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MathTran gets Google SOC support

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I’m delighted that Google has selected Christoph Hafmeister to work on MathTran, as part of the 2008 Google Summer of Code. This is a TeX User’s Group (TUG) project. The others are Arthur Reutenauer, who’s working on improved Unicode compliance in TeX extensions, and Mojca Miklavec, who will be developing the TeXShow documentation system for ConTeXt. You can find out more by following links on the Google SOC page about TeX.

Nothing exists in isolation. This year Google is funding 1,125 student contributors to 175 Free and Open Source projects, and some of these projects are related to Christoph’s MathTran project. The rest of this post discusses some of these connections.

MathTran Online TeX Editor

Christoph’s Online TeX editor project allows people to compose TeX interactively in a web page. I’ve already created a proof of concept version which shows that something like this is quite possible. This prototype contains an AJAX style on-line help system, which of course will need to be populated with information about and examples of common TeX commands. The great thing about the public MathTran server, of course, is that it allows users to try out these commands and get almost instant feedback.

TeXShow: finding and trying out commands

Now onto the connections. First, of course, if Mojca’s TeXShow project. This is to develop further an online interface to a database of ConTeXt documentation. The same mechanisms can be used to deliver information about LaTeX and TeX commands. All front-ends, such as LaTeX and ConTeXt, handle mathematics similar to that of plain TeX, and so I hope that TeXShow will be able to supply data to the MathTran TeX editor.

Usability in Moodle, JavaScript and Fluid

But there are more. I work at The Open University, which is a major user and developer of the Moodle Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Last year Moodle had 8 GSOC projects, and this year they have 12. Of particular interest to MathTran is Laia Subirats Maté’s project on Usability Issues. She’d like to use tools from the Fluid Project in Moodle. Just a couple of days, the Fluid project posted recommendations on JavaScript toolkits.

So far, MathTran has not used JavaScript toolkits, but this has to change. For a start, we’d like MathTran to work well with at least the major toolkits, such as Dojo, MochiKit and several others. Fluid’s report on JavaScript is very helpful (and they recommend jQuery). Perhaps Laia’s usability project could similarly help with Christoph’s Online TeX Editor.

Browsing Drupal Help, and usability

Drupal is a web content management system (and has jQuery in it’s core). This year it has 21 projects, one of which Gurpartap’s Singh’s project to Revamp the Drupal help system. One of his goals is to lead users from error or warning messages into the documentation. This is, of course, something Christoph wants to do with TeX errors. Gurpartap also wants to ease the maintenance of help files by third-party contributors, which is similar to one of Mojca’s goals.

Jimmy Berry’s Usability Testing Suite project for Drupal will allow data relating to usability to be recorded and analyzed. MathTran also cares about usability, and there may be something here that can help us (particularly if Jimmy’s project produces a jQuery plug-in for capturing usability data).

LaTeX support in AbiWord

AbiWord is an open source word processor. This Xun Sun’s project to Improve LaTeX Support will improve its LaTeX export, particularly for mathematics. This is related to a GSOC project last year, namely Hermann Kraus’s project to Add Math Support to the Scribus desktop publishing program.

(Many thanks to Mojca for telling me of Xun Sun’s project.)

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Written by Jonathan Fine

April 22, 2008 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. […] This summer Google is paying 1125 students to write open-source software, as part of their Summer of Code. Four of these student projects are to do with TeX. Three are being mentored by TUG, and the third by the developers of AbiWord.  The TUG project to develop an Online TeX Editor, is being mentored by myself. For links to all four of these projects, visit the MathTran blog. […]


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