Monthly archives: November, 2015

Equations in Gmail with the “TeX for Gmail” Chrome extension

Science via email

One thing scientists and engineers have to do daily is discuss collaborative work via email exchanges. This often includes the need to share and discuss mathematical equations and to represent variables with subscripts and superscripts or special characters; something that is tricky when you are emailing in plain text.

WikiImages / Pixabay

Of course it is possible to work around this problem! Email was invented by scientists, and for decades they have been communicating in this manner, using various conventions to convey the correct information using plaintext. However, if you are a Gmail user there is a nice extension that will make your equations look proper good.

Tex for GmailGmail-logo

TeX for Gmail is a Chrome browser extension that checks a Gmail email that you are writing for LaTeX markup and converts the markup to a visually prettier equation, using one of two modes. In Simple Math mode, subscripts and superscripts are correctly formatted but the current font is maintained and text remains ediatble. In Rich Math mode, the equation is rendered into TeX and replaced by an embedded image.  The email recipient doesn’t need the extension installed on their browser in order to read your nice equations!

Example

Original markup:

$E = mc^{2}$

Simple Math mode:

E = mc2

Rich Math mode:
E = mc^{2}

Issues

One problem; once the extension has converted my markup to formatted text, I cannot get the markup back. So editing a small mistake usually means re-doing all the curly brackets and other stuff that a TeX equation requires. The only workaround seems to be to stay vigilant and use Undo (Ctrl-z), but this doesn’t work when you notice a mistake in an equation that you wrote a while ago. One improvement could be the option to restore any equation to the original markup.

Conclusions

Overall, a great little tool to improve the clarity of science and maths communications over email. With a few small improvements it could be even better but it is already very usable.




HP Spectre x360 keyboard turning off; problem solved!

I recently bought a new notebook; the HP Spectre x360, a 13” convertible ultra-slim notebook PC. It is a really nice piece of hardware, chiselled from solid aluminium with great battery life, decent performance and a pretty usable keyboard.

When the laptop is folded back it automatically converts to tablet mode, wherein the keyboard is automatically turned off so that the keys are not accidentally pressed while using the touchscreen interface.

But since I bought it I have found that, on booting up the device in laptop mode, with it sitting open on my desk, the keyboard is mistakenly turned off. No amount of opening and closing the screen will trick the keyboard into coming on, and it is necessary to log in using the touchscreen interface and on-screen keyboard. After lots of opening and closing it seemed that eventually the keyboard would come back on but there seemed to be no logic to the problem at all.

This post on the official HP forum describes a similar problem. Unfortunately the HP rep simply assumes a hardware fault in the hinges and advises the owner to send it back for repair. However, once my keyboard is on, the connection stays on even as I adjust the screen angle, so it seems a hinge connection failure is not the issue here.

Finally, after much confusion, I found the answer: When the laptop is rotated sideways it attempts to switch to tablet mode, even when I have not adjusted the screen angle. The sensing it done by an orientation sensor in the base of the laptop, not in the hinges! I have found that, to turn the keyboard back on and to go to laptop mode I can tilt the whole laptop towards me slightly, and voila! So far it has worked every time. I wish that there had been some way for me to find this answer out earlier!