Thursday, August 26, 2004

If you need show your math work on the web...

My last post mentioned that there are some complications to using symbols on the web. Those of us who started by hand-coding html will probably recognize what happens when you toss in a greater than sign or ampersand. For the previous post, I looked up the code for the Greek letters on . Jukka Korpela provides a pretty detailed discussion of math and html on his site: .

There's sometimes a difference between the programs you use to calculate and those you use to display on the web. Back in the day, I used MathCad to calculate and display or just the equation editor in Word to add pretty equations to my lab reports and papers. Word made pretty equations (it still does), but it doesn't calculate. It's more for taking your handwritten stuff and putting it into a document everyone can read. I also used Mathematica for diff eq, but as I recall, its input was text only. Very picky, too. At the time, you could print the graph or whatever, then tape or glue it to your lab notebook. Now you can export to a document that you can include as a graphic. There's also a gizmo that lets people calculate within a web page. I would guess Mathlab is in the same category. They're both powerful but ugly. TeX and LaTeX are widely used and accepted by many publications but I believe they are just typesetting deals and need to be converted for the web.

There's been a lot of discussion recently about MathPlayer (free, kind of like Adobe Acrobat Reader is free) and MathML (a mark-up language). MathML is from W3C and it's a mark-up language for math on the web. From what I can tell, you need a plug-in like MathPlayer to see MathML and a tool to write it. While you can pretty much wing HTML, MathML is supposed to be pretty ugly behind the scenes.

Update: I just noticed a book on our new book shelf that's causing flashbacks - it's a new edition of the book I used for Mathematica for diff eq in college. They do have an "input palette" now that's similar to what you get in Word's equation editor. There's also a save as... html, xml, TeX.

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