The iPad Pro and LaTeX

First, some backstory. When the Note Bene suite of tools for academic writing first crossed my workflow back in 2006 or so, I was stunned that there was a resource that not only provided a word processor that allowed me to (thankfully) move off of MS Word, but managed and formatted my citations (Ibidem), and—-now this really astounded me-—offered a customizable database (Orbis) in which all my research articles and primary texts could be deposited and searched. That suite to tools has since been updated but fell out of use by me and I suspect by a great many others as well as it neglected to keep pace with the industry.  EndNote probably took most of their niche.

I moved on to other resources that really only accomplished the citation management function that I learned to appreciate in Ibidem: EndNote, BookEnds, Sente, Zotero, BibTex, in that order.

I have used BibTex in conjunction with pdfLaTeX for most of my writing, including my dissertation work, but only because I hate word processors, love the beautiful type-setting of LaTex2e, and actually enjoy the mark-up side of using it.  It’s like HTML for publishing.  Admittedly, not everyone’s cup of tea. I’ll address LaTeX in a future post.

So as I approached the iPad Pro with the aim of research and writing, I suspected that I would have to move to yet another new platform if I were to actually use it as an MacBook Pro replacement.  I was fairly certain that there was probably an EndNote or Zotero plugin, which there is and isn’t, but I never even considered that LaTeX would be an option. It is. And it isn’t.

A couple of apps for Latex on iOS are listed in the App Store, but I settled on the $14.99 TexPad app. It was the most expensive option, which led me to believe it would be the most robust, and indeed I believe it is. Other options for an iOS LaTeX editor in the App Store are the $9.99 TexWriter and the free VerbTex. TexPad works surprisingly well–much better than I expected given the beastly size of a full *tex installation on non-mobile operating systems. For example, I used it to write an article on the Gallican Confession of 1559 and Jean Morély’s ecclesiology while in a public library coffee cafe in Kampen, The Netherlands, sitting in front of a window overlooking the River Ijssel. I was in my element — coffee, historical theology, technology, and a view.

I was able to write and process an article, to edit a chapter file with TexPad’s Dropbox integration, and to install the Greek language bundle, but I could not process my dissertation and its multiple chapter files. I’m not sure exactly why. Nor am I sure I would want to write the entire dissertation on my iPad Pro anyway (but it certainly is getting close to enabling me to do so). It was likely due to packages not included in the iOS app that are included in the full *tex installations. The “magic” shortcuts for \include{} for other tex documents make things even easier, so \documentclass{book} projects with multiple \include{chaptername} chapters ought not be a problem otherwise.

Any subfiles included in the root document via LaTeX tags, such as \input{subfile1.tex} or \include{subfile2.tex} are loaded into the editor automatically by Texpad. All typesetting operations are carried out on the root file, but you may edit any of the included subfiles, including bibliography files ({.bib), user stylesheets (.sty), LaTeX classes (.cls), etc.

The info boxes, snippets, and hot keys all worked well for me. Editor and PDF preview sync worked well. I have not yet tried to compile indexes and glossaries but TexPad apparently has the ability to do so like one would expect to do. The error dialogue is color-coded according to the nature of the error, and jumping to the error in the editor was easy enough. More information and a shortcut command cheat sheet are here:

Options for new projects on TexPad are: a blank LaTeX document, blank markdown document, basic article, basic book, basic letter, and basic report, any of which can be local, Dropbox, or “TexPad Connect” in location.

Please leave your comments if you have used TexPad. I am genuinely interested in your experience.


  1. Paul Lanthier says:

    I have one question: do you know if some people are working on an app I that would produce latex rapport? with :
    – use of the Apple Pencil for formulas
    -generation of latex code and access to it in case you need to modificate something manually
    -possibility to use claviature for text writing
    -preview of PDF result

    The team that would produce such a product would make people happier I think.

  2. Satheesh says:

    Hi I am looking forward to buy an iPad Pro 9.7 or 10.5. I am buying it for the purpose of reading and writing documents in latex. I would like to know how it performs in the 9.7″ model which has only 2GB ram as compare to the 4GB on 10.5″ one in terms of compiling and handling large files including dissertations and high volume of images ?. Reply on this will be highly appreciated and that would help me in deciding which one to buy thanks in advance

    1. Paul Roberts says:

      Good question, but I’m sorry I have no experience with using LaTeX on any iPad but mine. Let me know if you try it out in the smaller version.

  3. Blayney. says:

    MyScript MathPad allows you to hand write equations and the paid version then also allows you to export the tex script. It can only do single line equations however.

    MyScript Nebo however can do long equations and it uses latex to compile it but doesn’t have to option to export the code sadly.

  4. Satheesh says:

    I finally bought an ipad pro 10.5 and planning to buy texpad as well. but now dilemma between texpad and texwriter. Hows texpad now after one year? my research papers would contain lot of computational results (colour images) and references . I of course dont look apps to write theses but is this texpad able to handle a decent amount of file size and images and that too offline? and how comfortable it is to type with ipad pro 10.5 ? your reply will probably help me to decide about buying texpad for ipad pro

    1. Paul Roberts says:

      I wouldn’t get the 10.5 (or any ipad, for that matter) without a keyboard. The keyboard has been indispensable to the Pro’s functional viability for academic work. Typing on the screen keyboard is terrible.

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