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TechWiki is a wiki application with improved support for technical language and symbols.
TechWiki aims to reduce the following difficulties with exchange of technical information on the world wide web:
- It is difficult to compose and display equations
- It is virtually impossible to do the same with diagrams or sketches
- It is difficult to display special symbols (eg those required by chemists)
TechWiki allows subscripts (C2H5OH) and other mathematical and technical constructs (for use in linear chemical formulae and equations for example) to be displayed easily on a web page.
TechWiki just interposes LaTeX or Natural Math between the editing and the presentation of edited material (in a browser's window) so that equations can be typeset and displayed properly, in context, on the World Wide Web.
There are two versions of TechWiki, one uses native LaTeX (and therefore requires users to know and employ LaTeX), while the other uses Natural Math, an invention of Prof. Stephen Montgomery-Smith. Natural Math allows students to input mathematics in a linguistic mode which corresponds more nearly to English than any typesetting language.
In the original TechWiki, "LaTeX2HTML" was employed to translate the edited message from text (and LaTeX equivalent) to something which could be exported to the WWW for viewing in standard browsers, however that has been dropped in favour of "pdflatex", a program which generates PDF files from latex input. These are read by Adobe Acrobat on the WWW, and provide a much clearer medium for reading and understanding.
One major difficulty with TechWiki environment is the need to e-mail respondents informing them that changes have been made in the Wiki files. This asynchronous (rather than chat) mode of interacting artificially slows communication.
Another difficulty is that users need to be acquainted with LaTeX.