Math in Office 2010

Imagine typing alt+= in PowerPoint, OneNote, Excel, and, of course, Word and Outlook to enter a math zone and then type a^2+b^2=c^2<space> to see the Pythagorean theorem beautifully typeset on your screen! Or some way more complicated equation, equally beautifully typeset. You don’t have to wait much longer as the people getting the Office 2010 Technical Preview this week can attest.

We’ve added the math editing and display of Word 2007 and Outlook 2007 to PowerPoint 2010, Excel 2010, and OneNote 2010 and improved the model a bit. For example, now the tooltips for the symbol and operator galleries display what you can type to enter these characters from the keyboard. It’s going to be so much fun to demo Office math using PowerPoint live! A slide deck generated with PowerPoint 2010 displays well with earlier versions of PowerPoint. You just can’t edit the slides with the earlier versions since those versions don’t understand math zones. In addition, Office 2010 running on Windows 7 has a very powerful new input method: recognition of hand written equations. This works with all math-enabled applications, but it is streamlined with OneNote 2010, as you might guess. If you’re taking lecture notes in a math, science, or engineering course, enjoy! Also install the math graphing-calculator add-on, which already works with Word 2007.

Adding math support to PowerPoint, OneNote and Excel text boxes hasn’t been easy. Word 2007’s math facility is a tour de force, from both display and user-interface points of view. Achieving the same display in the other applications was facilitated by using RichEdit and Page/Table/Line Services for math display and that was already working in Office 2007 (except for RichEdit 6.0’s lack of math-paragraph support). But the math user interface, which I’ve documented in a series of posts to this blog, is far from trivial. The devil is in the details and Word 2007 does an amazing job. Now all the applications behave similarly in math zones. Another area that required lots of effort is handling the various file formats and cut/copy/paste.

Our approach for Office 2010 hasn’t been to improve on what Word 2007 does, aside from a couple of small exceptions. Bringing the other apps into parity with Word 2007 was about all that one could hope for, given the relatively short development cycle, unforeseen documentation demands, the new web application support, backward compatibility, and the ODF file format support we added to both Office 2010 and 2007. Also we didn’t want to extend OMML or MathML to handle new features. There are a few improvements, such as, OneNote 2010 supports automatic arguments, and all apps except Word and Outlook support the invisible times as an equation line break as well as automatic build up of extended math autocorrect strings. For example, if you type \binomial<space> into a PowerPoint math zone,  you immediately see the built-up (“Professional”) binomial-theorem equation, whereas in Word/Outlook you still need to choose the Professional option to build up the linear-format version of that equation. Conversely some Word/Outlook features haven’t been implemented in the other applications, such as custom matrix column spacings and alignments. These features might be helpful, notably for uses of matrices outside mathematics.

There’s nice MathML import/export support, which is documented here (I’ll do a separate post about that documentation). In particular, when the ODF file formats are used in Office 2010 applications, the math content is represented using MathML 2.0. And you can copy MathML to/from math engines such as Mathematica and Maple.

The bottom line is that if you need math editing and display, whether as a student or as a professional, Office 2010 on Windows 7 is a very compelling combination. If you have problems or suggestions, please feel free to post a comment on this blog or email me.

Comments (27)

  1. davidacoder says:

    No equation numbering in Word?? πŸ™ That was the one thing missing to make this a complete solution. It also seems to be something VERY obvious. Plus, it seems that something like that is already in the standard, but just not implemented.

    I have a macro solution that works for me, but there is simply no way that I can use the new equations with co-authors on papers until this is sorted out. I guess three more years with MathType…

  2. Ed says:

    Math in PowerPoint? AWESOME! πŸ™‚ (I only wish I’d been able to use it a couple of weeks ago for a presentation I had to give – I had to drop back to MathType, and it was UGLY)

    Any chance that equation numbering will arrive in a service pack, or will we have to wait for O15?

  3. Jan Kučera says:

    Why no math in Publisher? I believe there are much more publications which need math than excel sheets…

    Yes students can enjoy taking science notes, but what about publishing?

  4. CSMR says:

    Fantastic work. I was glad to see equations in Onenote (which is about time) but MathML and handwriting recognition are great additions, very pleasant surprises.

  5. Jan Kučera says:

    The tooltips on symbols and operators with syntax are just great, I was looking for it from the beginning.

    Could they be added to the structures tooltip, too? I would be really interested how should be some written.

  6. davidacoder says:

    I agree, the tooltips are a really valuable addition!

  7. Joe says:

    This may have been covered In previous posts, but just in case, has MS worked with major scientific publishers to make sure that this time around the new equation format will be accepted into the workflow?

  8. Umesh Nair says:

    Saw this when googled this.  Seems interesting.

  9. MurrayS says:

    A number of comments here have lamented the lack of a formal equation numbering facility. It seems that this topic is too big to address in a comment, so I wrote a post on this subject that may be of interest (see October, 2009). Also we have worked with the major scientific publishers to get docx into their infrastructure and progess is being made. But we still don’t have a well-defined date for acceptance.

  10. Nali says:

    Manual Equation Numbering works in Excel 2010, OneNote 2010 and also PowerPoint 2010 (Beta)!!!

    Your equation must be "Display" not "Inline"! In Display Equation you must create an "Equation array" (  eqarray ) and inside the array type your equation (e.q. E=mc^2) – so you have    eqarray(E=mc^2). After buildup array and equation, you must return cursor back into the equation array (behind your equation, e.q. E=mc^2, but "inside" the equation array) and type  #  or keyword   eqno<space>. After that cursor automatically move to the right side of math paragraph and you can type there some text or manual number for your equation! – so your equation is centered and the equation number is on the right side of paragraph πŸ™‚  


    Unfortunately this manual equation numbering does not work in Word 2010 πŸ™   Now, equation buildup engine in Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote is better (more powerful) than equation buildup engine in Word.

  11. MurrayS says:

    Very observant! It’s even documented in Section 3.21 of Unicode Technical Note #28 ( But this way of equation numbering only works with equations that have no line breaks, in contrast to the way documented in my more recent post (

    There are a few features implemented in Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, but not in Word, basically because they are implemented in RichEdit. OTOH, there are some things implemented in Word that haven’t made it into the others. Sigh. Rome wasn’t built in a day πŸ™‚

  12. Nali says:

    I think that this way of equation numbering is good enough (even very good) for using in PowerPoint Presentation and OneNote πŸ™‚

    Yes, I know that it is described in Section 3.21 of UTN#28 – I have known it for a long time, since I have used Word 2007 – but in Word 2007/2010 it does not work πŸ™ And moreover I always tried this manual equation numbering without using "equation array structure" (only   eqno alone), but unsuccesfully. But now I was very surprised when I see, that it works in Excel/PowerPoint/OneNote when I use equation array! πŸ™‚

    THANK  YOU  VERY  MUCH  FOR  THIS  NICE  AND  IMPORTANT  FEATURE!!! πŸ™‚ It will be very useful in my school PowerPoint presentation.

    And I hope that one day you tell us step by step about all new  "math" things implemented in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote in this blog πŸ™‚

    I look forward to the next version of Unicode Technical Note.

  13. rebcabin says:

    Good enough reason to upgrade from office 2007 to office 2010 for me πŸ™‚

  14. Nali says:

    Many interesting keywords (commands) for (math-)font formating are available in PowerPoint 2010, Excel 2010, and OneNote 2010 πŸ™‚  You can easy switch between regular, italic, bold, bold italic, sans serif, and typewriter symbols.

    Useful commands/macros are:

    Roman symbols                     rm   or   hbox   or   mathnor   and   mathrm (for "Normal Text")

    Italic symbols                         it   or    mathit   or   mit

    Bold symbols                          mathbf

    Bold italic symbols                  bit   or   mathbit

    Sans serif symbols                 mathsf

    Monospace symbols               mathtt

    Script symbols                        mathscr   or   mathcal   or   sA, sa, sB, sb, sC, sc,…, sZ, sz

    Fraktur symbols                      mathfrak   or   fA, fa, fB, fb, fC, fc,…, fZ, fz

    Doubke-Struck symbols        mathbb   or   bA, ba, bB, bb, bC, bc,…, bZ, bz

    Another interesting commands are:    vmatrix,  stackrel,  char,  displaystyle,  textstylescriptstyle,  scriptscriptstyle,  text,  fbox,  mbox,  and also  eqno.  Office 2010 has great support for math πŸ™‚

  15. Steven in Tucson says:

    Suggestion: The CTL-arrow (right and left) keystrokes are used very extensively by many people to navigate in MS-Word without using the mouse. It jumps one word at a time. I notice that CTL-arrow does the same thing as a plain arrow keystroke inside the equation editing box in Word 2010. It would be more productive if the cursor jumped to the next/previous word in the document upon a CTL arrow keystroke. Otherwise the user is foced to stop their work flow, reach for the mouse, and click the cursor to the next word.

    Sometimes very simple little things can make a big difference.

    P.S.  I think that this equation editor is really great! Please keep on improving it.

  16. Steven in Tucson says:

    2010 office Word beta:

    Another suggestion for improved key action. When inside the editor, the CTL-A keystroke should select the entire equation. Currently, it selects the entire doc.  

  17. Nick Haddow says:

    Hi Murray,

    I am currently trying to create a streamlined solution for including math expressions in web content inside SharePoint.  Currently our users do use Word for creating equations, etc.  I know that I can have the users copy MathML to the clipboard and paste it into the source view of the SharePoint HTML Editor control, which will successfully render the equation in the browser.

    However, users will have to be able to re-import the equation into Word and work with it there as they complete their homework assignments.  I can easily provide a "source" view of the MathML in SharePoint, so my question is, how do I go about importing the MathML XML back into Word???



  18. Penny Wyatt says:

    Exciting stuff Murray, congratulations on getting it all into Office 14!

  19. Christian says:

    The lack of proper equation numbering support is a real deal breaker – as has already been noted – it also seems such an obvious feature that its difficult to understand why it still has not been implemented. Other solutions such as using a 3 column table help, but are not robust enough (change the page layout and your equation numbers can disappear, problems with long equations etc.etc.

  20. Nali says:

    Hi, excuse me, but I have following issue:

    In Word 2007/2010 or PowerPoint 2010, I type a long text paragraph with an Inline equation somewhere in the text paragraph, and justify (Ctrl+J) the paragraph. Then I change the equation from Inline to Display (now, the equation is in its Math paragraph, and before and after the equation are softbreaks). The last line of the text before the equation should be Align Left, but it is not (and I must add manual Tab before the first softbreak to align left the last text line before the equation).

    Please, is it possible to change the settings of the text paragraph in Word/PowerPoint to be the last text line before the Displayed equation left align? Or will be it possible in Office 15?

    Thank you.

  21. MurrayS says:

    On the math ribbon go to Tools and click on the arrow in the lower right corner. This brings up a dialog that has a listbox with default display equation alignments. Choose Left.

  22. Nali says:

    Thank you for your reply, and sorry for the missunderstanding (I described my problem incorrectly).

    I don't want to change the alignment of the displayed equation. I need to change the alignment of the last row of the text above the displayed equation. This text row should be aligned left, but the paragraph as a whole should be justified (Ctrl+J), and displayed equation (in the text paragraph) should be centered.

    Thank you.

  23. Marc says:

    "[…] when the ODF file formats are used in Office 2010 applications, the math content is represented using MathML 2.0. "

    Is something I can't get working..

  24. Nali says:

    Please, in Word 2010 math zone try to type e.g.:

    (y(x)=sin x)Ubar

    and you will see that the dot above the "i" disappears. The same result I get also for ubar.

    Please, could you change this behaviour in Office 15?

    Thank you.

  25. MurrayS says:

    This is fixed in PowerPoint 2010 and OneNote 2010, but not in Word 2010. I'll try to get it fixed in the next version of Word. The work around is to put the dot back on the i using idot, but that's clearly inconvenient. The criterion as to when to suppress the dot can be a little tricky. For itilde, the dot should be suppressed, but should it be for (ij)tilde? PowerPoint 2010 and OneNote 2010 don't suppress it unless there's only single i or j inside the accent object. Then if you don't want the dots you have to use the special Unicode math alphabetics U+1D6A4 and U+1D6A5. You can also use these dotless versions in Word.

  26. Fernand Brunschwig says:

    Murray – you said, "There’s nice MathML import/export support, which is documented here (I’ll do a separate post about that documentation). In particular, when the ODF file formats are used in Office 2010 applications, the math content is represented using MathML 2.0. And you can copy MathML to/from math engines such as Mathematica and Maple."

    But the "here" link leads nowhere! and I can't find anything about how to export a formula from Word 2010 into pure MathML format. Is it just a regular simple copy/paste?

  27. MurrayS says:

    One way to get MathML from Word is as plain text. For that on the equation ribbon, click on Tools and then choose the "Copy MathML to the clipboard as plain text" option. The selection has to select text in a math zone. Then you can paste the resulting MathML into, for example, NotePad. Alternatively you can look for the clipboard formats "MathML" and "MathML Presentation". Probably you can access these formats using Word's object model. I haven't tried this approach, though.