A demo is available here for fun an profit.


Have you ever tried to do some serious mathematics on IRC, ICQ, or - even worse - on MSN? If you have, then you know what I'm talking about here: It's quite hard to do so when you don't have access to some symbols like for instance greek letters or integral signs and if you can't draw fractions. You could use LaTeX-notation, but that often is no option because it's hard to read and not everyone knows LaTeX. You could also use some plugin to make the messenger render LaTeX code, but these often are hard to install or not available at all. If you're chatting with MSN, everything gets even worse since common terms like (x), (y), (a) and so on are replaced by default with a nasty icons:

Screenshot bad

This is where Formulax comes into play. Instead of writing that formula into your messenger, go to the Formulax website, give your buddy the URL and write the terms needed into the text field using LaTeX notation. You and your buddy will see the rendered formula(e) while you are typing:

Screenshot good



  1. Which browsers are supported? I tested a lot of browsers including Firefox, Opera, Safari and MS IE 6 and 7. They all worked, but IE 6 failed to properly display the page footer (what a surprise).
  2. Why does this need JavaScript? Because JavaScript allows decent image redrawing.
  3. How much traffic does it generate? I didn't measure the traffic, but I can provide some information about what is being transferred: On the master site (the one with the input box), the formula is refreshed after every keypress. On the slave site(s) (people watching what you're typing), an ajax query is sent every second to poll for changes. However, the image itself is loaded from the browser cache if no change occured.
  4. Can I use more than one session at the same time? Yes, just open Formulax in a second tab or browser windows. You'll get a new session id.
  5. Why does the name of the project sound like a medicament? Formulax is made up of formula and AJAX. I dont know why it sounds so strange.
  6. What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? I only know it depends on whether this is an African or an European swallow. However, some people did serious research on that topic.

Source Code

The current release (1.0) is the first stable release and basically consists of a tarball of this demo page. You can download and adapt it under the terms of the GPLv3.


Formulax is authored by Mathias Weyland (that's me). I can be reached by email as well as by Jabber at Feedback and improvements are welcome and can be sent to me. I want to thank Tobias Rindlisbacher, Susanne Abplanalp, Andreas Gölzer, Andreas Steiger, Lumi Dox and Thierry Dussuet for their comments and testing efforts, as well as to the authors of MimeTeX and prototype since this tool relies heavely on these projects.