How to use textpath with Metapost

It took me more than a few hours to get this working and as the manual is not at all fully clear on what you need to do (or rather, it assumes more knowledge of LaTeX than I had), I thought it would be useful to set this out.

Textpath allows one to draw text on a path (i.e., not just on a straight line). Here’s an example I prepared earlier:

Decus et tutamen as the coins say.

But using it is not as simple as I hoped it would be and even the very fine The LATEX Graphics Companion does not cover it – this is despite textpath being in the standard free TeX distributions and the alternative they describe – TXP – requiring a manual install.

Here are the key steps you need to get it to work.

Firstly, you have to configure your metapost file as a full LaTeX file and not just a piece of Metapost.

So at the top:

input latexmp; setupLaTeXMP(preamblefile="mypreamble"); input textpath; filenametemplate "%j-%c.mps";

And then you need to create your LaTeX preamble – i.e. the file I have called “mypreamble.tex” here but you can call it anything.

Here is mine:

\documentclass{article} \usepackage[T1]{fontenc} \usepackage[osf]{mathpazo} \usepackage{textpathmp}

This is what constrains your file as LaTeX.

This also means you have to end your file with an end after the endfig of the Metapost.

If you get some of this wrong you may find that you get an output but the strings (labels) are messed up – it is quite sensitive.

Here’s the file that generated the above graphic:


input latexmp;
setupLaTeXMP(preamblefile="mypreamble");
input textpath;
filenametemplate "%j-%c.mps";
beginfig(1);
prologues:=3;

%some colours
color lightgrey;
lightgrey:=(4/5, 4/5, 4/5);
color midgrey;
midgrey:=(3/5, 3/5, 3/5);
color darkgrey;
darkgrey=(2/5, 2/5, 2/5);
color gloom;
gloom=(1/5, 1/5, 1/5);

color azure;
azure:=(12/13, 1, 1);
color baby;
baby:=(12/13, 24/25, 1);
color lavender;
lavender=(23/26, 23/26, 49/50);
color ultra;
ultra=(8/13, 23/26, 12/13);
color ukraine;
ukraine=(66/255, 173/255, 222/255);
color turquoise;
turquoise=(0, 191/255, 1);

path hardware, virtlayer, kernel, user;
path hardwareL, virtlayerL, kernelL, userL;

hardware = fullcircle scaled 100;
virtlayer = fullcircle scaled 150;
kernel = fullcircle scaled 250;
user = fullcircle scaled 350;

hardwareL := reverse fullcircle scaled 75 rotated 180;
virtlayerL := reverse fullcircle scaled 125 rotated 180;
kernelL := reverse fullcircle scaled 225 rotated 160;
userL := reverse fullcircle scaled 325 rotated 160;

fill virtlayer withcolor lavender;
draw user;
fill user withcolor midgrey;
draw kernel;
fill kernel withcolor lightgrey;
draw virtlayer;
fill virtlayer withcolor lavender;
draw hardware;
fill hardware withcolor white;
draw textpath("Virtualisation", virtlayerL, 0);
draw textpath("Hardware", hardwareL, 0);
draw textpath("Kernel", kernelL, 0);

label.urt(btex Hardware virtualisation etex, (-200,-200));

endfig;
end;



There are lots of tricks to get the text looking the right way – e.g., inside or outside the path, left to right and so on. But they are described in the manual and I will leave them to readers to work out – getting the output at all is the most fundamental task!

How do I do this?

I am preparing a computer science slide presentation and (as I am sane) do not want to use Powerpoint.

So I have been using LyX and the Beamer class.

The slides look great. But how do I add notes?

If I add notes “by hand” e.g. \note{Here is a note} – I see nothing in the PDFs.

And if I use the LyX “Noteitem” I get something like this “Note: Here is a note” on screen, but again nothing in the PDFs.

What am I doing wrong? I have looked at the LyX wiki and it is not illuminating.

Anyone got any thoughts on the LaTeX companion?

Should I shell out £23 for The Latex Companion to ensure I can most effectively write my documents and design my slides for university? I have The LATEX Graphics Companion and there is no doubt it is a good book, but the number of books I could buy increases exponentially the more I think about the work I need to do. So, anyone have any practical experience with the book’s usefulness to a computer science research student with a middling level of LaTeX experience, who is likely to use LyX for a lot of his work?

LaTeX w00t!

I owe Professor Paul A. Rubin another apology – turns out I can display LaTeX natively in a wordpress.com blog after all – as the following wave equation shows:

$i\hbar\frac{\partial}{\partial t}\left|\Psi(t)\right>=H\left|\Psi(t)\right>$

LaTeX frustration…

Anyone who works on software development and in the FOSS world generally is used to seeing books and documentation in English. It is certainly a great advantage to be a fluent speaker and reader.

But it is not always the case – as I have just found out.

Right now I have returned to writing my MSc project proposal and that means back to using the power of LyX and LaTeX. But with great power comes great complexity and it can be tough navigating all of this.

So I discovered there is an O’Reilly “Hacks” book for LaTeX – LaTeX Hacks.

Great! I was going to order it without even bothering to read a review, so sure was I that it would be helpful and useful: until I discovered it was in German and there is no sign of an English translation.

To make matters worse, it seems that the O’Reilly quick reference – LaTeX – is also auf Deutsch.

And there is even 100 neue Latex Hacks

This all has an odd, and unsettling feel to it. A century ago German domination of the physical and mathematical sciences was near-complete. Think of 1905 and Einstein just for starters.

But since the tragedy and disaster of Hitler we are used to thinking of the Germans as great engineers but the US clearly as the world’s leading centre of scientific research. And when a threat to that is identified it is usually seen as being from China (as Barack Obama said only a few weeks ago in his state of the union address). But maybe the LaTeX domination of Germany suggests there is life in the old world yet.

Either that or O’Reilly need to pull their fingers out on translating this stuff.

(The graph shows the numbers of people in EU members states who speak German as a foreign or second language: I did a year of it at High School but would not claim to know much beyond some very basic vocabulary and grammar).