While I like working with matematics inside LaTeX (that is to say, scribble notes e.t.c. even for things I know I will never want typeset), I often find myself resorting to pen and paper for the simple reason that I find it more convenient (being able to shuffle papers around, write some additional notes to the proof of a theorem on one paper so as to remember some detail for whenever I want to sue that particular theorem).

I realise that I probably won't be able to totally move away from using pen and paper (using TikZ to fiddle around with commutative diagrams in "real time" seems like rather a nightmare), but I would like to avoid the huge stack (read mess) of unorganised palimpsests I have to wade through every time I'm looking for some note/theorem/definition.

I'm thus wondering if anyone is aware of some form of software for organising "mathematical thought" (for lack of a less cheesy word); somewhere between a full fledged theorem prover (Coq, Agda e.t.c.) and a typesetting system (LaTeX).

Relevant features would be some form of mathematical "awareness" (maybe something like a a browser for some mathematics RDF schema?), searching (for symbols, texts e.t.c.) and version control (in case of plain text files this could just be achieved by using a regular version control system, but it would be nice if it was more aware of the contents).

Thanks in advance for any hints or suggestions.

EDIT: I just realised that I might just want org-mode. I haven't used it for anything beyond creating basic outlines, is anyone using it for something like what I'm describing above?

EDIT2: Before anyone suggests it, a wiki is not quite what I want, unless you can set it up without starting a server and it's very easy to organise things into seperate small projects (if the threshold of using it isn't minimal I can't see myself using it over grabbing a piece of paper near me).

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    $\begingroup$ Don't use tikz, use xy-pic for commutative diagrams. But I prefer the old pen and paper for scratchwork. $\endgroup$
    – Thomas Rot
    Jul 10, 2012 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ @ThomasRot Thanks (I've only seen the name before, never used the package, I'll definitely check it out), the issue of TikZ was mostly a small side note though :) $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2012 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ I would very much like some kind of drag-and-drop manager for a collection of typeset theorems/statements, perhaps something that runs on a tablet. Coq and Agda are nice, but my mental picture of theorems is more along the lines of how they look when typeset as opposed to their abstract syntax trees or the internal representation that the theorem provers use. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2012 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ @deoxygerbe Pretty much the same issue I have (though I'd also like some general way to manage relations between things in this collection), something like this would be the first reason ever for me to actually want a tablet. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2012 at 18:34

3 Answers 3


Tilo has probably got a solution now but for others.....

Windows-based outliner software like SEO note and TreePad are excellent programs to collect disparate and unorganized information into one document. There is a tree structure you can create to organize and navigate your stuff.

You can create hyper links to documents (maple files, spreadsheets, pdf math books, scanned images, etc) on your hard disk or webpages on the net.

enter image description here

HyperLinks to start external programs (for typesetting or theorem provers in Tilo's case) is very easy to setup as well.

You can copy/paste scanned images of your handwritten notes into the outliner document and add some keyword text so that these notes can be located through the search function.

There are many helpful features but some features and functionality that would make these programs even better would be text folding, direct image scanning into the document, graphics tablet support, revision history, LaTex support and syntax highlighting. It's been a while since I looked into these programs. Perhaps some of this functionality exists in some outliners now. That Wikipedia link has a list.

  • $\begingroup$ This seems similar to using Emacs Org-mode, which is/was my as of yet unimplemented plan. Nice overview with motivating examples! Is there any reason for stressing Windows-based? $\endgroup$ Jan 7, 2014 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ No. I was going to mention a MAC and LINUX outliner for the benefit of the readers but I didn't know which ones to choose (owing to the fact I have never used a non-Windows outliner). $\endgroup$
    – Kon
    Jan 8, 2014 at 3:51
  • $\begingroup$ Do any outliners support math typesetting? Apparently org-mode does: orgmode.org/manual/Embedded-LaTeX.html $\endgroup$
    – Stephen
    Jun 13, 2015 at 21:17

What about TeXmacs? TeXmacs is a kind of mathematics processing application: it does word processing for mathematics with LaTeX quality and it can be interfaced with specialized mathematics tools for graphing, numeric and algebraic calculus.

enter image description here

So you can write down mathematical notes (buffer) with source from own writing and third party computation or graphing. TeXmacs takes some inspiration from Emacs (integrated Scheme interpreter) but with a more mathematics appetence.

  • $\begingroup$ This is not a bad suggestion, though I feel it still falls mostly within the org-mode/outliner to jupyter/sage notebook spectrum. I think my original hope was for something more "free-form". $\endgroup$ May 1, 2016 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ The capability of this software is so hudge, may be the authors of TeXmacs can give you more specific tips regarding what you want to do. $\endgroup$ May 2, 2016 at 9:53

Bit late of an answer, but I thought I would try to help out anyone that finds this question. For a simple interface for managing mathematical work, you could try out Open Notebook, a graphical application for creating mathematical documents. The software allows the creation of mathematical expressions, as well as an interface for manipulating and transforming expressions while solving a problem. It also comes with basic facilities for creating Cartesian graphs and geometry diagrams. Currently the file format for saving documents is a simple XML format, which would work for checking into a version control system. This format however is not designed to be easily human readable, and may change in the future.


Disclosure, I am the developer of Open Notebook, feel free to leave any feedback or suggestions here.

  • $\begingroup$ I thought this was spam, and was going to flag it, but disclosure means you are well within the site guidelines. Thanks for being aware of the rules. Good luck with your product! $\endgroup$
    – The Count
    Mar 18, 2017 at 21:18
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for taking a second look, I appreciate the support! $\endgroup$
    – jaltekruse
    Mar 18, 2017 at 21:49
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting project, I'd have loved to have something like this on top of Sage/Jupyter! $\endgroup$ Mar 20, 2017 at 16:37

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