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This is a follow-up to one of the possible answers to the recently-announced changes to the editor.

Prosemirror-math is a math editing framework that allows for direct editing of a rich-text preview. The mathematics is automatically rendered, and it is converted into LaTeX source when it is selected.

(One of the aspects that came up last time is that the default back-end is not MathJax but KaTeX. This will apparently be expanded in future, so the two decisions will become decoupled.)

Anyways, the new development is that a working demonstration version of this editor is now available, which is now ready to play around with. So $-$ what do you guys think? Is it usable? Does it work to produce complex answers?

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe the (mathjax) tag would fit here? (Even if KaTeX is used, this seems as a general tag for typesetting math.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Mar 29 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ The working demo I’m has issues on mobile, and the mathjax compatibility is a serious issue, but otherwise it seems ok. I wish it had a visual flag for just whether the paragraph you were working on had an error in it, the workflow of clicking out and clicking back in is kind of annoying. $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Mar 29 at 17:50
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    $\begingroup$ Here is a link to similar post on Physics Meta: How acceptable is prosemirror-math as an editor style for this site? $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Mar 30 at 9:38
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    $\begingroup$ It's a bit unfortunate to have this posted during the moderator election process, which will suck in most of the meta attention for the next couple weeks. It might be appropriate to post this again after the elections are over for increased visibility. $\endgroup$ – Tim Campion Mar 31 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ Also notable on this front: the most recent hearsay from Catija is that they are thinking of putting some kind of editing preview into the rich text editor! $\endgroup$ – Tim Campion Apr 6 at 13:26
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Personally, I find it less usable than the status quo, but better than the new editor proposed by SE. So if it is inevitable that we will have to settle for an inferior alternative in future, this is a less-inferior one.

Elaborating on what makes it less usable:

  • the cursor jumps to unpredictable positions when one moves up and down, and sometimes becomes difficult to locate.
  • the text moves to different locations on the screen when one enters or exits math mode, making it difficult to track other formulas on the screen.
  • copypasting text containing dollars from another source does not seem to work.
  • the backspace key does not always work inside the math mode, and overall editing does not feel fluid.
  • similarly, keyboard selection with shift+arrows sometimes does not work reliably inside the math mode.
  • \[ ... \], which is the display-mode delimiter in Latex, does not work. Only $$...$$ works, an old Tex relic which is not officially supported in Latex.
  • I can't seem to use Markdown commands in this editor, for instance, backticks for code snippets. Do I have to choose between an editor that supports math and one that supports Markdown?
  • this mixed-source-and-preview mode is quite different to the way most mathematicians are used to writing Latex in their work; we are used to writing source and seeing a compiled preview somewhere else, which is exactly like the previous editor worked.
  • the idea of a WYSIWYG editor is appealing to non-techies and MS Word users, but mathematicians are already trained to use Latex and (mostly) like how it works, so I am afraid that the main benefits of this new editor are lost on them.
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  • $\begingroup$ Can you elaborate on what makes it less usable, please? $\endgroup$ – Adam Lear Mar 30 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ @AdamLear I have added something. Note that many of these are not individual bugs, but issues with the general model. $\endgroup$ – Federico Poloni Mar 30 at 16:49
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, much appreciated. $\endgroup$ – Adam Lear Mar 30 at 18:02
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    $\begingroup$ In the current Markdown + MathJax setup, \[ ... \] is not supported either. $\endgroup$ – Emil Jeřábek Mar 30 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilJeřábek Yes, it is. You just have to escape the backslash. $\endgroup$ – Federico Poloni Mar 30 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, that’s interesting. I had no idea. And it seems that environments like \\begin{align}...\\end{align} also work when escaped; until now, I thought these have to be enclosed in $$ ... $$ to be recognized. $\endgroup$ – Emil Jeřábek Mar 30 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ @AdamLear Thank you for taking the time to look at the feedback here. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Mar 30 at 21:00
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    $\begingroup$ Author here -- thanks for your feedback! I'll do my best to give some context. Some of these are just limitations of the demo configuration, which demonstrates prosemirror-math in isolation. The plugin is very configurable (e.g. supporting both $$...$$ and \[ ... \]) and can be added to any ProseMirror editor. Paste / selection behavior is configurable, and it's also possible to support markdown-style editing with ProseMirror, which would be up to the authors of the new Stacks editor to include. $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Bray Mar 31 at 3:01
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    $\begingroup$ I do have to say that as an occasional poster to Math.SE, I'd be sad to see the current split-preview editor disappear. I tend to like wysiwyg, but the ux of a split editor is much easier to get right. Also, since ProseMirror relies on contenteditable, it will never behave 100% consistently between browsers (especially on mobile or older platforms). $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Bray Mar 31 at 3:04
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you @BenjaminBray for your work; I do not want to sound too critical of it; it's just that the main benefits of a WYSIWYG editor are lost on this audience. $\endgroup$ – Federico Poloni Mar 31 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ Note that SE are exploring adding a preview pane to their new editor. $\endgroup$ – Federico Poloni Mar 31 at 7:16
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    $\begingroup$ "copypasting text containing dollars from another source does not seem to work." This is going to be very annoying to me. I generally write my long answers in an offline editor and copy paste them over. $\endgroup$ – David E Speyer Apr 7 at 13:51
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Let me start with a positive:

  • AMScd diagrams are supported! It seems I don't even need to explicitly include a \require{AMScd} command (at any rate, when I did, the text "\require{AMScd}" was included in the rendered output as though it were not recognized, and when I deleted it, the diagram still rendered properly.) No xymatrix or tikzcd, though.

Now some negatives:

  • I was initially confused about entry into mathmode. It seems that in order to create a new mathmode environment with double dollars, the thing to do is to type a double dollar and then type a space. Then the closing (double) dollar is created and you're put into math editing mode. An "enter" after the double dollar doesn't work. Nor does typing a double dollar and then immediately starting your math -- when you close up with another double dollar, it's interpreted as a single-dollar mathmode which happens to have actual text dollar signs written at the beginning and the end.

  • I put some double-dollar mathmode stuff at the end of the page and then I found that I couldn't get a regular text cursor to appear after it.

  • I can hear my computer fan running more frequently using this than it does on the main site. I can't even fathom how it would work on mobile!

  • I agree with everything others have said so far (Federico Poloni's answer and Sam Hopkins' answer). This is a solution without a problem. It's much more comfortable to type math in a markdown + preview environment than in a rich text environment.

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    $\begingroup$ "Solution without a problem" is the perfect way to encapsulate it. $\endgroup$ – Sam Hopkins Mar 31 at 18:03
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It would be better if there was a way to toggle the rich-text preview.

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Personally, I was quite happy with it. I retyped various fragments of my recent answers and found the workflow to be quite natural. I didn't try it on mobile, but I find the current system to be extremely painful on mobile anyway so I don't regard that as a major issue.

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