# Recommendations for Tablets/Programs for doing Physics Homework?

astroboulders
TL;DR Summary
I want to be able to type clarifying sentences and handwrite and format equations into a program/tablet for school.
Greetings!

I'm a 4th year physics undergrad looking for a program/tablet that I can write/type equations into and type (or dictate!) sentences into for clarification. I have Word but the equation editor is clunky. I also tutor so being able to screenshare a large area in Zoom and easily handwrite equations would be helpful. I know people use Maple and Mathematica and other programs but I'm unfamiliar with them. Thoughts? Money is an issue.

Any recommendations would be immensely appreciated!

Gold Member
2022 Award
I'm a 4th year physics undergrad looking for a program/tablet that I can write/type equations into and type (or dictate!) sentences into for clarification.
The "program" you want to use depends on where you want to present what you type/write. If it is for an assignment that you want to submit to your professor at the university, then LaTeX is the way to go. If they are for notes for yourself, then see below.
I also tutor so being able to screenshare a large area in Zoom and easily handwrite equations would be helpful.
For this case, I will recommend the software that many professors at my college are using: Xournal++. You can write anything in it. Some professors at my college use a tablet where they can work with the app, and share the screen over Google Meet/Zoom so that we can see. This is also useful for writing notes for yourself.

An alternative to Xournal++ is Microsoft OneNote. Note that Xournal++ is cross-platform: available on Windows, Linux and MacOS. OneNote, as far as I know, is available on Windows and Android. Also, Xournal++ is FOSS.

If you want to use Xournal++ (or OneNote) extensively, buying a Tab or a graphics drawing tablet (like this one) is recommended, 'cause using the mouse to write free-hand is not easy. I cannot, however, recommend a Tab because I haven't used one.
I know people use Maple and Mathematica and other programs but I'm unfamiliar with them.
These are maths software. Not for taking notes/typesetting documents.

Last edited:
Mentor
On the iPad, there is Notability. You have a choice of paper styles, I use graph paper. You can draw freehand with a variety of colors or type in text for a label. Also while you’re taking notes, you can record a lecture and the lecture recording will be tied to what you are writing ie on playback, tapping a note you wrote will fast forward to that part of the recorded lecture.

With Notability, you can also annotate pdf files.

For more text oriented work, there’s iaWriter. It supports many platforms from Windows to MacOS. It allows you to write markdown text without all the bells and whistles of a word processor to distract you. It has some syntax checking to improve your writing but mostly in removing adverbs from your sentences.

iaWriter supports TeX expressions using $or$$bracketing as shown in the iaWriter markdown guide link below. You can also insert images into your markdown text that are visible while you’re typing. You can switch to view mode to see how markdown will render and print or save as a pdf. Having said all this, it’s still best to have a pad and pen on hand and learn to listen and take notes. A small recorder or your phone is good to record lectures so you can listen again. Knowing how college students think, you’re unlikely to go back and relisten or even redo your notes as there is so many other things to steal away your attention but to have the option to is great. https://ia.net/writer/support/general/markdown-guide Grammarly is a much better tool for cleaning up your writing. But it is subscription based and requires an internet connection. It can be configured to work with your iPad soft keyboard providing immediate feedback Last edited: Mentor Programming wise, there is Textastic on the iPad. It’s a programmers editor that colorizes your code based on the programming language. Currently, it supports over 80 languages including non-programming html and markdown files. You can also recast a file to use whatever language is closest to what you have. if you’re going to use Python then there’s the Pythonista app that allows you to code and run python on the iPad directly. Pythonista includes many common python modules like numpy, scipy and matplotlib for data science work and turtle graphics for games and interactive graphics. More recently, there’s the Tinkerstellar for learning Python itself and Data Science apps in python. It was recently featured in this 9to5mac article. https://9to5mac.com/2022/01/07/tink...-app-to-help-you-start-programming-in-python/ Science Advisor Homework Helper Gold Member If you are considering Maple and Mathematica and considering handwriting equations (with another application on the computer), then you are probably looking for a Windows-based PC with a stylus. (I have been using Tablet PCs for a while. Very old thread: https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/tablet-pc-owners-thread.167151/ and see the related threads [at the bottom of the page] on that old thread... and on this one ) I would not recommend a drawing tablet. I found it hard to use for writing equations and manipulating diagrams. Since cost is an issue... do you already have a Windows laptop? Or are you looking to supplement your current device with a tablet for note-taking and tutoring? Of course, lower cost usually means a less powerful computer... so you'll have to find a balance. Currently, I have a Samsung slate and a Samsung laptop... and I am particular to using the EMR-type stylus from Wacom... since all of my older tablets used it... and my pens work on all of them. Lenovo and Microsoft Surface are good... but they don't use EMR. (I'm learning to get used to my Lenovo.) A low cost Windows tablet is a Surface Go 2 https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/d/surface-go-2/8pt3s2vjmdr6?activetab=pivot:overviewtab ... but, if possible, try one out in a store [like BestBuy]. I use Windows Journal (which has been standard on WIndows TabletPCs... until recently)... but has been "uninstalled" by various Windows Updates. [There is a way to install it back... but it is deprecated and make pose a security issue... but I have too many documents in that format. I will try OneNote. (I wish I could convert the Journal strokes to [say] svg and convert it into another format.) For annotating PDFs (and maybe even taking notes), you could try PDF Annotator: https://www.pdfannotator.com/ ). ( Long ago, I had so much hope for https://www.xthink.com/mathjournal.html ... but it didn't succeed. Maybe someone will revive it.) sysprog This https://www.ebay.com/itm/175038986746?_trkparms=ispr%3D1&hash=item28c122f9fa:g:z3UAAOSwyAFhj~No&amdata=enc%3AAQAGAAACkPYe5NmHp%252B2JMhMi7yxGiTJkPrKr5t53CooMSQt2orsSDAeS9EQtjPGVfKXTxF0%252BjjBIKLBz%252BmN09rEPBn9%252FYxBh6XL7YtVknHpQbvXuwgyDTSAfmjWL%252FFiu9uPfcsOx5xaYUGOE6Hmfm00w1IpXTPq%252BzgMpwVOrxbVy8Vr2XJid3h3xmoK52qrFRJfgCq5GH43AbZbtl%252BiQQVl%252FvaNL2ORZ3Ou2STmkF%252FM9UvFOzwW45jP5h%252Bb4%252FrQEFppQOkE3cGgO%252BmkZPCfCgRuDLd%252BgBlHPpr6%252FkDwN7%252BPywbHudkOJ78jq08673s9QQ0SctSIBMwFINkjEbCkrHyE%252BDQuJIXLv1JnE7MZ2Muk5%252FRG8SRdwktzasEAvW9FIt%252Byb0r%252B8qbwCJnV0vkZBk%252FX6wcLkcfjy07f0yQrs9qDQIi1fbYFEAmjELgoNZMCjP5haxpkg34HVsHet8cDHvGINvd1NtqYs9Ehj%252Fb36HbNf%252Bd%252BldioFr9QwOU8aswHOPlDh%252FEI5xrqabCJ3H3GQ0ZR%252BUly12WtmSZpDZLaTt9JIS8kK0HpGIxCy1ub8lUqdCoq2j8bfVWy4jFZgGEU4aqQWaNAdiLDvk3%252B6zhmSC1JceSCxVan%252BJ43T3pLEWLnYepCuazL2Fob%252Bn44cobBtGBdn4ukFZI1W9mCvGUMNvaseUo7U%252BgRhxHyvcCII03CBb4fq3muem1GoZm4ULivMB%252BD9i6asYgJntCjsmYIB%252F%252BksSxs4e5dlJeRA0hh5mmJoJ%252BakQ5z9KFd8%252FFC9NrXnaiZY%252BlD26WNBVgrv%252Ba62tS5Ps%252Brw%252FmAqsNUDXBKxT%252BoxQrtj%252FMNqsRwpE4%252F9eiW6VArbzhEHKaBIinVcnQjtg7aC67ctiCtY%7Cclp%3A2334524%7Ctkp%3ABFBM9pr82c1f is available on ebay for$146.00 + \$11.25 shipping. For typing mathematical expressions, ##\LaTeX## is de rigeur et par excellence (check out miktex.org). For drawing and more, geogebra.org ##-## you can use it online, or download a copy to use offline.

Last edited:
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
For typing mathematical expressions, ##\LaTeX## is de rigeur et par excellence (check out miktex.org).
Overleaf also is very popular these days. I introduce students to it at the start of second-year, and I know students who have written their theses using it.
https://www.overleaf.com/

berkeman and robphy
sysprog
Overleaf also is very popular these days. I introduce students to it at the start of second-year, and I know students who have written their theses using it.
https://www.overleaf.com/
I haven't tried Overleaf, but I seethat it's billed as: "An online LaTeX editor that's easy to use. No installation, real-time collaboration, version control, hundreds of LaTeX templates, and more."

Gold Member
2022 Award
I haven't tried Overleaf, but I seethat it's billed as: "An online LaTeX editor that's easy to use. No installation, real-time collaboration, version control, hundreds of LaTeX templates, and more."
Yes, that's where Overleaf comes very handy — you do not have to do the work of installing LaTeX on your system. All packages are available by default, and you just have to call them. Very useful if you have low disk space or other problems and cannot install MikTex or TexLive.

Ability to collaborate is another plus. I had read somewhere of an instance where more than 100 authors were working at the same time on the same document on Overleaf.

In addition, since everything is online, you have the advantage of bringing up your documents anywhere, on any computer.

sysprog
sysprog
@Wrichik Basu, "if you have low disk space or other problems and cannot install MikTex or TexLive", then locally you have issues that need to be attended to (disk space too low to install a 130M package obviously means a severe shortage); however, I don't dispute the other advantages that you listed.

Homework Helper
Gold Member
@Wrichik Basu, "if you have low disk space or other problems and cannot install MikTex or TexLive", then locally you have issues that need to be attended to (disk space too low to install a 130M package obviously means a severe shortage); however, I don't dispute the other advantages that you listed.
I think 130MB is only the installer size for MikTeX.
The installed size is over 1gb.

https://tex.stackexchange.com/questions/302676/how-large-is-the-full-install-of-texlive (2016)
Reserved disc space for MiKTeX and/or TeX Live:
Basic Installation: takes minimum of 1.2GB
Full Installation: takes minimum of 4.5GB, but usually less than 5.5GB
Recommended Installation reserves 3.2GB.
answered Aug 7 '16 at 18:16

The live image of TeXLive is 4 gb.
e.g. https://mirror.las.iastate.edu/tex-archive/systems/texlive/Images/

Wrichik Basu and sysprog
sysprog
Thanks for that information, @robphy ##-## I use only the basic version without any of the special packages, but would not pay attention over a few extra gigabytes, anyway; still, what you've pointed out seems to validate @Wrichik Basu's mention of low disk space as a possible reason for not installing MiKTeX.