Combining Latex and Powerpoint With LatexIt

- - posted in edtech, teaching

Last semester I worked with several (ed)tech products for the first time including iClicker polling software, the Panopto video platform, Clickshare, and Astropad. It’s tough to choose my favorite, but I think it’s LatexIt: an amazing free tool that lets me easily incorporate Latex equations into my Powerpoint slides.

Unlike many (most?) economists, I use and even like PowerPoint. The built-in themes are fine and it’s super-easy to drop in and place pictures where I want them. Presentation software should be WYSIWYG and PowerPoint emphatically is. The only downside is the equation editor which changes version to version and is always pretty cumbersome.

Most economists use Latex to produce their articles. Equations are efficient to produce and look pretty. It also separates the structure of the document from how it looks in the end, allowing an author to focus on the content rather than the layout.

Latex-using economists tend to use a package built on top of Latex called Beamer for presentations. It’s relatively straight-forward to translate an article into a presentation, but you don’t get much control over what your slides look like. Beamer has the added benefit that it communicates to your colleagues that you are “serious.” This part is lost on students who just want clear nicely formatted slides.

LatexIt gives me the best of both worlds. I use Powerpoint to build my slides, Latex to create my equations, and LatexIt to move those equations back and forth. It lives in its own small window and renders equations that I type with just a button click or a key stroke (Cmd-T). If I like what I see I just copy (Cmd-C) and paste (Cmd-V) into my Powerpoint document. It embeds a perfectly resizeable pdf that always looks nice and smooth no matter how I scale it. The real magic comes in when I want to edit an embedded equation. I simply drag and drop it from Powerpoint over to LatexIt.

The app requires a full Latex installation, but I’m not sure anyone that didn’t already use Latex would want to use the tool. I think the only catch is that LateXit only runs on a Mac. If you’re not already on a Mac and you think this is cool, think of LatexIt as one more reason to make the move.