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Authoring for MathPlayer and MathML

A MathPlayer-ready web page is simply a normal HTML (or XHTML) page with MathML "islands". You can create such pages in any HTML editor or use one of our other products to create the page for you.

What is MathML?

MathML is a way of encoding mathematics using XML developed under the auspices of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), the group that sets the basic standards that define the Web. A growing number of software packages including browsers, editors, computer algebra programs and publishing software use MathML to communicate. Unlike other ways of putting math in a web page, such as images and PDFs, MathML provides ways to directly encode various interactivity properties of an equation, which makes it an ideal choice for dynamic math on the Web. From the beginning, Design Science has played a leading role in developing this important new technology. Consult About MathML for more information and related resources.

Benefits of MathML

MathML stores information not only about the visual appearance of equations, but also about the mathematical structure and meaning. This makes MathML a powerful and flexible format. Some of its benefits over other formats include:

  • MathML display matches the surrounding text, including font, size and color scheme. Changing the font size in the browser scales MathML along with text, unlike web pages using images to display equations.
  • Since MathML markup is part of the HTML or XHTML source, MathML equations are easier to edit and maintain than equation images. Download and display times for MathML web pages are also much faster than pages using many equation images or large PDF files.
  • MathML has built-in interactivity features such as roll-over highlights, tooltip messages, and toggling of subexpressions. MathML equations can also be manipulated via JavaScript to create powerful dynamic effects. By contrast, almost no interactivity beyond standard hyperlinks is possible with PDF or equation images.
  • MathML equations can be copied from Web pages and pasted into any MathML-aware application, such as Maple, Mathematica, MathType, and many others. See the MathML Software list maintained by the W3C. Such interoperability is not possible with PDF or equation images.
  • MathML was designed to be accessible and has been widely adopted by the accessibility community. It is the basis for math accessibility in many standards including DAISY. Since the introduction of MathPlayer 2.1 in 2007, assistive technology such as screen readers and learning disability tools have been used to listen to millions of equations via MathML and MathPlayer.
  • MathML equations also have the potential to be more searchable than other formats. Math Searching is the focus of another NSF grant to Design Science, under the National Science Digital Library (NSDL) program. Design Science is working with other vendors, publishers, and professional societies to enhance the infrastructure for math searching on the Internet.

Browser Support for MathML

Web pages containing MathML can be viewed in the following browsers:

  • Windows Internet Explorer 6.0 through 9.0, with MathPlayer
  • Firefox (including other Mozilla projects such as Camino and Sea Monkey) on Windows, Unix, and Macintosh computers
  • Safari 5.1 and later (support is still limited and the rendering quality not very high)
  • Opera has support for a subset of MathML implemented using a CSS stylesheet. This may be acceptable for elementary mathematical notations but is not recommended for complex formulas or in cases where the rendering quality is an essential point.
  • Amaya on all platforms
  • Chrome has no MathML capability, and Google has announced plans to not incorporate it.

Design Science and others are actively pursuing ways of expanding support for MathML to other browsers and platforms. 

Creating MathML Web Pages

Authors interested in creating MathML web pages can use a variety of tools and techniques. One of these tools is to use MathType's "Publish to MathPage" command in Microsoft Word. With MathPage, you can publish in several formats, but we recommend publishing with MathML using the HTML+MathJax, as this is the format most likely to be universally readable in all browsers on all platforms. (MathJaxexternal website is an open source math display engine.) To find out more about using Design Science's MathType to create MathML web pages, as well as other authoring tool options and technical information for web programmers, see Creating MathML Web Pages.

Creating MathML Web Sites

To insure a good reader experience, some extra effort is warranted when publishing MathML pages to a web site. By making sure your web server is properly configured, and clearly informing your readers of browser requirements, many potential pitfalls can be avoided. Consult Creating MathML Web Sites for in-depth information about best practices for publishing MathML web pages.

Making MathPlayer Available to your Readers

If you publish web pages containing MathML, readers using Internet Explorer will need to install MathPlayer on their computers. Obviously, one way to do this is to have them download MathPlayer from our website like you probably did. To get some tips on how best to communicate this to your readers using our MathPlayer Logo Program, as well as some alternative distribution options, visit Making MathPlayer Available to your Readers.

Dynamic Math with MathPlayer

Dynamic math can make your content more effective and engaging. MathPlayer gives you two ways to make your MathML web pages come alive. Simple kinds of interactivity can be encoded directly in MathML. For more complicated kinds of interactivity, the combination of MathML and scripting in a web page is extremely powerful. To find out more, see Dynamic Math with MathPlayer.

MathML in Other HTML Media

MathPlayer interacts with Internet Explorer at a low level, working directly with the basic Windows HTML display component used by many software packages. As a result, once installed, MathPlayer can be used to display MathML in RSS readers, mail clients, and more, not just your browser. Consult MathML in Other HTML Media for details.

Join our Math on the Web mailing list

If you would like to receive email updates on what's going on in the Math on the Web world and tips on using our products to create math-oriented web pages, please join our mailing list. more>

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