Mac Word 2011 and Math

Office for Mac 2011 has many cool additions. The best of them all (well you know my bias!) is that Mac Word 2011 has the elegant Office math editing and display facility! Although I do not own a Mac, my next-door neighbor Dylan Tom does and we gave the math facility a check out run. Dylan goes to the Lakeside School well known for its famous computer-oriented alumni.

Mac Word 2011 has the math ribbon, which one might expect since the Office for Mac 2011 applications all have their standard ribbons. The math options button is missing, but the options are available in the Preferences dialog (Word menu, Preferences menu item, Math Options button, or Cmd+,). To enter a math zone, type control+=, which plays the role of alt+= on the PC. The "center-as-a-group" default alignment leaves the equations left aligned, but you can use the acetate dropdown at the right side of the math zone to center equations. You can also use that dropdown to align multiple equations in a math paragraph at their equal signs.

The math facility has the formula autobuildup and build-down methods. For these, the Office for Mac team ported over the parts of RichEdit that are responsible for the methods. Accordingly, the methods use the same linear format as on the PC. The facility has the Word math context menus, which you get by typing control+click, which plays the role of the PC's right click. For example, you can use a context menu to insert a manual break on an operator. The tab-key option to shift the manual break over under an operator on the first line of the equation is not yet implemented.

Both summations and integrals are displayed by default with subscript and superscript limits in display mode, whereas on the PC, only integrals are displayed that way by default. You can use a context menu to change the location of the limits for both integrals and n-ary operators as on the PC.

To enter a character using its Unicode value, Mac Word works differently than PC Word. Select the Unicode Hex Input keyboard, hold the Option key down and type in a four-hexadigit code. Releasing the Option key inserts the corresponding Unicode character. This works in general on the Mac, whereas PC Word's alt+x input method currently only works in Word and RichEdit. You can insert a variety of special characters directly using the Option key, including some handy math characters like √, ∫, and ∑, in case you don't want to type \sqrt, \int, and \sum, respectively. PC Word's alt+x Unicode input method is more flexible since it allows you to edit the code, insert higher-plane characters (like math italic and fraktur) and do the inverse: replace a character by its Unicode value.

It would be nice if Apple generalized the Option code entry to allow five hexadigits to be read as a UTF-32 value, since that is the way the characters are referenced in the Unicode Standard. Then if you held down the Option key, typed 1D509 and released the Option key, you would see a math fraktur F. Alternatively, you can type \frakturF. With the Mac Unicode Hex Input keyboard, you can enter this character with its UTF-16 representation as Option+D835DD09.

The great news is that the lion's share of the Office math features are up and running in Mac Word 2011 and make upgrading well worthwhile even if you don't need all the other Mac Word 2010 cool additions.

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