Notes Without Paper- Can it be Done?

03/02/2020

Being a student in mathematics, I took all my notes on paper during my first semester. I can't type math, and even if I could, why would I tie all of my personal reference to a digital format on a machine that could run out of battery? Paper is cool because it doesn't run out of battery. It's also not cool because I can't rice my paper and have a browser open on the side. I also can't sync paper across interfaces or conveniently copy it.

So now- paper is deprecated. The goto for writing notes was simply sorted text files that I edited with LibreOffice Writer. I could do bullet points easily enough and organize things just about as quickly as writing. The issue is that LibreOffice Writer doesn't expect you to need to quicly write math repetitively and uniformly. I couldn't go back to paper now, I had only just started.

So I go to find a way to write math on a computer. Interestingly enough, I was able to integrate it into my workflow pretty gracefully without a whole bunch of extra software. The key is a combination of LaTeX and some vim-fu.

What I personally do is reminiscent of this blogpost, which combines the use of vim snippets and a lightweight LaTeX editing suite. Vimtex lets you compile your work in to a PDF on the fly with your preferred viewer, and UltiSnips for auto-completion of repetitive LaTeX syntax. I also use Vundle for my plugin management.

I'm still working to get my note-taking to be as quick as writing, but math looks so much more elegant when it isn't in my poor penmanship. The blogpost I linked has a lot more information on how to use snippets to your advantage, so I won't go over it here. The curve is really learning LaTeX and knowing what you should automate. I still have a reference sheet open for some classes, but it doesn't detract too much from what I manage to get down. You'll hit a wall if you find yourself with a document that doesn't compile. You kind of just have to keep going and get to fixing your problem later.

My reason for posting is to simply say this- after my first couple of months of giving it a shot- it is more than possible (dare I say, fun?) to write mathematics notes on the computer. Don't doom yourself to clicking special symbols in GSuite or whatever.

Also, Here's a list of TeX editors in case you're curious.


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