Linear Format Version 3

Unicode Nearly Plain-Text Encoding of Mathematics, Version 3 (Unicode Technical Note #28) is now posted. The differences between Version 1 and 2 of that paper are largely cosmetic, but there were enough changes in Version 2 to merit a new number. Version 2 is mostly implemented in Microsoft Word 2007, where it is referred to as the “linear format”. Typing the linear format into a Word 2007 math zone results in “formula autobuildup”, that is, automatic conversion to the built-up format of expressions as their syntax becomes unambiguous.

The new features added in Version 3 are identified as such. They are mostly implemented in the Microsoft Office 2010 applications Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote. Typically the new features offer convenience over ways defined in Version 2, and the Version 2 syntax remains valid in Version 3. The additions were often inspired by [La]TeX. Examples of simplified input are \choose for binomial coefficients, \cases for alternative definitions, \pmatrix for parenthesized matrices, \middle to define a custom character as a bracket separator, a simpler prescript notation, \root n\of x notation for nth roots, equation alignment, size overrides, and simple negated operator input. The section Version Differences has hyperlinks to where these additions are documented. There are also numerous cosmetic changes along with lots of internal links to facilitate navigation.

If you use Microsoft Office math zones, please read Section 2. It’s a quick read. The knowledge so gained makes it easy to enter simple mathematical expressions into Word 2007/2010, PowerPoint 2010, OneNote 2010 and Excel 2010. Section 3 discusses how to enter more complicated expressions.


Comments (22)
  1. cfp says:

    I didn’t know you could use U+2146 for the letter "d" in integrals. From looking at the math auto-correct tables it appears to have the shortcut "dd". Might be worth mentioning.

  2. Nali says:

    Thank you very much for the new version of the Liner format paper.  There are many new interesting and useful additions.

    It seems that some new features are undocumented (or not mention), e.g.  rm,  mathrm,  mathnor,  hbox,  it,  mathit,  mit,  mathbf,  bit,  mathbit,  mathsf,  mathtt,  mathscr,  cal,  mathcal,  mathfrak,  mathbb,  vmatrix,  Vmatrix,  stackrel,  char,  displaystyle,  textstyle  scriptstyle,  scriptscriptstyle,  text, strut,  Biggr,  Biggl,  biggr,  biggl,  Bigl,  Bigr,  bigl,  bigr,  biggm,  Biggm,  bigm,  Bigm,  binom,  cr,  quad,  qquad,  break,  frac,  smile,  etc….  –  all this commands work in math zone of Office 2010 Beta.  Some of them are very important.  But I couldn’t  find them in the Linear format paper 🙁

    I know how they work (some of them), but a description of these commands (keywords) could be interesting and useful for another people 🙂

  3. MurrayS3 says:

    These control words aren’t documented in the linear format paper V3 because they aren’t ready to use in Office 2010. Some of them did work, sort of, in the Office 2010 betas, but they needed more work so they aren’t available in the released version. I hope to get them running in Office 15 (the version after 2010).

  4. MurrayS3 says:

    dd, ee, etc. are defined in Appendix D, but they should be mentioned in Sec. 3.11 3.11 Differential, Exponential, and Imaginary Symbols as well. Thanks for the feedback.

  5. Nali says:

    Thank you for your reply.

    I have problems with "Unicode Subscripts" (U+2080 – U+208F) in math zone. When I insert the "Unicode superscripts" into the math zone, they are converted (built up) to the superscripts (e.g. U+2075 is converted to "^5") – that is correct. But "Unicode Subscripts" (U+2080 – U+208F) aren’t converted to subscripts, but they are converted to superscript (e.g. U+2082 is converted to"^2", but I think that it should be converted to "_2"). Please, is it correct? I still use Office 2010 Beta (and the same behavior of math zone is in Word 2007).

    I have also problems with differentials, natural exponent, and imaginary units i and j (dd,  Dd, ee,  ii,  jj) in Powerpoint and Excel 2010 Beta. They are rendered as math italic, but I cannot change them to upright (unslanted) style. In Word 2007/2010 it works without problems. In Europe we use differentials, natural exponent, and imaginary units in upright style, sometimes even in "typewriter/Monospace symbol" style (not roman/serif style) 🙂

    Please, is there any way how to change differentials, natural exponent, and imaginary units from italic to upright/unslanted style in Powerpoint/Excel?

    Thank you.

  6. MurrayS3 says:

    Argg! You’re right about the Unicode subscripts turning into superscripts and not being able to unitalicize the dd, etc., in PowerPoint and Excel. We did fix it so that you can bold the dd (select it and type ctrl+b), but the much more important case of making it upright was left to a default document setting that isn’t used in Office 2010. I’ve published physics papers in European journals and know about the need to have upright letters for the dd, ee, ii, etc. The work around is to use the ordinary letters rather than 2145..2149, but then you have to insert a thin space manually in various cases involving dd. Sorry. I’ll fix these bugs for Office 15.

  7. Steven Macomber says:

    I am still learning more refined techniques with the 2010 beta equation facility. It takes a little getting used to but the more I work with it the more I like it, especially coming from Word 2003/MathType.

    I have another suggestion. Some of the backslash keywords could have shorter aliases that are faster to type. For example, "rarrow" being equivalent to "rightarrow." It would also be neat if the user could just type an unambiguous  substring instead of the entire string. For example:  "matr" or "mat" instead of "matrix." It would not be confused with "pmatrix" if the string is matched starting at the first character. It would have to check for all cases where the sub-string matches. If there is more than one then it would be rejected. Alternately, the string list being checked against could have a minimum-sized alias with no ambiguity. I have used sub-string parsing technique like these in some programs. It can save a lot of time typing frequently-used keywords.

  8. MurrayS3 says:

    Users can define shorter keywords using the AutoCorrect dialog. Good idea to allow for autocompletion. It could be offered as an option that displays the possible result in a tooltip with the instruction (Press Enter to Insert) as often done for names of the month in Word.

  9. Steven Macomber says:

    Thanks for replying. I was thinking about building the short names right into the code–not as a user option. The user can type in the full name if they want or any reduced name all the down to the minimum title. For example: "mat" matr" and "matri" would all have the same result because they all contain the minimum keyword "mat". The code would only need to store two strings: the minimum name for string searches and the full name for auto-correct.

    I was thinking about unprompted auto-complete. For example: a user types:  "mat("  which is instantly converted to "matrix(" on the "(" key. Something like "alp" for "alpha" would be converted after a space or an operator. The minimum keyword could be as small as three characters for many cases. But something like rightharpoondown would not be shortened much. beta and beth would have minimum string = full name string.

    BTW  Please do not take any of these suggestions to be anything more than ideas to consider–not any sort of criticism of the product. It is quite efficient to use as is.

  10. Josh says:

    I can’t express how happy I was when my office upgraded to Word 2007 and I began using the new equation interface. Such a step in the right direction.

    Now if we could just import and export LaTeX. (I’m sure no one else has mentioned that.)

    You should know that for some reason this blog (and your awesome new paper) is very hard to find without knowing your name. Without finding it I would have been extremely frustrated with the available documentation.

    Again, thank you.

  11. Jeffrey says:


    I was wondering whether there is a replacement for qquad or quad in the RTM version of OneNote 2010? I was very happy with these commands in the beta (used them for spacing out equations and their conditions or two related equations), but they don’t seem to work anymore.

    I’ve skimmed through the paper and found nothing on any multi-chunk spaces, unfortunately. Is there an equivalent replacement? I guess using a matrix with &&&&&& works a bit, but there has to be a better way!

    Also, I’m really intrigued by the equation number section, but I haven’t been able to get it to work in OneNote or Word. Is it just the hash symbol followed by (5) or something? Is there something I should be doing for it to "recompile"?



  12. MurrayS says:

    quad should work in the released version, but I don’t see qquad there. You can define qquad in OneNote by clicking on the Tools option in the math ribbon, which brings up the math autocorrect dialog. Type qquad in the Replace box and 2003 alt+x 2003 alt+x in the With box. The alt+x converts the Unicode value of an em space (2003) into the actual character. So with this definition, typing qquad (followed by a delimiter) inserts two em spaces into your document. If you need more spacing, you could define qqquad, etc.

    The equation numbering doesn’t work in Office 2010 :-(. Sorry about that. Equation numbering is the most highly requested feature except for more documentation. Hopefully documentation will improve shortly and that equation numbering will find its way into the next version of Office.

  13. Jeffrey says:


    That worked brilliantly; thanks!



  14. Nali says:


    In OneNote and PowerPoint, it is possible to add the equation number into equation manually (as described in Linear format):

    Your equation must be in "Display" mode. In "displayed" equation, you must create an "Equation array" (keyword eqarray), and inside the array, type your equation (e.q. E=mc^2) – so you have eqarray(E=mc^2). After buildup the array and equation, you must return the cursor back into the equation array (behind your equation, e.q. E=mc^2, but "inside" the equation array) and type #   (keyword eqno<space> does not work). After that, cursor moves automatically 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.

    It works in PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote, but it does not work in Word.

  15. Nali says:

    Hello, I found another issue in OneNote.

    OneNote creates all equation variables in upright (unslanted) face by default, but they should by in italics. I always must switch them to italics manually.

    Please, is there any way to set the italics as the default font for variables?


  16. MurrayS3 says:

    Unfortunately in the shipping versions of PowerPoint and OneNote, the equation-array method of displaying equation numbers described by Nali doesn’t work. While prototyping the more elegant equation number display described in my post on Equation Numbering Prototype, I checked in a change to use that instead of the equation-array method. The more general method includes line breaking, whereas the equation-array method only works with a single line. But it was too late to enable the more general method in Office 2010. Later when I realized that the equation-array method was disabled as well, it was too late to make any changes that didn’t involve security or data loss. I’m very sorry. On a lighter note, the shipping version of OneNote 2010 does use math italic in math zones unless the user disables it.

  17. Nali says:

    I don’t know how is it possible, but in Office 2010 RTM 64bit (build 14.0.4760.1000) except Word, I can display the equation number using the equation-array method of displaying equation numbers. Maybe it is caused by the fact that on the computer, where I try it, Office 2010 Beta (32bit) was install before, and some settings wasn’t deleted during reinstallatio(?) – I don’t know, but it is surprise for me too. Probably, after reinstalling Windows and clean installation of Office, situation would change (but I cannot check it).

    Please sorry for misunderstanding, and sorry for this and previous post, but I write only what I found out.

  18. Nali says:

    Correction: Not "post" but "my comment". Sorry again 🙁

  19. N. says:

    What about importing LaTeX? What is the progress with that?

  20. MurrayS says:

    We're thinking about importing/exporting LaTeX in math zones. Kind of handy when you want to copy an equation from Wikipedia, among other sources. Or maybe LaTeX is in your fingers. Hopefully we'll have the resources to add this functionality.

  21. Leperkawn says:

    There is basically no documentation on the /eqarray command so I'll post a quick example that I had to figure out from trial and error:

    eqarray(Z-3x_1&-5&x_2&-6&x_3&&&&=&0 @ 2x_1&+&x_2&+&x_3&+x_4&&&=&4 @ x_1&+2&x_2&+&x_3&+&x_5&&=&4 @ x_1&+&x_2&+2&x_3&+&&x_6&=&4 @ x_1&+&x_2&+&x_3&+&&&x_7=&3)

    Basically it aligns each sequential ampersand in the equations. That's why the first one need four extras (corresponding to the gaps caused by the lack of x_4-7).

    Hope this gets added into Google's search results for "eqarray" because I had a heck of a time finding information about the command.

  22. Nali says:

    The posts on this blog brilliantly describe the math aspects of the Office. I found here many useful tips and tricks for OMML equation engine which I used in preparing of my thesis several years ago.

    But, would be possible to prepare some post on how to prepare a typographical well written text in Word? – not about math typography, but about ordinary text. In Word, there are many features which could be used to obtain good-looking document. Unfortunately, many key features are by default off or even hidden.

    So, the post about tips and tricks for ordinary text in Word could be also very useful.

    Thank you.

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