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MathPlayer User Manual

This manual describes how to use MathPlayer 4 to view and speak web pages containing math, as well as MathPlayer's usefulness with other products such as Word and PowerPoint. For additional details on creating your own math web pages, see MathPlayer and MathML Technology.


What does MathPlayer do?

MathPlayer can make documents more accessible by providing a means for assistive technology such as screen readers and screen magnifiers to speak, navigate, and convert to braille math in those documents. As an example MathPlayer works with NV Access' NonVisual Desktop (NVDA) to provide access to the math in Firefox, Internet Explorer, Word and PowerPoint for Windows (MathType is also required to read math in Word and PowerPoint).  MathPlayer can also work with Internet Explorer in Enterprise Mode to display the math in web pages

What is MathML?

MathML is a way of encoding mathematics using XML, developed under that auspices of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), the group that sets the basic standards that define the web. Just as HTML is the computer language in which web pages are written, the math in a web page is written in the MathML language. When you browse to a web page containing MathML, Internet Explorer gives it to MathPlayer to display as standard math notation such as you would find in a textbook. 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. Design Science has played a leading role in developing this important technology. Consult About MathML for more information and related resources.

Installing and Uninstalling MathPlayer

MathPlayer is available as a free download from our website. If you want to uninstall MathPlayer, use the Add/Remove Programs section of the Windows Control Panel.

Using MathPlayer

MathPlayer with Firefox

With NV Access' NonVisual Desktop (NVDA), you can speak and braille math in Firefox. Download NVDA.

MathPlayer with Word and PowerPoint

MathPlayer 4 speaks, navigates, and brailles math with NV Access' NonVisual Desktop (NVDA) in Microsoft Word & PowerPoint. MathType is required for this capability. Speech and navigation also work with Ai Squared's Window-Eyes software. See our separate page for MathPlayer Navigation Commands in Word.

During installation, MathPlayer adds a tab to the ribbon in Word and PowerPoint 2007 and later, 32-bit Office only. This is the tab from Word 2016. Its appearance is the same in other versions of Word, and in PowerPoint:

MathPlayer installs several commands onto the ribbon in Word.

Toolbar commands

  • Speak. Speaks the selected equation. In Word, if there is not an equation currently selected, MathPlayer will search for the next MathType equation in the document and speak it. If there is not another equation in the document, it will stop at the end. In PowerPoint, equations must be selected in order for them to be spoken with the Speak button.
  • Navigate. Speaks the selected equation, with navigation keys enabled. For navigation commands, see our separate page for MathPlayer Navigation Commands in Word. When an equation is not selected, MathPlayer navigates to the next equation in the document and speaks that equation, with navigation keys enabled.
  • Settings. Opens the MathPlayer Settings dialog shown below.
  • Help. Opens the MathPlayer Manual (i.e., this page), focused on the MathPlayer Settings section below. There must be an active internet connection or this command will fail.

    Note: All of these items have keyboard equivalents and can be used with other assistive technology such as JAWS to speak and navigate the math.

MathPlayer with Internet Explorer

Displaying math in Internet Explorer (IE) makes use of an IE feature that allows programs to participate in the layout of the page. However, Microsoft removed that feature in IE11 and so MathPlayer can only run in a legacy mode called Enterprise Mode. You can turn on Enterprise Mode from the IE Tools menu. The shortcut is "Alt+T, Alt+R, Enter". You only need to do this once per page you wish to view, as the mode setting will be remembered the next time you visit the page. Note: Enterprise Mode will not appear as an item in the Tools menu unless MathPlayer 4 is installed.

See additional information about using MathPlayer in IE on our MathPlayer and MathML Technology page.

Accessibility and Screen Readers

Users of Internet Explorer who have visual or learning disabilities use screen reader software packages that speak the words on the page. Many of the most popular Windows screen readers, such as NVDA, Window-Eyes, JAWS, HAL, Supernova, Serotek System Access, MAGic, Read & Write and BrowseAloud, will work with MathPlayer to speak the math in the page along with the words. more>

MathPlayer's right-click menuMathPlayer's contextual menu

When viewing math in Internet Explorer, almost all of MathPlayer's special features are accessed by placing the mouse pointer over an equation and clicking the right mouse button. This brings up MathPlayer's menu. Most of the commands operate on the equation you clicked on. In addition, there are commands to configure MathPlayer Settings, find out MathPlayer's version, and to visit the MathPlayer web site.

Copying equations into other programs

The Copy MathML command puts the equation's MathML code onto the Windows "clipboard". The MathML text can be pasted into a text editor (e.g., Notepad), an HTML editor (e.g., Dreamweaver or Expression Web), computer algebra system (e.g., Maple or Mathematica), or other application that understands MathML, such as MathType. If your favorite calculation or mathematical program doesn't accept MathML, contact the publisher of that software package and request that MathML support be added.

Speak Expression

The Speak Expression command causes the equation to be spoken through your computer's sound system using Design Science's math-to-speech algorithms. Most assistive technology works with MathPlayer, so if you are using such technology, the expression will seamlessly be spoken by your software, and there is no need to use this command. more>

Show Braille...

The Show Braille command shows the braille for the MathML expression in a dialog window. This is for demonstration purposes only. If your screen reader makes use of MathPlayer's braille capabilities, the braille will show up on your refreshable braille display. MathPlayer makes use of third party MathML-to-braille translators and can translate math into several different braille math codes. See MathPlayer Settings to set the braille math code to be generated.

In the Show Braille dialog, you can choose which translator to use if more than one is installed on your machine (only Liblouis is installed by MathPlayer).


Choose the MathZoom™ command to get a closer look at the equation. This can be handy to view small scripts and accents. The MathZoom command changes to Unzoom on a zoomed equation, so to bring the equation back down to normal size, choose Unzoom. A single mouse click in an equation will toggle the zoomed state. Clicking a zoomed equation while depressing the Shift key will unzoom all equations in the page. Note: If the equation contains interactive parts that respond to mouse clicks, zoom/unzoom can only be performed using the menu commands.

MathPlayer on the web

The MathPlayer on the Web sub-menu contains commands for sending your web browser directly to the MathPlayer website.

  • MathPlayer Home Page… Opens the MathPlayer home page.
  • Online Support… Opens the tech support area of the MathPlayer website, where we have tech support notices and other links that will help solve problems and provide information on compatibility with other applications.
  • Send Feedback… Opens the Design Science feedback page. This page allows you to inform Design Science about your experiences with MathPlayer or to request future enhancements. If you have a problem using MathPlayer or a bug to report, please visit our online tech support area first.
  • Automatic Version Checking. When checked, this allows MathPlayer to check to see if a newer version is available. This check is performed once per session, and no personal information is collected.

MathPlayer Settings...

When you choose MathPlayer Settings from the contextual menu, the MathPlayer Settings dialog opens, from which you can set MathPlayer's options (described below).

Using MathPlayer with MathJax

MathJax is a JavaScript renderer that displays MathML in all browsers, but MathPlayer only works with MathJax in Internet Explorer. When viewing a web page in IE and MathJax detects MathPlayer, it hands over rendering to MathPlayer because MathPlayer is much faster and MathPlayer is accessible. This is typically done automatically. However, some configurations of MathJax disable this automatic handover. If this happens, you can force MathJax to use MathML for that site. To do so:

  1. Right click
  2. Choose: MathSettings:MathRenderer:MathML
  3. When you do so, you may get a dialog saying "Internet Explorer requires the MathPlayer plugin in order to process MathML output. Switch the renderer anyway?" You must click or tap "OK" in order to switch to MathPlayer. Also keep in mind the restrictions above with regard to using MathPlayer in IE11.

If you wish to get MathPlayer's contextual menu, you can do so by

  1. Right click
  2. Choose: MathSettings:MathPlayer:Menu Events

Once you switch to MathPlayer's contextual menu, you can temporarily switch to MathJax's menu by Alt+clicking an equation. This is a one-at-a-time switch. Once you dismiss the MathJax menu, subsequent right-clicks will result in the MathPlayer menu being displayed. You can switch the default contextual menu back to MathJax's menu by performing a similar procedure:

  1. Alt+click
  2. Choose: MathSettings:MathPlayer:Menu Events

MathPlayer Settings Dialog

Clicking MathPlayer Settings... on the contextual menu, or clicking Settings on the MathPlayer tab in Word or PowerPoint will launch the MathPlayer Settings Dialog. This dialog contains three tabs, from which you can tweak MathPlayer's options.

Speech tab

MathPlayer settings, Speech tab

  • Generate speech for: Clicking on Blindness changes MathPlayer's speech so that fractions, roots, superscripts, etc., are bracketed with words such as "fraction…end fraction". For those with some sight, choosing Learning disabilities or Low vision produces speech without those bracketing words. There is currently no difference between Learning disabilities and Low vision. We provide the Learning disabilities setting for future enhancements.
  • Language: The default value is the system's default language. The dropdown lists all languages for which we have a translation (currently 15). It also has "(document language)" which means MathPlayer uses the language declared in the document. You must have a speech engine capable of speaking in the chosen language. Some assistive technology may override these settings and use settings in their software.
  • Speech style: The style of speech MathPlayer uses when speaking math. For English, we have three: Clear Speak, MathSpeak, and Simple Speech. For other languages, there is only one. We anticipate adding more styles in future releases. The default value is Simple Speech.
    • Clear Speak: The goal of Clear Speak is to create rules for synthetic speech for math expressions typical of high school-level Algebra that produce speech that is similar to speech used in typical classrooms. See the ClearSpeak section of our website for more information.
    • MathSpeak: Speaks math in a manner that closely follows the Nemeth code. See the gh MathSpeak™ page for more information.
    • Simple Speech: Speaks common, simple expressions such as 1/x without extra words. More complicated expressions will have begin/end words to clearly disambiguate where the notation begins and ends.
  • Speech amount: Controls amount of speech used to speak an expression. If you are an expert, you might prefer a "Terse" reading but if you are learning math or don't use it frequently, you might want to choose "Full". Default: Full. Other values are Medium and Terse.
  • Subject area to be used…: Adds specialized rules for the given subject area. Many notations are ambiguous and selecting a subject area helps MathPlayer generate more appropriate speech for that subject area. This list currently allows only a single selection. The default value is General. Other values are Geometry, Probability and Statistics, and Calculus.
  • Speech for Chemical Formulas: Three choices. The first choice, Spell it out, would read the formula as a human might -- "H 2 O", for example. As Compound will read common compounds with their names, and less-common compounds will be spelled-out. Finally, if this option is Off, the formula would be read similarly to a math formula, using the rules chosen in the Speech style section.

Navigation tab

MathPlayer Settings, Navigation tab

  • Navigation mode to use when beginning to navigate an equation:
    • Enhanced. Navigation is by mathematically meaningful pieces (operators, delimiters, and operands).
    • Simple. This moves by words except when you get to a 2D notation (fractions, roots, ...), then it speaks the entire notation. Zooming in lets you explore the 2D notation in the same mode. Zooming out or moving out of the 2D notation brings you back to the outer/higher level of navigation.
    • Character. This is actually two useful modes -- word mode and character mode (zoom in to get "real" character mode). Moves by words/characters. The two modes differ when you are navigating numbers with more than one digit and function names that are multiple characters. Otherwise, word and character navigation is the same.
    • Reset navigation mode on entry to an expression. If checked, MathPlayer will use the selected mode of navigation. If unchecked, it will use the most recently used navigation mode. Example: Nav mode is set to enhanced. The author enters an expression into the document, starts navigating, and switches to character mode via the keyboard shortcut. She exits the expression and begins navigating the next expression. If the Reset box is checked, MathPlayer's nav move when it enters the expression is enhanced. If unchecked, the nav mode is character, since this is the mode the author had set when navigating the previous expression.
  • Navigation speech to use when beginning to navigate an equation:
    • Speak. MathPlayer will speak the entire expression when entering the expression.
    • Describe/overview. MathPlayer will describe where you are in the expression as you navigate -- for example, "root" -- then when you find the part you want MathPlayer to speak, you can toggle the navigation mode with the Shift+spacebar shortcut. You can read (speak) or describe an expression without toggling the mode anytime by pressing the spacebar (read current) or "Ctrl+Shift+spacebar" (describe current).
    • Reset navigation speech on entry to an expression. If checked, MathPlayer will use the selected navigation speech. If unchecked, it will use the most recently used navigation speech. Example: Nav speech is set to "Speak". Someone reading the document enters an expression and starts navigating. He switches from "Speak" to "Describe" with the keyboard shortcut. He exits this expression and begins navigating the next expression. If the Reset box is checked, the nav speech he starts with is "Speak" mode. If unchecked, the nav mode he starts with is "Describe" mode, which is the mode he had been using with the previous math expression.
  • Speech amount for navigation: Controls echoing of navigation commands.
    • Terse. You will hear "zoomed in/out all of the way" and "start/end of math", as well as the math itself.
    • Medium. Same as Terse, plus "zoom in/out".
    • Full. Same as Medium, plus "move left/right".
  • Automatic zoom out of 2D notations: When unchecked, moving farther left or right when at the edge of a math structure will not result in any movement; the position will remain there, and the audible response will be "end of denominator" if in a fraction, or whatever the appropriate response is for other structures. If checked, the navigation of the current structure ends, and navigation "zooms out" to the previous level. Navigation will continue to zoom out as many times as needed until it reaches something new.

Braille tab

There is only one item on the Braille tab:

  • Braille math code for refreshable displays: Currently supported codes are Nemeth, Marburg, UKMaths, and Woluwe.
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