Math Handwriting Recognition

Starting with Windows 7, Windows includes a cool applet called the Math Input Panel. This applet lets you enter mathematical text using a pen or a mouse. It recognizes what you enter and displays the result using a special private version of RichEdit 6. It also lets you copy the results to Word, Mathematica, or any other application that reads Presentation MathML.

Many people may find that writing equations by hand with this applet is the easiest and fastest way to enter them into a computer. Since I’ve made similar claims for linear format entry in Word 2007, we decided to have a race. I chose nine equations from theoretical physics and we started entering. The person entering via hand writing beat me by a nose, but had two errors, whereas I had none. But really we both won, since we demonstrated that we could enter equations into Word 2007 remarkably fast.

I’ll continue to use the linear format for writing my technical papers, since I know it so well (I’ve been using it in one form or another for 25 years). In fact, see the following blog post for a video demonstration. But I heartily recommend checking out the Math Input Panel in Windows 7 and 8.

Comments (7)

  1. Vladislav says:

    Math Input Panel would be much useful, if it will copy Presentation MathML on clipboard, so it would be possible to use it in any browser or browser rich-text application. It may seem an other purpose, but in this way it may be also very-very useful.

  2. wuhy says:

    Hello Murray, now that win7 has suppor mathML, then will office 14 support mathML or it only support OOML?

  3. MurrayS3 says:

    Actually Word 2007 supports MathML and Word 2007 SP2 has improved MathML support. It also supports the odf document format with MathML for math zones. Office 14 will continue to support MathML as well as OMML.

  4. wuhy says:

    Thank you. I have just find that it’s possible to copy and paste equations to word 2007 sp2, but now it cannot paste to powerpoint 2010 tech preview yet.

  5. Plaxmol says:

    Any word on whether or not OneNote 2010 will support mathml?  The new math panel in Windows 7 combined with OneNote would be great for students.  I get the technical reasons, but it’s a strange feeling to not be able to paste into any application.  Cut and paste usually works so fluidly between Windows apps.

    One other question, why is the math input panel so wide?  The buttons that appear on the side when you start writing fall off the edge of a tablet when the tablet is in its vertical orientation (768×1024).  If you’re jotting down notes, it’d be frustration to have to keep moving the dialog from side to side.  The only options for moving the buttons are "left" or "right".  It’d be nice to have "top" and "bottom" too, to accommodate all display orientations.

  6. Murray Sargent says:

    Stay tuned on OneNote 2010 (and some other Office 2010 apps). It’s pretty cool! You might want to sign up for the Office 2010 beta.

    With regard to the excessive width of the math input panel, that was fixed after the Windows 7 beta shipped.