it would be cool if latex commands in a section heading (e.g. $\alpha$ etc) could be shown as the correctly encoded special character in the outline
I agree but this is a pretty tricky feature :) do you have any suggestions how to implement this?
well, I'm a physicist, and my programming knowledge is very limited. The following idea comes to my mind:
I assume there is somewhere a function that takes a string (or several, or an array of strings, or whatever) to be displayed in the outline. I'll call this function display() for the moment. I further assume that we have a system working with unicode; in that case if the .tex file is also saved as unicode then all special chararacters which are input directly in the source file are already displayed correctly.
I would then assume it is not too hard parsing the string that is passed to the display() function and to replace certain latex commands by their unicode equivalent. In the case of some frequently used commands that should be quite doable I imagine, such as for greek letters, certain relational symbols (\leq etc.) and such. It would be very hard I imagine for some other commands that are frequently used, in particular those that introduce super/subscripts. So this obviously is not a perfect solution, but it is a marked improvement, and it seems doable to me (from the outside).
I believe that even for commands that cannot be replaced by proper unicode symbols one should think about whether to keep the latex command in the outline view or filter it out; the latter might be more legible, or it might not be, I'm not sure.
The online other option than the one described above that comes to my mind seems extremely hard and complicated to me, if possible at all:
One would have to convince the display() function to accept some sort of rendered vector graphics as input. One could then in theory leave all the heavy lifting to latex itself, by creating a temporary latex document containing essentially only the code that is supposed to appear in the outline, let latex create a document from this and pass this document as image to the display() function. As I assume that display() is in fact somewhere deep in gtk or some such, I guess one can't really do this.
As already mentioned I'm quite a layman about all of this, so I'm not sure if these ideas are realistic at all.
I have some (extremely limited) experience with python, but only for physics stuff and none using any proper toolkit for anything at all. If you think option (1) is doable I'd be willing to give it a shot, but I'd probably need loads of guidance. If you want to implement this and if you want me to work on it best just contact me by email: atreju (the little dot) tauschinsky (you know what) gmx (again a dot) de