I am a chemistry professor who is finishing semester sequestered because of COVID-19. I bought a Huion 1060+ with the intent of using it write equations/formulas for my students in our online classes. I am not drawing major artwork - just an occasional simple molecular structure.

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    Maybe chemistry.stackexchange.com would be a better place for this question? Mar 20, 2020 at 14:57
  • Thanks Zach. As this sort of technology is not my area of expertise, I had no idea 2 days ago that it existed, so you just helped me with my next step. Much appreciated!
    – Don
    Mar 21, 2020 at 15:56
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    Do you mean handwrite formulas (as you would on a black/whiteboard), or typeset them (as you would read them on a book)? Mar 21, 2020 at 19:00

6 Answers 6


I know there's an open-source extension to LATEX specifically for chemical formulae - I think it's called chemfig - here's what I just found on quick lookup:

Overleaf - Chemfig

Also, for simple diagrammatic stuff, if you don't feel you need a chemistry formula specific tool, and general graphics / vector drawing works for you, then bear in mind that Inkscape is free and open source.


Chemsketch is free for academic use: https://www.acdlabs.com/resources/freeware/chemsketch/


If you only want to draw them by hand, as you were on a blackboard you can use any simple paint program, there are several free ones.

Take a look at them. They are free so just test them.

  1. Define a similar-sized canvas on a couple of programs, let's say 1920x1080 or smaller.
  2. See which one is more intuitive for you, and draws more fluidly with your hardware.

You can save your boards as an archive or simply delete the artboard.

*One detail about MyPaint. It has an "infinite canvas" this is, If you need more space you can simply drag it a little or zoom out and you have now a bigger canvas. It is useful but beware not to create a monster that will paralyze your computer. Zoom out, but remember to zoom in again.


Word and Powerpoint or their free rivals such as LibreOffice or OpenOffice have editors for quite rich formulas. They are very easy, but typographic control in LaTeX style is zero.

Structure diagrams need a drawing program. Office products have something quite clunky but easy to learn. Inkscape is the complex but capable one freebie.

Check this molecule structure editor http://molview.org It exports PNG images and knows nothing if the drawn molecule is possible or not. Read the license carefully to see what you give and promise if you use it.

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    I second LibreOffice Math. It's not great, but it does have a GUI and it's easy to learn.
    – wizzwizz4
    Mar 21, 2020 at 17:50
  • @wizzwizz4 I use LibreOffice Math extensively and I find it to be near perfect. You say that it isn't great, which implies some sort of shortcoming. Can you share what you have in mind?
    – john01dav
    Mar 22, 2020 at 7:27
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    @john01dav It's not as powerful as TeX.
    – wizzwizz4
    Mar 22, 2020 at 13:02
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    @john01dav LaTeX is a typesetting language for arbitary texts. Also drawings are possible. Equation editors are not especially flexible for making full pages of stuff. A single formula can be acceptable but one cannot specify exact placements, everything must be accepted as the equation editor decides. But is it useful? A genius can write the final layout with LaTeX at the same time when he creates the content i.e. does the actual work. I guess I'm not the only who prefer something simpler when I must create the content, too.
    – user82991
    Mar 23, 2020 at 12:07
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    @user287001 That's a good point about arbitrary diagrams. Libreoffice's formula editor isn't great for that (although I've always found the GUI tools in Libreoffice Draw to be acceptable, but not great — it may be worth learnign Latex for that). Wrt whole pages though, you absolutely can do that in Libreoffice easily, and I have, many times. You just use a Libreoffice Writer document with equation objects. Also, for the most part, you can specify exact placements. It's probably not quite as powerful as something designed for arbitrary diagrams, but it's pretty darn close in my experience.
    – john01dav
    Mar 24, 2020 at 1:46

If you use Ubuntu there are a number of free molecule and chemical compoud graphing solutions: Avogadro, Bist, Bkchem, etc. Most output to png, svg, etc. Just get on synaptic and search "chem"


There are also on-line editors, for instance cactus has both gif and vmrl structure creators.

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