Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist (yes, that is really his title) and inventor of the internet Vint Cerf visited our campus a couple of years ago. At one point he asked about what people wanted from Google. I said that I would love a Google Docs/LaTeX mashup. How great would it be for mathematicians to collaborate on LaTeX documents on Google Docs? I can’t tell you how much I would love that.
So maybe you have me to thank for this news (har har har): Google Docs now has limited LaTeX integration. Now, it isn’t exactly what I asked for. You aren’t writing LaTeX documents. They have it set up like a word processor, with an “insert > equation…” menu item. It gives you a pop-up window and in it you can type LaTeX code (screenshot below). It shows you the corresponding mathematical formula and allows you to insert it into the document as an image. If you need to edit the formula later you can double-click the image and it will send you back to the pop-up window.
I just tried it out and found it to be usable. I can imagine getting frustrated every time I have to go to the pull-down menu, rather than typing LaTeX code straight into the document, but it is a step in the right direction.
In case you want to give it a try and don’t have a Google Docs account, I’ve set up a sandbox for you to play in. Edit to your heart’s content (just keep everything G or PG, please). [Sorry, the document is no longer there.] As with other Google Docs, you can also publish your work as a web page.
I’m still hoping that they will get true LaTeX integration, but it will probably never happen. This is a neat feature, but I won’t be able to use it for professional collaboration.