MathTran and TeX as a web service

Jonathan Fine
LTS Strategic, The Open University
Play (22min) Download: MP4 | MP3

In 2006/7 I developed and set up the public MathTran web service This was done with funding from JISC and the Open University. It provides translation of TeX–notation formulas into high–quality bitmaps. In April 2008 it served 48,000 images a day for a growing range of sites. After tuning, the server could provide about 2 million images a day. It takes about 10 milliseconds to process a small formula.

MathTran images contain rich metadata, including the TeX source for the image and the dvi and log outputs due to that source. This makes it straightforward to edit and resize such images, or convert them to another format, such as SVG or PostScript.

MathTran, used with JavaScript, makes it considerably easier to put mathematics on a web page. In particular, the author of the page does not need to install any special software, and does not have to store thousands of image files.

The MathTran project is now focussed on the authoring of mathematical content. It has produced a prototype instant preview document editor. Funded by the 2008 Google Summer of Code, Christoph Hafemeister is developing JavaScript to provide autocompletion for commands and analysis of TeX errors, all integrated with an online help system embedded in the web page. Separate work is focussed on developing MathTran plugins for WYSIWYG editor web–page components.

This talk will present progress and prospects. It will also discuss some of the broader implications for the TeX community and software, such as

  • People using TeX without installing TeX on their machine.
  • Help components for web pages.
  • Integration with third–party products.
  • Standards for TeX–notation mathematics.
  • Learning and teaching TeX.