How to Write Mathematics Using MS Word (or Powerpoint)

by Peter P. Wakker
January, 2004

Added October 2019: the equation editor of Word now is much better than in 2004. Main weakness: it has no find-replace function (that I know of). I often use it now but only because co-authors do.

I still prefer "my system" without equation editor, as explained below, and as used for instance in the annotated bibliography elsewhere on my homepage. For my system one does have to download non-common fonts, which can be done using the link in Section 1 below. Main drawback of my system is that it does not work on computers that don't have the non-common fonts, as may be used by journals that typeset files.

I prefer not to use an equation editor. Most formulas for powerpoint I first write in MS-Word and then paste-copy to powerpoint, having both programs opened simultaneously. In the rest of this text, I explain how I write maths in MS-Word.

1. Fonts

The fonts with mathematical symbols that I use can be downloaded here.

2. The Symbols

The link to a pdf file that has the symbols that I use is given below, containing the abbreviations that I use, including summations, integrals, and fractions.

Pdf-file with mathematical symbols.

The next section explains an efficient manner to type these symbols in MS-Word through abbreviations and the autotext function. I also add the above file as MS-Word file, so that you can easily copy symbols. Here some symbols will probably not show up properly on your screen. The reason then is that you donyt have the fonts installed on your computer that are used for those symbols. If the symbols in question are important to you, you can download the fonts as indicated on top of this file, after which you get the symbols properly.

MS-Word file with mathematical symbols. (Some symbols may not show up properly on your screen.)

3. Autotext

We want to type the symbols faster than clicking our way through Insert-Symbol etc. Faster than macros is the autotext function. (Until 2003 I recommended using the autocorrect function, but in more recent versions of MS-Word and Windows there are some difficulties with the implementation of autocorrect.) To illustrate how autotext works, we let it reproduce a. I assume that you have saved a working copy of the MS-Word file of the previous section onto your computer, and have it opened before you (and maybe a printed version of this file). We will let autotext replace a by alpha at places where we want so.
  1. Highlight/mark a (no need to copy or anything). Highlighting is the first step of copying something. It usually makes the highlighted text look black on the screen.
  2. Type ALT-F3. A box called “Create Autotext” appears.
  3. Type “ga.” This ga appears in the box Create Autotext.
  4. Type RETURN. Youyre back in Word-input-mode.
    From now on you can use Autotext to easily reproduce the alpha, as follows.
  5. Type ga, after a space (ga must be separated from the preceding text). Then type F3. The a appears.
This is how autotext works. From now on, in all files you work on in MS Word on this computer, if you first type ga and then F3, a will appear. In this manner, you can introduce all symbols you like into the autotext function and then type mathematics efficiently.