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12/19/10
Original Poster
Bas Braams

Suggestion for dealing with special characters in mathematical text

Greetings. FWIW, I'm using Docs through Chrome on Ubuntu. I work with mathematical text and have several issues with that, and now a suggestion to help to make things more palatable. Like many authors of scientific text I need some special symbols. They are all available in Docs, but not all through a TeX/LaTeX escape sequence and not all through the short menu in equation mode; rather they need to be located in the big menu of special symbols. That big menu has a nice bar of recently used symbols, but these are not saved from one session to the next or even from one document of the next. Even if the symbols were found in the short menu or if the recently used symbols from the long menu were saved across sessions their use involves point-and-click, which is basically insufferable. These issues are well-known and, I think, universally understood as issues by users of Docs for scientific text, but for whatever reason they are not addressed. I would be very pleased to be able to define my own backslash-escape sequences or keyboard shortcuts for my often-used special symbols, and have them saved from one session to the next, but this is not possible; maybe it is felt to be not of broad enough interest. For sure it has been considered and there must be some reason not to offer the option to create keyboard shortcuts.
So here is my suggestion. Give us the possibility to define and save a collection of global find-and-replace edit commands. I think that this facility would take care of the issues with special symbols in mathematical text, and it would have other uses too. Suppose the user has need for the special mathematical symbols that are known in TeX as \sqcup and \sqcap, and a few other such symbols too. This user will type into his or her equations text such as [sqcup] wherever the named symbol is desired. The user will also define a find-and-replace command that replaces (or query-replaces) each such a string by the associated symbol. It is a bit of work for the user to define that command, but it only has to be done once -- the command will be saved from one session to the next. The user then cleans up his or her text by executing that single command. By giving us the option to define a collection of find-and-replace commands that are executed as a single command and are saved across sessions you are in essence giving us the opportunity to define keyboard shortcuts. I would appreciate it.
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Gill
12/19/10
Gill
<< I would appreciate it.>> and so would many others I am sure.

In the meantime the only thing I can suggest is to have another Gdoc in which you keep your list of recently used symbols from which you can copy-paste. Still a pain I grant you, but at least it will be remembered across sessions.
12/21/10
Original Poster
Bas Braams
Still a pain indeed. Without enough screen space to have two Docs side-by-side one needs 5 clicks or similar actions to do copy-and-paste from a different document. I'll have that document under another tab in my browser. One click to move to that tab, one click-and-drag to highlight, one Ctrl-c to copy, another click on the tab to move back to the primary document, and then a Ctrl-v to insert. I prefer solutions based on keyboard acceleration, but I also think that it is entirely feasible to have a design where it takes just a single click to insert any special character that is used more than once. Make any recently used special character available in a new side-bar in some of the wasted space left or right of the text, and arrange that clicking on a symbol in that side-bar inserts it into the text wherever the cursor happened to be. That is one click only. Save the sidebar across sessions, of course. But, I do agree that 5 clicks is better than the 6+ clicks and excessive mental effort that are needed to insert a special character from the big menu. For example, to insert a special accented Latin character: Insert / Special Characters / Symbol / Latin; then multiple clicks to scroll down the menu, carefully looking for the desired character; then click on the character, then Okay.
Gill
12/22/10
Gill
I like your sidebar idea - what about it, Google Guides?
 
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