Fast Latex previews in Org-mode

This is a post in my Latex editing series, a quick package announcement for better Latex previews.

After complaining the other day about Latex previews in org-mode being unbearably slow, I decided to take a crack at adapting Org-mode to use AucTeX’s preview library, which is blazing fast in comparison:

Direct link to video

It was both easier and more annoying than I expected it to be, but perhaps less annoying on balance than org-latex-preview locking up Emacs for a good minute on every fresh invocation in medium sized documents.

For now the package is available online in its fledgling state. It’s intended for use as a drop-in replacement for org-latex-preview. Turn on org-auctex-mode and use your keybinding for org-latex-preview (or call org-auctex-preview-dwim), and it should use the Auctex-based backend instead. This is very early, everything including the name of the package might change in the future.

Interestingly, there’s very little Org-specific code in there. It should be trivial to extend the preview library to work in Markdown and other text buffers.

Add a comment, or comment via email

Omar AntolĂ­n Camarena
This is great! If it really isn’t too hard to extend to other text buffers it would be absolutely fabulous to have this as a minor mode. I’d use it for arXiv RSS feeds in Elfeed and to read MathOverflow and Math StackExchange in sx.

@oatolin I need to extract the org-specific bits and provide a more general API, and it should work anywhere. In elfeed or eww, we’ll have to manually provide a general enough Latex preamble to cover most common expressions.

It’ll be a while though, the package is a bit of a hack and needs a lot of testing (hint, hint) to cover the edge cases first!

Check out xenops-mode for asynchronous rendering. I prefer for live notetaking.
@Sterling: I’m aware of Xenops, but I had assumed it reused AucTeX’s preview machinery. From the code it appears to be a from-scratch solution. This is quite neat, thanks! I plan to study it in more detail later.
I wonder if this setup works with org-appear (
Why is auctex’s preview faster?

@shelper: I don’t follow. How would org-appear enhance org-auctex?

@hai: AucTeX’s preview spawns one OS process for the full region being previewed. Org’s preview spawns one OS process per latex snippet. Also, AucTeX’s preview is async, Org’s is synchronous. They’re about the same for previewing one snippet but the latter does not scale. AucTeX can preview hundreds of equations in a couple of seconds, and without blocking Emacs in the process.