I first what to thank everyone, I have been trolling around for a while and getting tons of help from the entire community.

I am looking to see if anyone has had experience with iBooks Author and LaTeX. And most importantly made a list of what works and what doesn't work. How do you use packages within iBooks Author?

I am sure there a lot of us with the same questions.

Thank you and I look forward to see where this goes.

  • 1
    I didn't even know it was possible to use LaTeX from within iBooks Author (not that I've tried much ...). Do you have a reference for how to set it up? – Loop Space Jun 4 '13 at 19:24
  • Me neither, googling just gave me support.apple.com/kb/ht5321 – Uwe Ziegenhagen Jun 4 '13 at 20:05
  • I must say the support page that Apple has is pretty sad. One of the biggest issues is getting a extra line break or a simple rule, none of the documented latex ways work. One thing that it has made me seek more information about LaTex and TeX. – Hector Mercado Jun 12 '13 at 20:30

iBooks Author added very basic support for LaTeX commands in version 2.0 (October 2012). It’s really converting a small collection of LaTeX commands to MathML using blahtex [sic], and rendering them with WebKit on the iPad. In my brief experiments, it appears to be restricted to inserting inline equations in text boxes.

There’s an Apple Support Base article, iBooks Author: About LaTeX and MathML Support, which describes exactly the commands which iBooks Author can use. It’s a pretty short list.

As far as I know, there is no way to add packages to an iBooks Author file, since it’s not really full LaTeX, and it can’t go looking for extra packages. It’s primarily using WebKit and HTML for the backend, not TeX.

Some other notes from my (admittedly brief) usage:

It doesn’t use proper TeX fonts. I’ve not tried looking about an iBook generated this way on the iPad, but the equation in the Mac preview only uses Lucida Grande (the system default font on OS X). Trying common fonts such as Helvetica, Arial and Times leaves the equation resolutely in Lucida Grande, as do trying the Computer Modern fonts. This may be different on the iPad.

A side effect of this is that the formatting looks really weird. Here’s an example:

The equation editing and preview window in iBooks Author

There’s a world of difference between that, and what a TeX compiler can draw, I think.

I looked at iBooks Author when they announced LaTeX support last year. I write my lecture notes electronically, and being able to use something like iBooks looked really interesting. I tried using it for my notes, but it broke down very quickly. It doesn’t support very many advanced commands, and I just went back to using PDFs and a PDF annotation app.

If your needs are simple, then iBooks Author may work for you. But for any sort of moderately complicated document, I think you’re better off using LaTeX.

I'll end by noting that Apple's record of updating their Mac software has been poor recently. iBooks Author hasn't been updated in nine months, and I don’t think adding full TeX support is on Apple’s priority list. Given further that iBooks is a properietary file format, I wouldn’t recommend using it for maths if you can avoid it.

  • Footnote: I tried to render the example equation in the answer, for a direct comparison, with $$myexpressionhere$$, but it didn’t show up as LaTeX. Does TeX.se not allow answers to render LaTeX? – alexwlchan Jun 4 '13 at 20:07
  • No. The rationale is that this is a site about (La)Tex, not about math, see here. – Tom Bombadil Jun 4 '13 at 20:14
  • @TomBombadil: Fair enough, that makes sense. I guessed it was something like that. Thanks. – alexwlchan Jun 4 '13 at 20:16

This is a general tip for working with latex and iBooks: If you only require that your latex output be on its on page in the iBook, in iBooks Author go to insert-> choose and then choose the latex file you wish to insert. Simply enlarge this image and you're good (most importantly you don't have to worry about size issues you would come across in combining the pdfs). This obviously works best if your iBooks file has a plain white background. If it doesn't have a white background, you can use the wallpaper package and suit it to your liking.

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