MathType Tip: Author equations using only the keyboard
||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
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.
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
- The technique of using the Alt key to access menus works in any Windows
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
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