As I was working on a presentation full of mathematical symbols, I chose to do it in LaTeX. Then I ran into the typical problem of having to look up the source code for a particular symbol I needed to use in the slides. Thankfully, I’d saved a copy of symbols-a4.pdf from a previous semester and could page through it looking for the one I wanted. Yet looking for the correct symbol is a time consuming task, because it is a mammoth document, even though the hyperlinks between pages help somewhat.

While listening to a presentation (sorry Ulf!) I was trying to touch up the last bits of my own, and so I needed to search for a symbol quick. I recalled seeing an online repository of weird characters sometime last year during another course, so I decided to try my luck with LaTeX symbols. Enter Google: *search latex symbols online* and voilĂˇ, the link that appeared at the top of the list was a great help!

The nice folks at Detexify have come up with a useful (HTML5) tool to let you search for the relevant symbol by drawing it out into a box. Something like what nciku offered for Chinese characters, only much more useful for my current purposes. Simply sketch the symbol you’re looking for into the white box on the left, and a list of possible matches, sorted by difference (lower is better) appears for you to select from. What’s more, you can even help to train the search by clicking on the correct icon!

Help train Detexify, and you’ll be helping a scientist/student/lecturer/presenter today! It’s never been easier to contribute to the progress of science.

One good thing about LaTeX – help is usually a google search away!