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Should we avoid mathjax, if it is not necessary?

Given that each separate bit of LaTeX requires a bit of extra processing; and given that these sites get viewed from a variety of different javascript-capable devices (not just powerful PCs), I've tended towards only using LaTeX where essential for meaning.

But is that the right thing to do?

I ask because of this edit, where a mod added LaTeX markup.

Rather than ignore or rollback, I figured I'd ask here.

  • $\begingroup$ See this question: meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/2733/… $\endgroup$ Dec 3, 2011 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin: Thanks for pointing that out. I was sure there was a duplicate somewhere, but I couldn't find it at first glance, and I wanted to respond as the mod who made the edit in question. I see that I made several similar points to Jeff's answer; but I was not even aware that MathJax makes the same loading time penalty regardless of use! $\endgroup$ Dec 3, 2011 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ ah, thanks for the dupe spot. @ZevChonoles NB it's not about load time, it's about processing time $\endgroup$
    – 410 gone
    Dec 3, 2011 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ I guess I've just been conflating those two notions unintentionally (shows how much I know about the internet). At any rate I believe Jeff Atwood in any matter regarding the operation of the site. $\endgroup$ Dec 3, 2011 at 17:56

1 Answer 1


That's a good question. I suppose I am spoiled by my almost always viewing the site on a PC :) There is certainly a balancing act between

  • a clean, consistent look for the site
  • the need for $\LaTeX$ to express complex mathematics
  • giving reasonable loading times for as many users as possible

I would say that, in the example in question, since there was almost no $\LaTeX$, adding a little bit more doesn't do too much harm, and it makes for a consistent look for the site. However, if presented with a page where there were a large number of simple mathematical expressions, all of which could be easily expressible, and more importantly readable, without $\LaTeX$, I absolutely agree that adding it would have a net negative effect, due to the longer loading time.

Now for example, adding $\LaTeX$ to this question, where the OP made an impressive use of HTML to format this mathematics (I believe the reason was that it was posted before the site got $\LaTeX$ abilities), I suppose might be considered a borderline decision. While it was certinaly readable without the $\LaTeX$, I think that the much nicer look and feel of $\LaTeX$ outweighed a shorter loading time.

I also would posit that, as the computing speed of our gadgets improve, the loading time will be less of an issue; and I think that formatting with $\LaTeX$ adds value to the site as a repository for readable questions and answers in the long term.

So, there is not really a right answer; do what you feel is best. I tend to favor using $\LaTeX$ in general, but there are certainly situations where using it might cause more harm than good.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm honestly not a big fan of TeXing up things at all cost. If it's a good question with good answers, okay, I understand. But bumping up this question for example, essentially to change V to $V$ seems a bit much (this question has rested well and it won't be of interest to anyone). $\endgroup$
    – t.b.
    Dec 13, 2011 at 7:58
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I do tend to get carried away when I get started on a LaTeXing spree. I'll stick to the good stuff from now on. $\endgroup$ Dec 13, 2011 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I do appreciate the efforts in general, but not particularly so in this instance :) $\endgroup$
    – t.b.
    Dec 13, 2011 at 8:10

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