Microsoft Office Equation Editor

Even though I’d love to say I use \LaTeX for everything, I actually only use it for my grad school assignments. I don’t use it for all my worksheets and assessments. There is a teacher in our math department who does use \LaTeX for everything, but it’s not me.

That being said, Microsoft has made a significant upgrade to its equation editor with the release of Office 2007 (I know, pretty stale news–but my school just upgraded this past year) and \LaTeX lovers will love it if they haven’t tried it yet. The old Microsoft Equation 3.0 which shipped with earlier Office products had a few shortcuts, but it was still pretty hard to type equations without using the toolbar. Color-coding was problematic, and equation objects didn’t respond to font-size changes or other formatting properties. Animations in powerpoint were also difficult.

The new equation editor is much better for the following reasons:

1. The shortcuts are amazing, and most simple \LaTeX commands work. For a complete list of shortcuts go here for a great pdf cheat sheet. You can even add your own custom commands if you go into your options to Proofing > AutoCorrect Options and click on the “Math AutoCorrect” tab. Also, pressing Alt+= will immediately launch the editor. So inserting an equation is fast and you never need to leave the keyboard.

2. Most calculator-style syntax is accepted as well. So typing 3^x [space] / 4^y [space][space] results in \frac{3^x}{3^y}, without any extra effort. Tapping the spacebar will automatically convert your calculator syntax into pretty display math. For a more complicated example, consider this:

\lim_{n\to\infty} \frac{(2n+1)(3n-2)}{4n^2}=\frac{3}{2}

produced by typing “lim_(n\to\infty)[space]((2n+1)(3n-2))/(4n^2)[space]=3/2[space].”

3. As hinted above, the new equation editor responds to all the normal font formatting options in Microsoft Office. You can color your formulas, you can change the font size, and you can apply any other text effect like shadow/glow/outline/etc. [edit: Though you can change all those things, no, you cannot change the font face. There are a limited number of fonts available for use, and the only one I know of is the default, Cambria Math–if you know of another one, please share!]

4. In powerpoint, animations are quite a bit easier, since you can do all the equations in-line as part of the text, rather than juggling scads of different text and equation objects.

For more on Microsoft’s new  Equation Editor, please check out my more recent post here!


43 thoughts on “Microsoft Office Equation Editor

  1. I’m so glad there are others who are as in love with Word’s “new” equation editor as I am! I use it religiously, for better or for worse. It’s not perfect, but it sure is easy to master.

    When I was a TA, I had to write some questions for a math competition the university was hosting and then submit the questions to a faculty member. I typed up my questions on Word and submitted them to my designate professor. Big mistake. The next class period I had with this professor, the whole class got a lecture on how bad Word’s equation editor is and how we should only use Latex. Always.

    Anyway, all this to say, two years later, I finally feel justified thanks to this post! 🙂

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  3. Came here from the Math Carnival…nice blog post. I used to use the MathType add on with Office 2003 but since Office 2007 I don’t need to. The new equation editor is great!

    Great blog name by the way 🙂

  4. Couple of clarifications are in order. First, you mention that with Equation 3.0, “equation objects didn’t respond to font-size changes or other formatting properties” and that “the new equation editor responds to all the normal font formatting options in Microsoft Office.” While you didn’t specifically state that your equations will be formatted with the same font as the text of your document or presentation, it can be easily implied by what you did say. In fact, this is true for only a handful of fonts. Choose a font — Calibri or Verdana, say — that doesn’t have the necessary math characters in it, and the equations will be in the default Cambria Math font unless you change it to one of the other few that work for math.

    Second, you say that in PPT “you can do all the equations in-line as part of the text”, which isn’t true for PPT 2007 (which is the only version of Office you mention). It’s true for PPT 2010 (and on the Mac in PPT 2011), but Word 2007 was the only Office 2007 application that included the OMML equation editor (OMML = Office Math Markup Language).

    If you’re sharing documents or other collaborating with someone using MathType instead of OMML, I just want to point out that MathType can read and convert OMML equations — even if the recipient is using Word 2003, which doesn’t have the OMML editor.

    • Bob, thanks for all the clarification. You clearly know way more about this than I do!

      I actually didn’t mean to imply that changing the font was a major option–just text effects like bold, italics, color, font size, and certain style additions like outlining the text. The default font is great for my needs, and I can’t imagine wanting my equations in display fonts like Impact or calligraphic fonts. But have you found some other fonts that do work? Or are there places where you can download them? That’s a really good question.

      You’re totally right about the difference between 2007 and 2010. I should have known that too–I have 2007 at home and 2010 at work, and I’ve experienced the incompatibilities for myself!

      Wow, and MathType is compatible, huh? That’s fantastic. I don’t have it, but I can imagine that’s a huge plus for those who have older documents made with MathType. I didn’t know about the OMML format.

      I like your blog, too, Bob!

      • Yeah, I don’t think really anyone wants his math displayed in crazy fonts, but it’s nice for the math font to match the text font. By default, the OMML font is Cambria Math, but there are one or two more now (maybe more than that, but I don’t know the names of specific fonts). Should be available with a Google.

        WRT MathType’s compatibility with OMML, there’s a Convert Equations command on the Word 2007/2010 ribbon and Word 2011 menu that will convert OMML equations to MathType equations. There’s no command to convert them from MathType to OMML, but if OMML is what you want, choose MathML from MathType’s Cut and Copy Preferences menu, and when you paste the equation into Word, it will ask you if you want OMML or MathType.

        The reference to Word 2003 is this — if you open a Word 2007/2010 document in Word 2003, the equations are fuzzy, uneditable images. The equations are editable again once you get the document back in Word 2007/2010, but in Word 2003, you’re out of luck if you want to edit an OMML equation — unless you have MathType. MathType can convert all of these into MathType equations with the Convert Equations command.

        (Glad you like the blog; thanks.)

  5. Actually, we can use keyboard to input symbols in equation 3.0, and we can setup shortcut to call equation 3.0. But most people don’t know how to do it. MS hide it too deeply.

    • Oversky, glad you figured that out. If you like keyboard shortcuts, MathType has shortcuts that you can totally customize. I really like shortcuts, so I use this all the time.

    • Yes, I learned lots of shortcuts for equation 3.0. Ctrl+H for superscript and Ctrl+L for subscript. Shift+( for stretchy parentheses. That was helpful, but I still had to go up to the toolbar for a lot of stuff.

      In the new one, I rarely have to visit the actual equation toolbar. And, all the shortcuts are already wired into my hands because of LaTeX. Even inserting an equation is much easier now too, since Alt+= does the trick. I love it!

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  8. I use Calibri as my font of choice and yes I am a high school math teacher. Unfortunatly the 2010 version of word which my school board has just updated on all computers does not recognize Calibri as a font when using equation. I really don’t think Calibri would be considered a fancy font. It’s frustrating when all documents (and I mean all my lessons are digitized) are in Calibri. I came on line looking for a way to change the font in equation as I’m a new user to the 2010 version so it is very disappointing to find out it can’t be changed when it could be changed in the older version no problem.

    • Thanks for the comment, Donna. Yes, let us know if you ever figure out how to get a different font with the new equation editor! We’d all love to know!!

      Yes, the font for MATH is Cambria Math, which is, as you say, so strange since the default TEXT font is Calibri. Cambria is a nice semi-formal serif-font though and I wouldn’t mind making it my default text font for Word. It’s a refreshing change from Times or Garamond, both of which I’ve gotten a bit tired of.

  9. Thanks for the cheat sheet. I didn’t think that Microsoft considered anything to make the process of writing equations easier, but I found out that they did consider something user-friendly for once. I’ve been writing equations for sometime and boy it’s hard going back and forth between the mouse and the keyboard to choose the script and the square root. With this cheat sheet, I think I’ll keep my hands on the keyboard for a pretty long time till I finally reach for the mouse to log off. Thanks again and keep up the good work. 🙂

  10. Thanks for the great blog. The “cheat sheet” is very nice. Thank you! Any word yet of alternate equation editor fonts besides Cambria Math. I like the look of Computer Modern Serif, which seems to be popular for standard Latex output. I am a HS math teacher.

  11. Pingback: Math Fonts in Microsoft Office | Random Walks

  12. If you’re curious as to what an unpublished code is open up Microsoft OneNote and open a new page with the title bar enabled (default). Don’t type anything in the title, click outside the title and just start an equation and use the menu’s to create the code you want. The translated code will appear on the right-hand side in the table of contents! For example I learned that \int(space)1(space) or \sum(space)1(space) will create a large integral or summation. I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere but if you want a single bracket type \left or \right on the opposite side and it will size it automatically.

    • I haven’t actually done it, but this looks promising:

      I have the same issue, so I’m interested in the answer to the question too. I’ll have to try this and see how it works. You do the same, and let us know if you have a favorite way to convert.

      Right now, I just retype old equations, which is a very inelegant solution 😦

      • Thanks for the reply Mr.Chase,

        This seems to be working. Its a paid software though. You can try it for 10 launches and then you’ll have to buy it. 129 USD per license.

        I tried it and it does exactly what I wanted.

  13. I’m trying to find a equation editor light and fast. I would like to use the Word equation editor, since I do not always have to push the insert button before to type a simple equation.
    Is there a way to not exit the equation editor and mix equations and text? Thank you.

    • Yes, in the middle of your equation, just enclosed plaintext in quotes. When you press space, it will render as normal text rather than italicized variables. Let me know if that doesn’t work !

  14. Hi Everyone,
    I had written many equations using Mathtype 6 on Microsoft power point. Now i want to edit these on the PC ,which does not have Mathtype installed. would it be possible? Or in other words, are Mathtype equations convertible into equation editor 3? I am using Microsoft Power point-2007.

    • “…are Mathtype equations convertible into equation editor 3?”
      Short answer, no.
      Longer, possibly more helpful, answer is that unless you absolutely *have* to have them in EE3 format, why not use the MathType Trial? It works with all features enabled for 30 days, after which it becomes MathType Lite, which is free and usable forever. At that point, it has basically the same feature set as EE3, but with one important difference: it can edit MathType equations.

  15. I have a question about editing the equations that I created and saved myself on Mac Microsoft Word 2011. Is there anyway to go back and edit a saved equation or the name of a new category I created? Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks.

    • Hmm, I’m not sure what you mean about ‘new categories’… And by ‘saved equation,’ are you talking about a saved equation that’s part of some document, or an equation that you’ve saved in MathType? I don’t know too much about MathType, if that’s the issue (maybe Bob, you can help out here?).

      • I assumed she was talking about the built-in equation editor in Word 2011. If so, Jessica, click on the Document Elements tab. At the far right you’ll see the Math group. Click the downward-pointing triangle to the right of the pi symbol. This will display your list of saved equations. Ctrl+click on any of them and one of the options is Edit Properties. In the Modify Equation Properties dialog, you can re-name it, change the category, and change the description.

      • Awesome… thanks so much. That’s exactly what I needed. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like you can edit the formula but you can delete it and save a new one, so that’s perfect.

  16. Okay, since you guys were so quick at responding to my last question…I have a new one. I saved about 10 equations into a new category from one document in Word 2011 on Mac, to save myself time in the future. When I closed the doc and Word then reopened it, my list of formulas I created are gone. Should I be saving them through the equation editor program?

  17. You shouldn’t have to do anything special; they should just “be there” next time — but you have to be working with docx documents and not doc documents. Custom equation lists are saved into a “Document Element” named “Equations.dotx”. There is the default one, but that’s not the one you’re looking for. To find the custom one, you have to go to the Library folder on your identity. That’s a hidden folder, but open a Finder window, and in the Go menu, click Go to Folder, type: ~/Library. Then click Go. When Library opens, go to

    Application Support > Microsoft > Office > User Templates > My Document Elements

    There should be a file in there named “Equations.dotx”. This is the file that contains your custom equations. If you double-click it, you should be able to create new documents with these equations available.

    That still doesn’t explain why your custom equations don’t appear when you close and re-open Word. Maybe someone else can answer that, or maybe they just never properly saved in the first place.

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  19. Well, you turned me around. Still some minor quibbles, but the shortcuts (“here” above – and why must this come from a third party, and not MS?) are an immense improvement.

  20. Hi guys, do you know if there is any way to represente one integral with integration limits below and above the symbol? I mean, like LaTeX \int\limits_a^b do. Great job here, by the way!

      • Ok, this is deep, but here goes (y’all can handle it)…

        Executive summary: You can’t.

        Longer explanation: The shortcut \int_a^b places the limits in sub/superscript position. The markup language used by the OMML equation editor (OMML = Office Math Markup Language) is patented (, and according to the patent the representation for under/over limits is maintained internally, but you can’t type it in with a shortcut. You can choose it from the toolbar, but that’s not what Gabriel asked.

        Ok, that said, if you want to save this code somewhere, you can paste it in, but it’s not as simple as typing \int_a^b:

        That will give an integral symbol with under/over limits a to b.

      • Sorry Gabriel, I totally biffed your question and Bob, as usual, came to the rescue :-). Thanks Bob!

        While we’re asking Bob questions: I like the new Microsoft equation editor a lot (if that wasn’t obvious) but I hate the fact that I don’t have more finely-grained control over when the style is “display” or “inline,” like you can do in LaTeX. Normally it’s done correctly, but there are occasions when I’d like to force the style. Any tips for me, Bob?

        Also, you can force the limits of integration to be above and below when in display style using one of the options on the Equation toolbar. (Unless someone knows a way to quickly enter Unicode character 222B?)

        That patent is fascinating reading material, Bob. (I’m being serious!)

    • Mr. Chase, glad you like the patent. I geekingly sometimes find things like that cool too.

      If there’s a code you can type into an equation region to specify inline or display, I’m not aware of it. The way to switch formats is to click on the gray vertical strip to the right of the equation, which will bring up a contextual menu. One of the options is “Change to display” or “Change to inline”. However, that will be the literal interpretation. That is, if you have , and you “Change to display” on the equation, you’ll end up with 3 paragraphs. There may be a very simple way to change from “inline style” to “display style” without forcing a display equation to be in its own paragraph, but if there is, I don’t know what it is.

      • Good grief, is EVERYTHING with an angle bracket stripped out of comments here? Pretty frustrating. Anyway, my comment above may not make much sense because some of what I typed was removed.

  21. Well rats. The code was stripped out, and WordPress interpreted part of it and rendered the integral symbol. What was in my comment was the MathML code for the under/over integral. Oh well.

    • The code I was hoping to include in my previous reply that will paste an “under/over” integral into Word is here: Just copy it and paste it directly into Word, NOT in an equation area, just in the normal text. If it’s a display equation, it will have under/over limits. If it’s an inline equation, you can change it to display and then it will have under/over limits.

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