TeX - LaTeX Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for users of TeX, LaTeX, ConTeXt, and related typesetting systems. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

One of the problems that I have read that people say about LaTeX is it isn't very good for quick note taking.

Has anyone used LaTeX for quick note taking? If so what template have you used? And how have you setup your system so it is relatively easy to make quick notes?

EDIT In response to some of the comments, I am currently using vim as my editor. Which I am very proficient in using.

share|improve this question
I am not sure what you mean by note-taking. Could you please elaborate on the purpose? – Peter Jansson Jan 28 '13 at 11:58
LaTeX is a processor, not an editor. Sounds like you need a reasonable text editor (Notepad++?), or perhaps emacs with org-mode, or possibly something like Evernote. Depends on what sort of structure you want for your notes and their content. – Brent.Longborough Jan 28 '13 at 12:19
I've used the vim-latexsuite to take notes in math lectures without too many problems in the past. It's more a question of defining & learning hotkeys & shortcuts. The function keys were different environments, eg f5 was a figure environment, f3 equation&equation*,etc. ffrac would expand to \frac{<++>}{<++>} and you cold jump from one <++> to the next using ctrl+j. – myrtille Jan 28 '13 at 14:52


I'm using this script on daily basis. Once you get through initial setup, you'll find it very handy. Unfortunately, I think it's for linux only.

share|improve this answer
Welcome to TeX.SX! You should explain a bit, what this script is doing. Like it stands now, I would not be willing to click on an external link without knowing, what is expecting me. Maybe, you do some example notes and explain the procedure of how to work with that script. Thank you. – LaRiFaRi May 29 '15 at 9:15
From github page: "TekNote is a small Lua script designed to render taking quick notes in LaTeX easy and affordable. Its goal is help people with atrocious handwriting to have beautiful notes on their computers without being distracted. Taking notes in plain LaTeX is hard and demanding. TekNote language is, by comparison, very simple. It is great for taking notes on lectures, since there's a lot less rules to rememeber. Furthermore, it allows one to write very lazy code without worrying about its viability." – note_taker Jun 20 '15 at 11:57

I'm a bit old school and prefer taking live notes with a pencil and note pad. If it's important, go back and turn these into a more readable document.

As professor, I find it HIGHLY distracting when students are pecking away at their laptops instead of actively participating in lecture...which is hard to do when part of your attention is devoted to formatting Latex equations. Moreover, for anything that involves a plot or a graphic...learn to sketch it in your notebook. You'll be amazed at how much better you will comprehend the material.

That stated, for my RESEARCH (in condensed matter physics), I keep a series of Latex and Mathematica notebooks organized by topic, date, and student involved on the project. The Emacs ORG mode looks interesting, I'll have to check it out.

I have been doing things this way for almost 25 yrs and I require my PhD students to do the same. I have common group DropBox & each of my PhD students has a folder within the Group folder. Also, each final paper has a separate directory with either all input files or original version of the computer programs that were used for that paper.

share|improve this answer
Welcome to TeX.sx! – Peter Jansson Mar 9 '13 at 15:41

I take notes with latex using the outlines package. It lets you write an outline/list without typing all the environments. For ex:

\secc[tested]{The title of Outline}{
    \1 This is the first level of a list.
        \2 This is the second level
           \3 You can go up to four levels
                \4 You can dynamically change the symbols that start the list

I have many of these in my notes. Not one big outline.

I find it highly productive and easy to use while taking notes.


I also recommend setting up a bunch of macros or shortcuts for your commonly used things. It helps speed everything up.

share|improve this answer
Thanks! This was the type of answer I was after. Do you use a common template as well? – jaye1234 Jan 28 '13 at 19:44
I have my own class that has options for: fontsize, papersize (ipad,letter). In sublime I use snippets,on the iPad in textastic I use text expander to insert my standard template. As for where I take notes in the body: I created an environment that looks like this: \secc[tested]{Title for outline}{\1 \2 \3 }. Where the first option is a flag if the topic was tested and that puts a red underline for the Title of the outline, The second option is the title of the option, and the 3rd arguement is the outline itself. The outline environment is in the secc env. This makes it very efficient to use. – Stephen Lien Jan 29 '13 at 12:22

I find note taking in Pandoc's version of Markdown to be a very efficient way of taking notes in any text editor. This provides an efficient way to mix simple outlining using numbering or bullet points, alongside the math capabilities of LaTeX.

Using this approach you can get readble plain text notes that can be readily converted to LaTeX for PDF output, HTML, or any of the other formats that Pandoc supports.

Here's a short example:

1. Level one heading
    - a bullet point
    * also a bullet point
    + yet a third way of writing a bullet point
    - pick your poison!

#. With numbered lists Pandoc will figure out the correct numbering for you
    - Isn't that cool?

#. You can mix math inline $x^2 + y^2 = z^2$ or in display mode:
    \frac{a}{b} = \frac{c}{d} + \frac{e}{f}

#.  You can mix styles
    a) sublist with alphabetical
    b) nice, eh?
share|improve this answer
Same for me. I don't use pandoc, but the same method with a wiki-translator. – knut Jan 28 '13 at 18:26
I want to have babies with pandoc -s input.txt -o output.pfd! – Habi Jan 29 '13 at 16:00
I have installed pandoc, and I was very surprised! This does make note taking using LaTeX style math equations easy! – jaye1234 Jan 29 '13 at 19:58

I use AUCTeX mode in emacs to take real-time notes in my calculus 1 class.

Useful features include preview-latex mode, where I hit C-c C-p C-p to toggle rendering $\dfrac{\pi}{2}$ sections as inline images.

TeX-electric-macro makes life much easier because I can type \ and get intellisense style completion for LaTeX commands.

Standard emacs functionality like abbrev-mode lets me autocomplete chunks I've already typed.

Predictive mode is handy, but I haven't used it much yet.

Once I find a way to quickly enter graphs, I will need only a few improvements to make LaTeX note taking faster than paper-based input.

share|improve this answer

I use LaTeX for note taking in an indirect way:

I use emacs org mode for note taking. It has a very rich and configurable LaTeX export. So I am able to keep my notes in org mode and export them from time to time or I can export and finalize it in LaTeX, e. g. for writing a paper. But org mode is so powerful that people used it to write papers without postprocessing of the LaTeX code. You can even include code and evaluate it on the fly, with the result being automatically included into your document, you have built in table and basic spreadsheet support ... You can intermix org code and LaTeX code if you need something special. But the org syntax is much more suitable for fast note taking, more like a wiki syntax. Org has facilities for automatic handling of todo notes and can be used as a calendar replacement as well. Parts of the document can be hidden by just pressing tab, what helps a lot to get some overview. There is also a vim clone of org mode.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.