Looking back on 299 random walks

This is my 300th post and I’m feeling all nostalgic. Here are some of the popular threads that have appeared on my blog over the last few years. If you’ve missed them, now’s your chance to check them out:

Thanks for randomly walking with me over these last few years (though, some say it’s a “drunken walk” 🙂 ). Either way, I’ll raise a glass to another 300 posts!

Microsoft Equation Editor math font hack

Thanks to a very nice blog commenter, I now know that there is a nice little work-around if you desperately want an equation in a certain font. I’m not sure it’s what I would always want to do, but if you really, really need a particular font, this will work (for a powerpoint or for a poster or some other one-off application).

There’s been a lot of discussion about getting the new Equation Editor to render in different fonts. I love the new equation editor, but I agree that it’s a pain that Microsoft only has one “math font.” (Cambria Math)

Here’s how it works: The following were all produced by creating an equation in the normal way, then selecting the whole equation and changing its format to “Normal Text” (on the Equation Tab). Once you do this, you can go back to the home tab and change the font of the whole equation. Obviously not every symbol will render correctly if that font doesn’t have certain glyphs, but I was surprised how well these rendered.

And here’s sample output (download docx or pdf here):

sample math fonts

Mathematics Add-In for Word and One-Note

Maybe it’s old news to you, but I recently downloaded the Mathematics Add-In for Word and One-Note (download from Mircrosoft for free, right here). It works with Microsoft Office 2007 or later. It’s a super quick and easy installation–doesn’t require a reboot or anything. I was even able to install it at work on my locked-down limited-permissions account without needing administrative privileges.

I’m impressed with its ability to graph, do calculations, and manipulate algebraic expressions using its computer algebra system (CAS). It’s not as powerful as Mathematica or my TI-89, or even other free CAS like WolframAlpha or Geogebra (yes, Geogebra has a CAS now and it’s not beta!). But I like it because (A) my expectations were low and (B) it’s right inside Microsoft Word, and it’s nicely integrated into the new equation editor, which as you know, I love.

sample output

Here’s some sample output in word format or pdf (the image above is just the first little bit of this five-page document). All of the output in red is generated by the mathematics add-in package. In this document, I highlight some of it’s features and some of it’s flaws. The graphing capabilities aren’t very customizable. And the mathematics is a bit buggy sometimes.

All in all, despite its flaws, I highly recommend it! It’s really handy to have it right there in Word.

Math Fonts in Microsoft Office

As you know, Microsoft Office has a new and improved Equation Editor that ROCKS. It is so quick and easy and comes with many benefits. Check out my previous posts on Equation Editor here, here, and here to see why it’s so great.

One issue everyone has with the new Equation Editor, however, is the limited ability to change the font typeface. The default that comes with word, Cambria Math, is nice but doesn’t suit everyone’s needs. If you’re typesetting a document with a font other than Cambria, then it looks a little weird to have your equations in a different font.

After some extensive research, I’ve found three other nice fonts that work with Microsoft Office’s new Equation Editor (these are compatible with Office 2007 or later):

  • XITS Math is somewhat compatible with Times (download here).
  • Asana Math is compatible with Palatino (download here) and if you don’t have Palatino, you can download it here, among other places
  • Latin Modern is the LaTeX font of choice. There is a math font (download here) and a whole family of text fonts (download here). Note: these may not look good on screen, but they look just perfect when printed.

To illustrate what these fonts look like, I’ve taken a screenshot below, and I’ve also uploaded the doc file and the pdf file. The doc file won’t render correctly on your machine, however, unless you actually download all the aforementioned fonts.

 Math Fonts

I hope this helps those who have been searching for alternative fonts for Microsoft Equation Editor. In the comments, please let me know if you find others!

Microsoft Equation Editor vs LaTeX

I have posted twice about Microsoft Equation Editor recently, and made comparisons to \LaTeX, claiming that those who like \LaTeX will be pleased that many beloved shortcuts work in Microsoft Equation Editor as well. If you couldn’t tell, I’ve been becoming a bigger and bigger fan of Microsoft Equation Editor, especially now that I’ve learned that  everything is possible from the keyboard.

I was talking with my good friend (and math professor) Matthew Wright, and I echoed the above sentiment. I said that I’m seeing less and less advantage to doing things in \LaTeX, when it’s so easy and fast in Microsoft Equation Editor. His reply, in defense of \LaTeX, was clear and helpful (published here with permission):

As much as I appreciate the improvements to Equation Editor, I can think of many reasons to use LaTeX. Here are some:

1. Math fonts: I like to use Palatino, but Word doesn’t support Palatino as a math font. Equation Editor defaults to some particular font, and I don’t know how to change the default setting. In order to use Palatino in equations, I have to convert my equations to “normal text”, but that removes the italics and some other equation formatting, so I then have to manually set the variables to be italics. I like to use a sans-serif font for presentations in PowerPoint, but that also requires a lot of manual font changes. LaTeX can specify all the fonts in the document by loading a single package.

2. LaTeX provides more symbols. The Equation Editor cheat sheet provides an impressive list of symbols, but it doesn’t come close to the amount of symbols available in LaTeX. The Comprehensive LaTeX Symbol List has 100 pages of symbols:


3. LaTeX supports some programming constructs, such as conditional statements and the ability to create new commands. For instance, if you use some expression repeatedly, you can define a new command so that you can easily insert your expression whenever you need it. Conditional formatting is useful to hide or print solutions in a worksheet, for example.

4. LaTeX numbers theorems and equations and lets you refer to them in your document. If you insert a theorem or equation, it automatically renumbers everything. The same applies for lemmas, definitions, chapters, sections, references, etc. (I know that Word has tools for cross-references, table of contents, and such, but I think consistent numbering of theorems and equations is easier in LaTeX.)

5. There are many special packages in LaTeX for a variety of tasks. For example, I use a schedule package to print my schedule each semester. Granted, this did not save time the first time I made a schedule, but saves me time now, since creating a schedule is really easy. I have attached my schedule.

6. Finally, I think that math looks better in LaTeX than in Word. This is subjective, but I like Donald Knuth’s Computer Modern font family.

I guess I knew all of that, but I was glad for his reminders of why \LaTeX is still a very, very powerful tool. I’ve been using it for all my math grad school assignments, and I think Matthew has convinced me to continue doing that. There’s also the obvious additional benefit of \LaTeX:

7. Geek cred 🙂

Do you have any to add?

More on Microsoft Equation Editor

As some of you know, I recently posted about Microsoft Equation Editor (here) and the way it’s been totally upgraded. I’ve been using Microsoft’s Equation Editor more and more, and I’ve learned a lot of new things, but I also still have questions (for instance, how do you force it to do display or in-line mode?).

Before, when I had questions, it seemed like Microsoft had no answers. I searched their website and found minimal help. I found help from third-parties, like this wonderful cheat-sheet which I still highly recommend. But today when I went searching for some more answers, I found this page on Microsoft’s website, which I swear wasn’t online two months ago.

The most interesting thing is that they mention their use of Unicode Nearly Plain-text Encoding of Mathematics and they claim that the Microsoft Equation editor adheres to the standards set forth in Unicode Technical Note 28.  I’ve now completely read this Unicode guide and it was very helpful.

I think I can finally use the new Microsoft Equation Editor without ever leaving the keyboard.

In particular, here are a few things I learned how to do. Hopefully this will save you the time of having to read through it all yourself:

Tips & Tricks with the new Microsoft Equation Editor

To start with, here are a handful of things I didn’t know how to do without visiting the toolbar. Now I can do them just by typing.

Boxed formula:   \rect(a/b) produces

boxed formula

Matrix:   (\matrix(a&b@&c&d))   produces


Radicals:  \sqrt(5&a^2)    produces


Equation arrays are something I found hard to do in Microsoft Equation Editor. In their documentation, I learned you can type “Shift+Enter” to keep the next line as part of the same equation array. But here’s the more finely-grained method:


resolves to this:

equation array

A more complicated example of alignment, and a description of how it is interpreted comes from the Unicode page:

3.19 Equation Arrays
To align one equation relative to another vertically, one can use an equation array, such as

system of equationswhich has the linear format █(10&x+&3&y=2@3&x+&13&y=4), where █ is U+2588. Here the meaning of the ampersands alternate between align and spacer, with an implied spacer at the start of the line. So every odd & is an alignment point and every even & is a place where space may be added to align the equations. This convention is used in AmSTeX.

Instead of █, one can type \eqarray in Microsoft office. Also, to include a numbered equation is simple:  E=mc^2#(30).

Another nice thing I learned is how to quickly include text in your equations, without having to visit the toolbar (in retrospect, it’s somewhat obvious):


resolves to


Like I said, one unresolved issue I still have is how to force math to be displayed in ‘in-line’ or ‘display’ mode. This is very easy in \LaTeX with the use of $ or $$. Section 3.20 of the Unicode notes isn’t very satisfying:

Note that although there’s no way to specify display versus inline  modes (TeX ‘s $ versus $$), a useful convention for systems that mark math zones is that a paragraph a paragraph consisting of a math zone is in display mode.  If any part of the paragraph isn’t in a math zone including a possible terminating period, then inline rendering is used.

So there you have it–more of what I’ve learned about the Microsoft Equation Editor. Please do share if you have other useful information.