Mathematical Equation Editors and Metalanguages

I started thinking about doing some maths a few days ago. I realised that I needed to write down some equations and I thought LibreOffice Math would probably be up to the job. Expert opinion suggests I was wrong. did what they do and followed Microsoft’s example. It works but isn’t very pretty.

I’ve learned today that MathML is the webbish way of XML-dialect to describe ‘shape’ and ‘content’ of an equation for display in web pages, so before I go any further down a dead-end, I thought I’d ask: does anyone have any advice to offer? The traditional method is LaTeX add-ons but translation to MathML is now avaialable.

Update: So I don’t waste anyone’s time, I’m trying a Firefox add-in called Firemath that edits MathML

Aside: Trying to find some information this morning, I saw someone asking for translations of the English meta-language in LibreOfice e.g “%pi over 2” into foreign languages and realised that computers normally have no concept of maths as a language, because it depends on relative positional layout of special characters. To the computer, 'real’maths is a natural language it can’t parse.

Mathematicians and physicists universally use LaTeX/TeX as their input language. If you, say, do a Cousera course with any mathematical content, you’ll use it.

There’s some background about various formats here:

I’m not surprised. It’s almost a great language for text too but they didn’t quite succeed in separating concerns in LaTeX. You seem to be able to embed just LaTeX equations into some other things. I love the idea of text-processing but none of the options really work properly. I’ll have to have a look at LyX for equations. I didn’t like the look of Firemath. It wasn’t easy to see how to delete errors in the GUI and MathML isn’t exactly readable.

If I can find a tool chain to create LaTeX equations through to MathML output then I guess that could be embedded anywhere. MS Word seems to have exactly the same issues. They provide something that isn’t good enough and you have to buy a LaTeX-based replacement and rewrite. What a mess!

Incidentally, I still haven’t decided between DocBook XML and Dita. The last thing I wanted was to backtrack to LaTeX :slightly_smiling:

I looked at last night. They’re ready to introduce their own version of MarkDown, better suited for books:

SGML (too hard!) HTML (too simple!) Docbook (just right!), DocBook XML (different!) MarkDown (too inflexible) Any minute, a family of bears are going to walk in and be furious.

If anyone mentions JSON…


As I’ve mentioned, I’m a maths dude, and I learned LaTeX to produce my thesis. Years later, I used it to typeset a non-mathematical book for publication. It’s generally easy to spot a LaTeX-based publication, because folk don’t stray much from the defaults, especially the fonts, but I managed it without too much effort. The main work is learning the ecosystem and, as I suggested, that does take time. However, the quality of output is very hard to beat, even with modern typesetting packages. Unless you have a genuine need for it, it’s pretty difficult to justify the effort. But I could say the same about learning to paint, or play an instruments, and so on. I enjoy being able to produce beautiful text without much effort when necessary.

Markdown is great for general output. I use Ulysses on the iPad, and it can produce surprisingly good output with its extended markdown. (I use Scrivener on OSX, which also does a good job. I may buy Ulysses on OSX when it’s on offer, at some point.)

Docbook is quite good, which leads into the whole Pandoc area.

But we’re a way from maths at this point :smiley:

I got very interested in Pandoc a few months ago, until I couldn’t find a single source language that contained all the information necessary to convert to all the other formats.

I was reading an article on someone trying to rewrite TeX in a functional language and being very critical of the impossibility of extracting the logic out of Knuth’s non-OO code. Same problem - it’s gone due to the 1-way process, like Time :slight_smile:

Or maybe it was a video: There’s a nice echo of what you just said in the first couple of minutes @auxbuss.

I’ve just watched a bit more. He goes on to point out that MathML is a reimplentation of TeX. I didn’t see that last time I watched, illustrating something I said in my talk on interrwingularity last week, that understanding of information changes with the order you come across it or, slightly more contentiously, on the path you take through the network of all information.

As for straying off ‘the topic’, “everything is deeply intertwingled”! - Ted Nelson

Looking at LyX, and LaTeX docs, I’ve discovered that the UK TeX User Group lives in Selly Oak :slight_smile:

UK TUG, 1 Eymore Close, Selly Oak, Birmingham B29 4LB UKFax: +44 121 476 2159


They are working on the next version too:

I worked with a guy called Alec or Alex at Nuclear Electric who was on the TUG and the ANSII Ada standard committees. He was into nuclear power station simulators as his day job. I think LaTeX was the CEGB’s document standard because some of the older techies used to swear a lot about Word when I first worked for PowerGen. “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”, as Joni Mitchell sang.

I have now installed LyX. I have a ridiculous number of editors for ‘text’.

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I received my first Word document in over a decade this week that someone wanted me to seriously respond to. It was like stepping in a Tom & Jerry cartoon. People really do use it. It’s their reality. I felt close to Darwin on the Beagle. It’s like a century passed them by and they had no idea what they had missed.

What I REALLY hate about Word is that it looks as though it has styles and people who’ve never used anything better think they work but any idiot can (and in my experience, always does) over-ride them and make them completely useless. It’s like having a speed limit that you can change if you want to go faster.

A search for “latex to mathml” gave me

It (partly) does what it says on the tin

A comparison of the output from TeX and MathML.

Inspired by noticing that Quora does ‘math’ with a LaTeX editor.

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