Some of you may be familiar with Detexify ( I have a prototype of the next version online at

I would like to ask you – the TeX-using community – if this seems to be the right direction. I will answer some questions that might come up right away:

  1. How is this version better than the last?: Users can vote for and against training samples (much like answers here on stackexchange). This should help to identify the best samples which are then used in the recognition.
  2. Why would I train a symbol and vote on samples?: The recognitions gets better the better the samples are. Also you get karma points if other users upvote your samples.
  3. How can I train a symbol?: You need to log in (with a Twitter Account) to be able to train symbols.
  4. How can I vote for a sample?: You need to log in (with a Twitter Account) to be able to vote for a sample.
  5. Do you want to hijack my twitter account?: No – I just don't want anonymous samples. I just want to make sure that you are... someone.

So the most visible change is that samples are curated by the community. There are other changes summarized here.

I appreciate any comment/criticism.

migrated from Mar 28 '11 at 15:32

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    Hi Daniel, welcome to TeX.SX. Thanks for your very useful tool! However, your post doesn't fit that well in the strict Question & Answer format of this site. I think it should be a community wiki and maybe might be better placed on the meta site. – Martin Scharrer Mar 27 '11 at 22:19
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    You might be interested in some (free) ad space for the announcement, see… – Caramdir Mar 27 '11 at 22:20
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    You could also try to reformulate this a question in the form of “How could I improve Detexify?”. – Caramdir Mar 27 '11 at 22:25
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    I'd like to add my voice to the sentiments above: detexify is the best thing since sliced bread! But this site is designed for short, focussed answers rather than discussions or debates. If you edit this (or just ask a fresh question) so that there is a single, specific question, then it would be fine. – Loop Space Mar 28 '11 at 18:27
  • Just wondering - is there any further development in the pipeline? Currently, the detection only gives me \alpha, \beta and \gamma. Thanks for the work, though! – Bernd Jun 24 '13 at 14:47
  • Stack Exchange has OAuth now... hint, hint. – wizzwizz4 Mar 31 at 16:19

Any chance of an OpenID login?

Don't use Twitter,
don't want to use Twitter,
do use Detexify,
want to use Detexify.

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    Daniel says he plans to include other OAuth providers, and then you could use your Facebook account instead (I kid, I kid :-) – Martin Tapankov Mar 29 '11 at 12:20

I've played a bit with the new version recently, and got a few comments for it (the old one as well), in no particular order.

  • I liked the idea of voting for samples, but I think it's also very subjective. There are a few samples that seem perfectly okay for me, but were downvoted. Each person's handwriting is unique, and more so are imprecise scribblings using the mouse. Frankly, I wouldn't like to have to spend too much time perfecting my alphas and omegas -- my handwriting is notoriously unintelligible, as is my mouse drawing. I think voting should only be in the negative direction, if a sample is obviously poor (spam, very bad attempt, or something that doesn't resemble at all the symbol in question).

  • Offline use is very nice feature, especially if there would be a way to download/update the whole sample database at once and to use it solely in offline mode. This might potentially save some bandwidth from heavy users.

  • Integration with TeX IDEs would be definitely be very powerful (i.e. from within the UI, scribble the symbol, click "Submit", and get a list of suggestions), although I don't expect you to do this. Rather, if there's an API is in place that allows communication with the client, third-party developers and power users might step in to provide plugins for their favourite editor1.
  • Some symbols might actually be drawn/rendered in very different way, depending on the font you use, and whether you scribble the hand-drawn or the typeset version. Case in point: \delta. Thus, potentially different classes of samples should be accepted for some (or even all) symbols.
  • Selecting symbol class might also go a long way towards accurate recognition. Most of the times, one would know what kind of symbol they need -- a foreign letter, mathematical operator, dingbat, relational symbol, glyph "beautifiers" (diacritics, for example), etc. So, if my symbol is pretty simple in shape, chances are I will end up with a lot of false positives that are not interesting.
  • Already mentioned diacritics in the previous point, and although they are not all that many, maybe they could also be recognized by detexify. For example, I always forget how do I specify breve accent \u{}, and have to disrupt my writing to check somewhere.
  • On the character description, some indication of whether it's available in math or text mode would be helpful.
  • Similar or counterpart symbols (mostly applicable in math mode) might also get preferential treatment. For example, if I draw the parallel sign "||", showing explicitly "not parallel", even if it's not with top score, would be useful. In the previous detexify version, the "normal" symbols were recognized easier than the negated ones (at least in my experience).
  • Major Feature: Sometimes I would see unknown symbol in written text or online document. Instead of sketching it, perhaps it would be a better idea to just provide a contrast image of it, and let detexify work its magic on it, instead of me trying to sketch it much less precisely by hand. Bonus points for uploading an image with text and making a box around the symbol that interests me instead of doing the tedious pasting-panning-resizing-saving-uploading on the desktop.

Apart from that, the sample database is currently tiny, but I don't hold it against you -- it would be a significant effort by itself to have a rich database with quality samples.

Although this seems like an enormous list of suggestions and complaints, I can assure you that detexify is extremely helpful for a lot of people (myself included), and we certainly appreciate your effort to provide a useful service.

Good luck!

1 I wonder how would that work for vi/Emacs users...

I still don't get how training works in this version ... could you give precise, step-by-step instructions, please?

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