Releasing ipbLatex

At SFN, we use a custom LaTeX solution to render LaTeX equations in Invision’s IP.Board. The implementation is based on Dave’s vbLatex, which produces incredibly nice-looking equations so long as you have LaTeX installed. It also supports inline chemical equations using the mhchem package.

Since we moved to IPB over vBulletin, I’ve adapted vbLatex to IPB, given it a few shiny new features, and now I’m releasing it under the LGPL as Dave has done with his earlier work.

You can see examples of ipbLatex at work in our LaTeX tutorial; click the equations for the fancy pop-up effect.


The only testing this has received has been on SFN, and so I cannot guarantee it will work everywhere. I have only tested it on IPB 3.1. This may break your board or cause other weird problems, including possibly data loss. You’ve been warned.



Lots! ipbLatex supports:

  • Normal display math — the $$ math $$ environment in LaTeX.
  • Inline math, as in the $math$ environment.
  • Chemistry, using mhchem.
  • PNG and GIF output.
  • A popup showing the raw LaTeX code upon clicking on an image, allowing users to find out how a LaTeX equation was made so they can type their own
  • Caching of every equation
  • As many LaTeX packages as you want to use
  • There is experimental support for PGF, but it is not enabled and incomplete, so you’d have to finish it yourself.



Stolen from Dave’s vbLatex documentation:

  • A working distribution of LaTeX. This kind of goes without saying – if you’re using Linux, look into the TeXlive distribution.
  • You absolutely must have a copy of dvipng installed. This plugin will not work without it.
  • If you want GIF output, then dvipng must have GIF support compiled into it. Things may otherwise break. Versions supplied as a part of many distributions will have this support.
  • The mhchem package needs to be accessible by LaTeX; either put the mhchem.sty file in the tmp directory (see below) or install the package properly. It is not bundled with ipbLatex by default (although this may change in the future).
  • mogrify is recommended for prettier images. If you do not have mogrify, be sure to set ‘resample’ to FALSE as instructed in the configuration. You’ll want to change ‘density’ and ‘gamma’ to the recommended values in the comment above if you cannot use mogrify.

Download It


The .tar.gz is available here, under the LGPLv2. License terms are included in the download.

The source is hosted on GitHub as well, if you’d like to submit patches or browse through.



(Again, partially stolen from Dave’s documentation.)

  1. Create a folder somewhere web-accessible to hold all of your generated images. You need to create two sub-directories called tmp and img inside this folder, and make them both world-writable.
  2. Extract the archived ZIP file somewhere. Carefully read through the configuration in class.latex-vb.php (at the beginning of the file) and fill in all required sections. Make sure your paths are correct and agree with step 1.
  3. Upload the class.latex.php and ipbLatex.php files to the /admin/sources/classes/bbcode/custom directory of your IP.Board installation.
  4. Open templates.txt. To enable the LaTeX popup feature, which allows your users to see the LaTeX code that generated a formula by clicking it, you need to edit your default templates. You’ll have to do this for every style you have installed. Simply follow the directions in templates.txt.
  5. Head to your administration panel, to Look & Feel -> BBCode Management. Scroll to the bottom, at Import New BBCodes. Browse and select the bbcode.xml file that came with the plugin. Install it.
  6. That’s it!

By default, the plugin uses the [latex] and [math] tags as synonyms, with [imath] and [ce] representing inline math and chemical equations, respectively. You can add additional synonyms as aliases in IPB’s BBCode editor, but note that [imath] and [ce] are hardcoded, and they won’t work if you change the aliases for those.

With ipbLatex installed, you should be able to use LaTeX anywhere that BBCode can be used — personal messages, in the forums, and wherever. All images are stored in the img directory you create for all time, so you may wish to periodically cull that directory. (If a user previews their post, then changes an equation before posting it, the old equation will remain for all time.) At SFN we commonly see an img directory of over 20,000 images, so be careful opening it in your FTP client or you may cause it to hang. If images are deleted, never fear, ipbLatex will merely recreate once the posts are viewed.

If you need extra LaTeX packages for additional features, you can always add more to the ‘extrapackages’ list in the configuration. By default, the AMS math packages are loaded, as well as color and slashed.



I’m a student, so I don’t have the time to officially support this. However, you’re free to leave a comment here, using your email address (which is not publicly shared) and I’ll get back to you if I can. Alternately, email me at alex at scienceforums dot net, and I’ll try to get back to you. No guarantees — I have a finite amount of spare time.

Remember: The img and tmp directories you create in step 1 must be writable by your webserver. You must have dvipng.

Finally, thanks to Dave for the excellent software that this has been based on, and the support and bugfixes as I have developed ipbLatex. And thanks to everyone at SFN for tolerating me as I break things, fix them, and break them again.


  1. I was wondering if you could help me with something that I would like to do. How did you make the popup on click?

    How can I call, using javascript the popup when I click?

    Any specific tag or id that is specific to IPBoard?

    An example would suffice…..

    Thanks in Advance

  2. Adam: I haven’t yet upgraded to IPB 3.2, but I’m not aware of any changes serious enough to break ipbLatex. If you do end up trying it, please let me know how it goes. Otherwise, I’ll be upgrading SFN to 3.2 sometime in the coming months and will update this post with either a new version or 3.2 compatibility info.

  3. Please, help me install IPBlatex on IPBoard.
    If I want to install IPBLatex, I should have any program on my computer?

  4. See the “Requirements” section above. You don’t need the programs on your computer, but on the server that hosts IP.Board.


    If you have root access to your server, you can install a LaTeX package as provided by your operating system — texlive works, for example.

    If you don’t know how to install LaTeX on your server, I suggest you ask your webhost’s support people for some help.

  6. TeXlive is not a Linux distribution. It is software you install on Linux. It is likely available for all of the Linux distributions you have listed.

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