Office For Mac

Questions about Custom Equations in Word

First of all, thanks to everyone for your comments in response to my last tip on equation editing in Word for Mac 2011. I was thrilled to see the conversation spread and decided to postpone my planned Power Tip for this week in favor of answering your questions. As you read through this, if you have any additional questions, please post below and I’ll respond as soon as possible.

Question: How do you add equation numbers? I tried to do this, and the equation got reduced in size too much.

Answer: There are several ways to add equation numbers or other text elements on the same line as an equation, as in these two examples:

I find that the easiest way to do this is to enter the equation number after you enter the equation. Enter the equation, and then enter the equation number so it appears either to the right or the left of the equation, as desired. Take care to enter the equation number inside the equation.  (The blue box you see here shows you the boundaries of the equation, and you can see the equation number inside the boundary:

Placing the equation number outside the boundary will result in the “equation shrinking” problem. In other words, Word will convert the equation to inline form, and this will shrink many types of equation structures, as seen here:

Another way to add equation numbers when you don’t want them to shrink and when you need a lot of control of the layout is to put everything in a table.  Tables in Word are often the best way to ensure your control over the layout, although I do admit that this can require a bit of fussing with the table structure to get exactly the layout you want.  Consider this theorem from the book Advanced Calculus by Olmsted, shown first in its final form, and then with the table outline visible:

Question: How do you format multi-line equations so that they look correct?

Answer: There is a menu command in Word to align multi-line equations, but that command is only on a right-click menu, so you may not have found it.  Let me take you thru an example:

When you are entering an equation, hit “Return” to begin a new line. This will automatically create a new equation element.  After entering all the lines, you will have something like this:

Normally, you will want the lines to be aligned to a relationship operator like =, <, or ≤.  In each line of the equation, select this character, right-click, and choose the Align at this Character menu command:

As you do this, the individual lines will align:

After you have done this for all the lines in the equation, you may notice that they’re too close together (or too far apart).  To adjust this, just select all the lines of the equation, and choose the Paragraph… menu item from the Format menu. This allows you to set the line height as needed, as you would for a paragraph of ordinary text:

For this sample equation, the final result is:

Also, there is no need to wait until you have entered the final equation to adjust the alignment.  You can do so even before the structure placeholders are filled in:

Question: How do you change the font of an equation? The journals I publish in require equations to be in the Times Roman font, but in Word equations are always in the Cambria Math font. Can I change the default font for all equations? Is it possible to choose any other fonts, namely Times New Roman or Palatino, as the default for equations?

Answer: I have good news and bad news about fonts for equations.

It is possible to change the font of an equation after it is entered, and I detail that below, after I answer your question about the default equation font.

In theory, it is also possible to change the default font for equations, with one major restriction. The equation editing feature in Word requires a new class of OpenType fonts, “…OpenType math fonts. This class of fonts has new OpenType tables for advanced math typography. While the set of symbols may look the same as those contained in some other fonts, there’s a lot going on behind the scene that allows us to kern, grow, and stretch characters. Only math fonts can be used inside equations in Word. Right now, the only font with these tables is Cambria Math…” (from Equations in Word 2007 . You can find more background on these Open Type math fonts here and here.

Unfortunately, although a number of font creators have expressed interest in developing an Open Type math font and have obtained the full specification, none have been released, as far as I can determine.  So, you can set the default font for an equation, but your only choice today is Cambria Math. Hopefully, other alternatives will become available in the future.

For an individual equation, there is much better news. After an equation has been entered, it is possible to change its font.  You do this by first changing the equation to “Normal” text.  To change an equation to Normal, select the equation, and on the Equations Tool tab in the Word 2011 ribbon, in the first group, choose the third Display option (the third option is labeled “abc”).  

The equation will change slightly, but will still look very much like the full professional typographic equation.  Here is an example:

With the full “normal” equation still selected, right click and one of the menu choices is “Font…” This will open the font dialog, and you can pick any font you wish, including Times New Roman.  You will lose the special kind of italics that is used in equations, and just changing the text to italics will usually not look the way you want.  In addition, if you edit the equation by inserting any equation structure (like a summation or an integral), the font will change back to Cambria Math for all the reasons I noted above.

Here is the same equation in several different fonts:

However, as Spiderman’s Uncle Ben said: “With great power comes great responsibility.” This font changing power can be abused, as the following examples demonstrate: (Warning: Mathematicians and other scientists may wish to avert their eyes from these samples, lest they cause you the nightmares they caused me!)

-Kurt Schmucker, Office for Mac Evangelist

March 16th, 2011
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10 Comments
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  1. Henk says:

    Good tutorial. I assume that one can use the font numbers to reference them in the text, or to get them in a table of equations (weird, but sometimes needed)? How would be the best way to do it?

  2. Kurt Schmucker says:

    @Henk: I assume by “font number” you mean “An identification number assigned to a font. A program references the font by this number.”
    To reference a specific font in text passage, I have always use the font name, as I did in this blog post.
    What would be your specific need for listing a font number in a text document or a table? Isn’t the font name something that most people would understand better?

  3. Valparaiso says:

    This is great. Too bad the basics like syncing calendar and auto spellcheck on outgoing email still don’t work!

  4. Henk says:

    Oh man, sorry, I was thinking equation number and reading your explanation of the fonts issue got me there!

  5. Kurt Schmucker says:

    @Henk: OK, you are asking about management of equation numbers. Unilke footnotes, for example, today Word provides no automatic one-up-numbering or management of equation numbers. You would have to do this manually. You can refer to the equation numbers in the body text of your article, as I showed in the theorem from the Olmstead book, and you could certainly have table or other list of all the equations and equation numbers in your article, but you would have to manually manage this yourself.

  6. Ann Waddle says:

    In Word for Mac 2011 I created a table of contents and one listing does not have the …. leader to the page number. I have tried deleting the whole section from the document and retyping it. I have done all kinds of things…and it just won’t add the ……… for one heading. (Others of the same style have the ……)

    I would gladly attach my doc but don’t see a place to do that:)

  7. Kurt Schmucker says:

    @Ann: I have not heard of this particular issue before. The best place to ask this question is on the Word for Mac Forum.
    On the Office for Mac home page, click on Support, and then on the Support page, click on Office for Mac forums in the Ask the Community section. A Word MVP will answer a question you post in the Word Forum.

  8. Office for Mac Team says:

    @Ann Waddle Kurt is right–the forum is the best place to get help with something like this. The MVPs are great! Here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/nn2mya. Let us know if you have any other questions!
    @Kurt Thanks for jumping in! : )

  9. Franco says:

    Is the Office for Mac team optimizing the Office suite for Apple’s next generation operating system- Mac OS X Lion? You have already done such a great job implementing it in the Mac environment, I hope to see it take advantage of some of Lion’s features as well. Thanks.

  10. Dominik says:

    I have big performance problems with the equation editor in Word 2011 on my MacBook (2GHz Core 2 Duo, 4GB Ram):

    If I have a few equations (let’s say 5 or more) on one page, typing on that page gets extremely slow (in the equation editor and normal text as well). With very complex equations or more equations, the problem gets even worse.

    Sometimes the letters appear on screen more than one second after I pressed the key. I simply can’t work with that.

    When I open the same page in Word 2007 on my 8-year-old PC, everything works fine.

    I have reported this issue several times since the first week when Word came out via the feedback-button, but Microsoft Germany seems to ignore it in every Patch.

    Can somebody help me or at least tell me why it works fine on a very old PC and is so very slow on a quite new Mac?