a so called math program does not have some type of 'dsolve' command, along with accompanying numeric solvers, it can't call itself a math program.

Edited: 5 Sept 2005, 10:15 p.m.


If you are just concerned with aesthetics, you could use QuarkExpress and an XTension "Mathsetter" ($399 from <>). The MathSetter XTension adds TeX/LaTeX math typesetting capability to some older versions of QuarkExpress (version 4.x or 3.3.x versions equal to or greater than 3.3.2).

If the long-term viability of your files is important, you will need to stay with LaTeX. FrameMaker is clearly not an option in this regard! FrameMaker's only champion at Adobe, John Warnock, is no longer with Adobe---he's the one man responsible for the purchase of FrameMaker. Adobe has already discontinued development of the Mac version and all UNIX versions except Solaris. It seems highly likely that FrameMaker will be discontinued as soon as Adobe can get away with it.

Addons for M$ Word, such as Mathtype (from <http://>) or Expressionist (now called MathEQ from <>) aren't the answer either, in my opinion. For one thing, they are specific to Mac and Windows systems so you preclude any future move to a Linux/Unix system. (TeX/LaTeX doesn't suffer from that limitation.) Using these equaton editors with TeX/LaTeX involves some compromises too. For example, when I used Expressionist (about 10 years ago) it could export in TeX format for pasting into TeX/LaTeX files. HOWEVER, Expressionist didn't have a parser for TeX/LaTeX so you couldn't edit your equation again in Expressionist UNLESS the big block of comments Expressionist generated was kept intact. Those comments were Expressionist's notes to itself on how the equation was made. I'm sure MathType uses a similar scheme for TeX export.

I would expect the word-processor-like front-ends for LaTeX (e.g., Lyx <> or Scientific Word <>) would suffer to some degree from this problem as well. At least for me, there is a distinction between a "LaTeX compatible" file format and a "LaTeX" file.

As for Dave Shaffer's comment regarding TeX/LaTex:

"The main drawback as I see it is that high-priced scientists
have been turned into secretaries."

I would have to strongly disagree. I've known and worked with many talented secretaries over the years and NONE of them could have done what I do with LaTeX. So I don't think that document preparation with TeX/LaTeX can be considered "secretarial work". The bottom line is: if you want it done right with TeX/LaTeX you are going to have to do it yourself.




re: "I would have to strongly disagree. I've known and worked with many talented secretaries over the years and NONE of them could have done what I do with LaTeX. So I don't think that document reparation with TeX/LaTeX can be considered "secretarial work". The bottom line is: if you want it done right with TeX/LaTeX you are going to have to do it yourself."

I don't think we disagree - That's exactly my point!

In the good old days (?!), you gave your secretary a handwritten draft, and she quickly produced an impeccable typewritten version, with equations handwritten in (maybe she did that, maybe you did that). Nowadays, virtually all my astronomer friends and I do all this work ourselves, including the TeX typesetting (which as you note, is far from trivial). Yes, I agree that is beyond the capability of most secretaries, which is why you have to do it yourself.

My point was that the time you spend typesetting is time that you are not collecting, reducing, analyzing, and perhaps most importantly contemplating data.


There is an add-in for MS Word called MathType that has full mathematical features. It can even export the equations in TeX/Latex and a couple other formats for typesetters. LaTeX is alive and well in modern usage. Check out this thread for LaTeX usage on the net (doubleclick an equation for it's code):



So far I've seen no good reason to _downgrade_ from \TeX or \LaTeX.


I think the standard for maths papers is still TeX/LaTex. I use Scientific WorkPlace from Mackichan, which is a nice front end for LaTex and integrates Maple.


TeX/LaTeX is still the gold standard in astronomy. Most published meeting procedings want only a LaTeX file (with the relevent style file(s)) for the book which is the result of the meeting (means practically no typesetting or formatting effort on the part of the editors or publishers).

Many journals also want (La)Tex files as the final version of submitted papers - once again, a minimum of effort on the part of the publisher.

The main drawback as I see it is that high-priced scientists have been turned into secretaries.


Based on the font appearance, I believe the flat-bound 1990's HP-48G and HP-32SII manuals were prepared using TeX/LaTeX.

Does anyone know if this is true? The spiral-bound 1980's Voyager and Pioneer manuals look nicer, but were undoubtedly costlier to produce.

-- KS


If you don't mind using a non-interactive, non-WYSIWYG system (like TeX), you could try Lout. It generates PostScript, and can be customized using PostScript macros -- powerful, and its output quality is excellent. For mathematical equations, it includes a macro package based on the old Unix "eqn" tool, which is easy to use and I find works very well.

- Thomas


You might try LYX as an editor for LaTeX. I had it recommended highly by a friend just a few days ago. Though I haven't used it, I understand that it is almost WYSIWYG.

Basically, as soon as you type the LaTeX command, it appears on the screen.

Try it out (though I hear it might be borken in windows)



Hey Ben,

Nice to hear from you again.

Have you gone off to college yet?

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