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MathType Tip: Author equations using only the keyboard

Applies to:

  MathType 4 and later (Windows)
MathType 5 and later (Macintosh)


Have you ever wondered if there's a way to type an entire equation in MathType using only the keyboard? Actually, MathType was created both for those who prefer to build their equations by pointing and clicking on menu commands and palette icons, as well as those who prefer to keep their fingers on the keyboard and use the mouse or touchpad as little as possible. This tip describes how to create equations using only the keyboard.

In this tip, you will learn these techniques:

  • Find out which keyboard shortcut is assigned to a particular symbol, template, or menu item.
  • Create your own shortcuts or change existing ones.
  • Enter equations with TeX.

Which shortcut is which?

How do you go about discovering the various keyboard shortcuts assigned to the various components that make up your equation? The simplest way is to find the item in the appropriate palette and point to it with the mouse. While hovering the mouse pointer over it, look at the status bar and both the item description and the shortcut will be displayed there:

If you're using Windows, have you ever noticed those underlined characters in the names on the menu bar? Depending on your display settings, they may not be underlined, but these underlined characters also identify shortcut keys. (If your menu titles and commands don't have underlined characters, you can turn this feature on by choosing Display from the Windows Control Panel. Click on the Effects button in the Appearance tab. Un-check the option titled "Hide underlined characters...". Click OK, then OK again.) To access a menu, press the Alt key then press the letter underlined in the menu title. While the menu is expanded as in the example below, you can use the arrow keys to go from one menu to the next, or to navigate up and down an individual menu. To choose one of the commands, press Enter to choose the highlighted command, or press the underlined character in the command (whether the command is highlighted or not). For the example shown below, you can use the keyboard sequence Alt, E, A to choose the Clear command from the Edit menu.

Some things to note when reading shortcut key abbreviations:

  • In a shortcut like the example above -- Alt, E, A -- the commas are merely separators; they are not part of the shortcut.
  • Sometimes you'll see the comma in connection with a keyboard shortcut requiring more than one combination of keys. The Greek letter omega, for example, has a shortcut of Ctrl+G, followed by the letter W. You'll see this shortcut written like this: Ctrl+G, W. The comma in this case means that you must first press and release the Ctrl+G combination, then press the W before the omega will appear in your equation. When using shortcuts like this, MathType gives you 4 seconds to press the second key or combination of keys after you release the first one.
  • Although it is common to identify keyboard shortcuts by using capital letters, do not press the Shift key unless it is specifically stated. For example, Ctrl+Shift+E is the shortcut for switching to Text style.
  • Keys separated by the + symbol must be depressed at the same time, so in the case of Text style, you must press the Ctrl and the Shift keys while pressing and releasing the E key. It's not necessary to precisely time these 3 keypresses to occur simultaneously. Simply keep the Ctrl and Shift keys depressed while pressing and releasing the E key, then release the other 2 keys.
  • Also notice in the screen shot above, if a menu item has a shortcut key associated with it, the shortcut will be identified on the menu itself rather than on the status bar.
  • The technique of using the Alt key to access menus works in any Windows application.

Creating your own shortcuts

Full instructions on this are really the subject for a separate tip, but there are two methods of creating keyboard shortcuts that we'll briefly mention here. For further instructions in these techniques, refer to the MathType documentation.

If you're wanting to create or change a keyboard shortcut for a symbol, there are two ways to accomplish this. The first method is to use the Customize Keyboard command in the Preferences menu. (We have a separate MathType Tip covering this method.) The second method is to choose the Insert Symbol command from the Edit menu:

If you need to create or change a shortcut key for a template or a menu command, your only choice is to use the Customize Keyboard command.

Creating equations by entering TeX into MathType

This feature is only available in MathType 6 and later. Full details will be the subject of another tip, but if you know TeX or LaTeX, you can simply type it directly into MathType, either for the entire equation or part of it. Press Enter to complete the equation:


We hope this tip has been useful to you. We publish MathType Tips on a regular basis, so if you'd like to be among the first to know when there's a new MathType Tip available, we recommend subscribing to our Design Science News blog. If you have a tip that you'd like to pass along to us for possible inclusion in our Tips & Tricks, email us.

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