For many years, I've used Latex to create my presentations, because I need to include mathematical formulae and symbols. However, it's sometimes quite cumbersome to use, and it's much harder to do "visual" effects (I'm not talking about animations, but for instance about arrows emphasizing a particular word, or connecting two words together, etc) compared to, say powerpoint.

I'm now trying to keep the maths to a minimum in my presentation (that was actually a really good advice given by a good speaker I talked to), but I still need them a bit, so my question is: what good (combined?) solution exist to create nice presentation that involve mathematical symbols?


8 Answers 8


I've found that the secret is (1) good tools to create equations, plus (2) liberal use of arrows and text, plus (3) animations linking the two.

I've found the following two programs to be indispensable for writing talks:

The goal is to make the math (1) visually distinctive, so that the reader can easily tell when you're discussing an equation, and (2) easy to interpret. Remember, in a paper, you have text such as "...where n is the number of..." after the equation is shown. This typically isn't done in research talks, and even worse, once you're off the slide, the reader has to simply remember what the equation was; they can't flip back a page.

My technique (you can see it in action in this presentation) is to put equations in a unique font (I use Times New Roman, with bolding and italics), and using the above tools to typeset equations in latex and insert them as images as necessary. As you introduce each equation, explain all the variables using text and arrows. Every variable should be explained... yes, this is slow, but learning is slow. If you're going to re-use the same equation multiple times, put it in the top-right corner of the slide - with arrows and text sometimes included - so that (1) they remember what you're talking about, and (2) so you can refer back to those equations.

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    Just as some kind of follow-up, I'm currently using Keynote to prepare a one-hour talk, and with the trick of copying formulae from the PDF, it's just great, thanks again for the advice!
    – user102
    Feb 27, 2012 at 11:44
  • @CharlesMorisset - glad it's useful!
    – eykanal
    Feb 27, 2012 at 13:09

If you're on OS X, then a great solution is to use the LaTeXiT package, which allows you to create graphics files for individual LaTeX equations, which can then be copy-and-pasted into your favorite presentations program (Keynote, LibreOffice, Powerpoint, or even LaTeX Beamer if you have a suitable penchant for irony).

For other systems, options include KLatexFormula, and of course the well-known (but also not free) MathType.

But I prefer LaTeXiT, as it gives you the classic LaTeX look and precision control, while also making it very easy to cut and paste your work. (You can even save equations if you want to use them later.)

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    I personally use latexit, omnigraffle and beamer. The latter is just to include all the beautiful pdf I generate with omnigraffle+latexit ;) Feb 21, 2012 at 18:28
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    I tried using Beamer, I've found that the judicious use of some well-chosen animations can add a lot to a presentation. I've been using Keynote and I've been extremely happy with it.
    – eykanal
    Feb 21, 2012 at 18:31
  • @SylvainPeyronnet: I've recently started using OmniGraffle and the companion OmniGraphSketcher. I like them a lot so far, and I look forward to doing more with them. (I'll switch back and forth between Beamer and Keynote, depending on the amount of graphical content as well as my collaborators.)
    – aeismail
    Feb 21, 2012 at 19:23
  • Thanks for the answer! About Omnigraffle, I've used in the past (when it was still included with Mac Os X), but now I prefer to use PGF/TikZ, but also because I use beamer. Maybe I should switch off from the Latex world (apart for the formulae), at least to try the tools now.
    – user102
    Feb 21, 2012 at 19:34
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    I personally use LaTeXit, OmniGraffle, and Keynote.
    – JeffE
    Feb 22, 2012 at 4:40

It involves some Latex programming, but you can do all of these things with Beamer and Tikz; see for instance http://www.texample.net/tikz/examples/beamer-arrows/ and https://sites.google.com/site/kaarebmikkelsen/in-the-news/fancyequationsinlatexbeamerwithtikz.

Sample image from the first link:

enter image description here

Essentially, Tikz allows you to remember the positions of the elements in each picture (using \tikzstyle{every picture}+=[remember picture]), and then add popups, markers and arrows between them as an overlay over the already typeset page (using \begin{tikzpicture}[overlay]).

The main benefit with respect to other solutions is the quality and consistency of Latex typesetting, which we all know and love. The main drawback is the (possibly) cumbersome Latex programming, which we all know and loathe.

Also, it's all plain text (with simplifies automation, version control...)


An answer involving "not LaTex" based on both finding it utterly unnecessary in my field (which does involve a fair amount of math) and finding an endless stream of LaTeX-based presentations to feel very boring and same-y.

Have you considered MathType? I've found it far stronger for equation layout than the default Microsoft tools, and it plays pretty well with both Powerpoint and Keynote, which lets you work in the strengths of actual dedicated presentation software. It is admittedly not free, but I've had fairly strong success with it.


You might also want to try InkScape for creating presentations with plug-ins, such as JessyInk or other - simply search for "presentation in inkscape". Besides that, InkScape allows you to render LaTeX math, it has the support built in in the new versions. This solution might sound a bit complicated at the beginning, but you'll get the power to create extremely fancy visual presentations in the style of Prezi but locally and you can play them in your favourite browser.


If you are in Windows, you can try Aurora, although it's not free.

The good thing about Aurora is it fits perfectly with Microsoft Word, you can insert inline equation or numbered equation and when you update the equations, the numbers can be altered easily.

Also, when you insert an equation using Aurora, other people who don't have Aurora can still open the file seeing the perfect equation since it's embedded as a picture to non-Aurora user.

The best part is when you insert an equation with Aurora, it won't mess up the line margin or other typesettings, which is quite often when using MathType.

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    Hi, Sean: Thanks for posting, and welcome to the Academia board. If you're an Aurora user, you could also make some suggestions about what you like about the code, so as to provide more than just a link. (That's not really considered "best behavior" on Stack Exchange.)
    – aeismail
    Feb 22, 2012 at 7:21
  • Sorry, I have edited my post and add something up.
    – Sean
    Feb 23, 2012 at 7:55

Microsoft Office 365 supports Unicode Math for Powerpoint, and also LaTeX syntax for Word. For most simple equations, it is possible to directly type them in as text and edit as necessary, without converting them to images. This includes equations involving integrals, derivatives, limits, trigonometric functions, etc.

While Powerpoint does not seem to support LaTeX syntax, it is possible to copy and paste LaTeX equations written in Word. For a presentation that is lightweight in math content, this could be a good option to keep the other features of Powerpoint without compromising on math expressability. However, Microsoft Office 365 needs a paid subscription.

A few helpful references:


IguanaTex is a free AddIn for PowerPoint which allows for seamless integration of LaTeX in PowerPoint slides. It is very simple to use and feels very natural.

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