Sunday, June 2, 2013

IguanaTeX puts TeX equations into PowerPoint

As OSA's CLEO conference draws closer, I find myself drawn back into the deep, dark abyss of PowerPoint engineering for the design of my talk.

One constant disappointment I've had with PowerPoint is the lack of a good equation editor since 2007. It was in this year, I believe, that Microsoft chose to dump almost all of the useful features of its native equation editor. Most appalling was that they removed the option to change the color of equations. This is absolutely crucial if you're working with dark backgrounds to enhance the contrast of your text, but for some reason this disappeared.

To replace those lost features, a new piece of software called Math Type came about from Design Science. If you've seen the movie Looper, then I would equate the rise of Math Type with that of the Rainmaker, the mysterious, telepathic character who arose out of nowhere and is intent on killing off people he doesn't like and making everyone live by his rules.

What I don't like about Math Type is that they charge what I think is too much for incremental improvements to their software. For example, I bought a license for Math Type 6.6 before Office 2010 came out, but to get easy integration with 2010, I need to spend about $40 just to get a new version. There is a way to get 6.6 to work, but they make it very difficult to find this information. I also don't like that I've seen Design Science employees trolling PowerPoint forums telling people to buy Math Type to solve some issues and that it's very difficult to find older versions of their software on their website.

Now, to be fair, the software is quite nice and it does make it easy to type equations into PowerPoint and other Office software products. I just don't like how all the functionality that I enjoyed as a part of Office for free was moved into a separate, commercial product. And since I am required to use PowerPoint and Word at work, I'm stuck with this situation.

So you can imagine how happy I was to have found a wonderful alternative to Math Type called IguanaTeX. It's a plugin for PowerPoint 2003, 2007, and 2010 that let's you add LaTeX equations to slides as png files. You need to have MikTeX installed, and it's a bit finnicky getting the right packages at first, but once it's setup it works like a charm. AND you don't have to pay just to change the colors of your equations.

Check it out, especially if you know TeX.