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Awesome new LaTeX package for typesetting physics

July 17, 2011

Physics professor Joe Heafner has created an incredible package of specialized commands for typesetting physics called mandi (link downloads package). The package contains a number of commands for quickly typesetting equations, especially vector equations, constants, and even has a number of equations from Matter and Interactions built in.

For instance, the command

K \approx \onehalf \quant{mass{2}}\quant{\velocity{2}}^2

Produces the output:

and

\bigG=\bigGn

produces:

By the way, if you haven’t started playing with LaTeX yet, it’s much easier than you think. You can get started in a very WYSIWYG environment using LyX, which requires almost no coding, is as easy to use as Word, and produces output that looks 10 times better. LyX is so simple enough to use that I would not forsee many problems in having very young high school students use it to format lab reports. Note that LyX does require you do a full install of a LaTeX processing engine, and for many machines, this can be a large download (~1.4 GB on a mac).

Here’s the documentation for the mandi package:

View this document on Scribd

Here’s the link to the download for the mandi package:

mandi latex package.

To use this package, you’ll need to install it wherever you place other LaTeX packages (~/Library/texmf for macs)

You should also know that this package is currently in beta testing. Once this is complete, it will be posted at the CTAN archive, and will no longer be available at the link above.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Robert Bell permalink
    July 18, 2011 5:59 pm

    Is this only valid for Macs?

    • July 18, 2011 6:02 pm

      No, this is a standard package for LaTeX, and LaTeX runs on mac, pc and Linux.

  2. September 10, 2011 12:38 pm

    I’ve messed around with putting formulas into documents for awhile and haven’t found much of a great solution, so I decided to give LaTeX (& the mandi package) a try. It’s taken awhile to figure out how to get it to do what I want, but it definitely outputs formulas well and I can see that with a little patience and practice up-front using it will get much easier.

    How do you personally use LaTeX? Do you simply create full documents using LaTeX? Do you just have it do the formulas and export those (somehow) to a different text editor? While I really like the formula output, I’m not sure I necessarily want to create whole documents using LaTeX all the time.

    • September 11, 2011 1:09 pm

      I recommend doing any document that needs a formula, a bibliography, floating insertions (figures or tables), a table of content, or an index be done in LaTeX. There is a learning curve, but once you get used to it, it is hard to go back to the limitations of the WYSIWYG editors.

    • September 12, 2011 8:49 am

      Ben,
      I most often use LaTeX to typeset single formulas to use on another document (presentation or practice sheet). The program I use for this is LaTeXiT, which is awesome. If you’re using a mac, LaTeXiT comes installed as part of the huge 1.8 GB install. LaTeXiT lets you simply type in the code for a forumla or series of formulas and then creates an image file or pdf for you to drop into whatever document you want. Even better, it keeps a library of everything you’ve typed previously, and I think Joe Heafner’s package on this page even contains a huge library of pre-typeset formulas for you to simply browse through in well organized menus under LaTeXiT.

      I also agree with Kevin that you should get some practice typesetting real documents in LaTeX. It takes a lot of time, but it really does generate superior results, and if you invest enough time, I think you can get a lot faster at creating documents. As a bridge between single formula typesetting and whole document creation, you might check out LyX, which is a WYSIWYG document creation tool that uses LaTeX.

      • September 12, 2011 11:54 am

        Perfect! LaTeXiT was exactly what I was looking for, and I had it just sitting on my machine without realizing it.

        Since I’m going back to get my physics & chemistry certifications this year, I’ve decided I’m going to do all my lab reports using LaTeX for practice. While right now that means it takes me a much longer time to get them done, I can pretty clearly see that as I become more fluent it’ll end up saving a lot of time.

        Thanks for sharing this!

        • September 12, 2011 12:57 pm

          I even do all my computer-projection presentations in LaTeX, using the beamer package (I recently switched from the older prosper package).

          http://ctan.org/pkg/beamer

          Embedding videos doesn’t work (but then embedding videos usually fails in half the research talks I go to no matter what software they use).

          I didn’t particularly like the standard beamer templates (though they are better than the standard PowerPoint templates), and customizing beamer is particularly arcane, even for a LaTeX package.

  3. October 2, 2011 2:21 pm

    I would also check out http://docs.latexlab.org/ It is a google application being independently developed (i.e., not by google) that shows a lot of promise.

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