Accents & Punctuation: August 2008 Archives

Math Magic Equation Editor & Unicode Fonts


One challenge for math is laying out the actual equations like this integral below.

Integral of C sub v ( T ) d T from T to T sub ref

The tool of choice of for many in the math/science industry is the equation editor which allows you to insert text and symbols into different "layouts" (e.g. an integral, fraction, matrix, etc). See the image at the bottom. It's a lot quicker than Illustrator. And an equation editor can usually export the output in different graphics formats and some can export LaTeX and MathML (Ooooh!) I chose Math Magic primarily because it works on a Mac as well as Windows, but it's similar to other tools I have seen including the one bundled with Microsoft Office.

The one quirk that I previously developed methods to insert Unicode symbols via the Character Pallette or custom math symbol keyboard. Another time you might need to use non-Math Magic character insertion if you are using an especially exotic character (this happened to me once).

However, when I tried the Character Palette on MathMagic, the result was the square box of death meaning the character did not "exist." Fortunately...I realized that it was a font issue. As soon as I switched to a dedicated Math Unicode font like Unicode Symbols, all was well. But now I wonder about the default font.

The quirky fonts are not a problem if you're exporting an image or working with text, but if it's MathML it could be problematic (but maybe I'm being paranoid). In any case, I sense a future MathML test coming.

Typical Equation Editor Interface

Math Magic Interface. Tool bar includes templates with squares where text can be inserted

Postscript: The MathML Test

The good news was that I was able to export a Math ML file and get the result to work in another HTML page. I should note that the <?xml...?> does not specify UTF-8 encoding. In theory, this shouldn't be a problem, but I might add the "encoding=UTF-8" part to make sure nothing weird is happening. The file also includes a custom <annotation encoding="MathMagic"> tag which is filled with vendor-generated code. I'm not sure what this does, but I will probably leave it in...just in case


About The Blog

I am a Penn State technology specialist with a degree in linguistics and have maintained the Penn State Computing with Accents page since 2000.

See Elizabeth Pyatt's Homepage ( for a profile.


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