Hidden Math Features in Word 2007

Alex Ioffe emailed me


Hi Murray,

I realize you probably get this often by why can't someone (pleeease!) publish some official documentation of Word2007 Equation editor features? I have seen all of the MSN videos regarding it features and they barely scratch the surface. People like Dataninja  (http://dataninja.files.wordpress.com/2007/09/word07shortcuts.pdf) spent a great deal of time finding some very powerful features that seem to be entirely undocumented. LaTeX provides some help but some of the *most* interesting features of Equation Editor are not standard LaTeX (e.g. the stuff Dataninga has found). A slightly related example is the fact that Equation Editor for some reason does not contain the logical-not (¬ which is \lnot in LaTeX), fortunately this is an ascii character so I was able to add it myself.


Chiefly I have three questions about equation editor:

1) Is it possible to delete placeholders and how?

This is probably my most frequent annoyance, to delete an exponent I have to delete the base as well!

2) Is it possible to insert columns into a matrix in professional format via shortcut key.

I discovered that Enter will add a row, can you add a column?

3) Are there any plans for better HCI when it comes to shortcuts in Equation Editor. My dream is to be able to set some checkbox in the Options menu and see the shortcut keys for symbols appear their in the respective popup windows (e.g. - For All (Shortcut: \forall) when I mouseover them in the equation editor menus.


Yes, Word 2007’s new math editing and display are sort of a secret feature J Hopefully someday they’ll be better documented. Most of your wishes are already included in Word 2007, but they’re not immediately obvious as your email reveals.


To add an AutoCorrect entry for any Unicode character, go to the AutoCorrect dialog (the math AutoCorrect dialog for entries into math zones), and in the Replace text box type the AutoCorrect name you want to use and in the With text box type the Unicode hex code of the desired character followed by Alt+x. The Alt+x converts the code to the character. Say Ok and you’ve added the entry. Or you can copy/paste the desired character into the With text box.


The linear format math input method used in Word 2007 is similar to TeX, but differs in significant ways. Thorough documentation for it is given in Unicode Technical Note #28, including the default AutoCorrect keywords for symbols.


To delete placeholders and insert/delete matrix columns, use the context menus available with a right mouse click on the math object of interest. These context menus enable you to perform many other operations as well, all in built-up form.


It wouldn’t be hard to add the shortcut values to the tooltips you see when mousing over the symbol displays. We’ve thought about this. The only trick is that they should correspond to the user’s math AutoCorrect choices which may differ from the default set. The latter are essentially the same as TeX’s.

Comments (22)

  1. cfp says:

    Two very useful links. The stuff about equation arrays in the second PDF was a complete surprise. And I never realised there was a zero width space character until I read that doc. Potentially very useful with big expressions.



  2. Ed Bennett says:

    I use a highly customised keyboard layout to speed up math entry in Word 07. This works great for most things (lc greek especially), but Word gets confused by other things, which is frustrating (as I have to drop back to the TeX macros). Notable examples include uppercase Greek and the nabla ∇. Any chance this behaviour could be changed?



  3. cfp says:

    That unicode technical note mentioned you could number equations by ending them in #(number). This doesn’t seem to work in practice. Is it an unimplemented feature?

  4. Startz says:

    Great blog! (And let me add myself to the request for complete documentation :))

    Any suggestions on either of these two questions:

    1. How can I put in a "prescript," preferably by keystroke. In other words, a left subscript.

    2. Sometimes I’d like to have and open brace, {, that grows vertically with the material to the right.


    Dick Startz

  5. Tom Co says:


    Just in case it helps others in the blog, I wrote a short tutorial to help my students. The link can be found in:


    (probably still contains some errors but I think it’s a start)

    I also wish the equation numbering feature can be fixed.

  6. CheeToS says:

    Looking at that Unicode document, I’ve discovered that you can create a matrix pretty easily. For a 2×3 matrix like the following:

    [3 4 5

    6 7 8]

    just type:


    Hooray! This will save me a lot of time.

  7. Bruce Herman says:

    I have to disagree with most of the comments that I have read about the new equation editor features in Word 2007. I find it nonintutitive. When you select the fraction icon the fraction appears with boxes, but the cursor appears after the fraction, not where the numerator is. The old Microsoft Equation 3.0 did this correctly. When I type in this new equation editor, after about 20 characters text disappears. I have one equation where I have two fractions being multiplied together followed by an equals sign. For some reason this equals sign is on the next line and I cannot move it back. changing  from Display to Inline, and part of the text disappears.  I have tried repairing Office but this behavior is still evident. I have switched to using Microsoft Equation 3.0, but would like to put its icon on the Quick Access toolbar. I have been unable to find the icon in Customization. If you can help my email address is brucetchr@aol.com.

  8. Bruce Herman says:

    Sorry but I resolved most of the issues. The problem was if the document is set to multiple columns, the new equation editor respects that setting. That explains the movement of text to the next line.

  9. natakuc4 says:

    Tom Co  that document is really really really useful thanks alot.

    I had learned most of the commands by myself by playing about with the equation editor but still there are a good few things in your pdf that I hadn’t yet learned. You have it very well documented.

  10. Bisam says:

    This document is great but did someone find how to put a circle above a letter (as a foreign accent, for example, or as an open set).

    I tried to use "above circ" and "above °" and both are very ugly.

    Any help will be welcome.

    Also, if someone knows how to have a "displaystyle" when using inline equations – so that indexes of a sum operator are written above and below it and not in front of it – that would be appreciated too.

  11. MurrayS3 says:

    Add ring as the character U+030A to math autocorrect and then type the base character followed by ring <space><space>.

    That’s the fast description. Here’s the more detailed description. To add ring to math autocorrect, click on the little square in the lower right of the Tools section of the math ribbon and then click on Math Autocorrect… Type ring in the Replace text box and type 30A Alt+x in the With textbox. Then click on add. Now ring is ready to be used as you’re typing in mathematical text.

    The reason you need two spaces above is because the first one converts the ring into the U+030A ring combining mark and the second builds up the math accent object. We should add ring to the standard math autocorrect set (assuming ring isn’t used for something else in LaTeX).

  12. Paresh Savani says:

    I have to type mathematical documents oftenly. this helped me great to speed-up my typing.


    Paresh Savani

  13. Adelle Coster says:

    I'm having trouble with augmented matrices.

    As far as I can see the only way to enter an augmented matrix is by using a bracket template ( | ) and then inserting a matrix on each placeholder.

    Does anyone know how to vertically align the left and right hand entries of an augmented matrix using equation tools, or another solution to this problem?

    Mostly this is not an issue, but when you have large entries in some of your elements

    The shortcuts listed are great, thanks – I've been using the few I've found, but this will increase my repertoire!



  14. MurrayS3 says:

    Your approach using the bracket template works well. I'd enter it with the linear format, e.g.,


  15. SkolrudT says:

    One thing that I've found useful is to make custom commands through the math auto correct menu.  If there's a mathematical expression you use frequently it really speeds up the typing process.  I also think it's very helpful to rename some of the commands that are already a part of the AutoCorrect list (e.g. instead of Rightarrow, I use implies, which makes sense for the way I use it).

    Furthermore if you've noticed a typing lag when working in a document with several equations, switch from "Print Layout" view to "Draft" view.  In this view you can type as fast as you want with no lag.

    Hope this helps

  16. Adelle Coster says:

    Thanks for your feedback (I've been offline for a bit).

    My problem still remains when the entries in the different halves have different vertical sizes.

    For example


    Any thoughts?



  17. MurrayS3 says:

    If you want to line up rows of adjacent matrices with different heights, you need to use a phantom. Phantoms are a bit messy, but they work. You can read about them in the linear format paper (Unicode Technical Note #28, Section 3.17). For the example




  18. Adelle Coster says:


    Messy, but just right.

    Thanks – exactly what I need!



  19. Ross Lass says:

    I had the "Fraction" icon working on Word 2007, while typing a report i typed the wrong fraction ie 4/5 and pressed backspace to change this, and it will now not come up in fraction from. I cannot see where i can change it back, ive tried codes, help!

  20. MurrayS3 says:

    Using the linear format, you can type 4/5<space> to see a built-up 4/5. Backspace on this selects the built-up fraction and a second backspace deletes the fraction. If you want to change the numerator or denominator of a built-up fraction, you can use the left/right arrow keys or a mouse click to move into the argument and then make changes as desired. Another thing to do is to type the ctrl+z hot key to undo a step. By typing ctrl+z enough times, you should get back to where you started inserting the fraction and then you can enter something else.

  21. Adelle Coster says:


    Just had cause to use the vphantom again to align some augmented matrices.

    Problem is, the vphantom causes the entry to be put in hidden text mode.  That's fine if you want to simply print the non-hidden text, but unfortunately the equation is in a "lecturer's version" with some parts in hidden text, which can be printed for the lecturer but not for the public copy.

    Any ideas of a work around?  The "print hidden text" version is not looking so good….

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

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