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Rotating equations in PowerPoint

Applies to:

  MathType 6 and later for Windows
MathType 6 and later for Mac
PowerPoint 2007 and later for Windows
PowerPoint 2011 for Mac


You have a diagram, chart, or drawing and you want to label it with MathType equations. You'd like to rotate the equations to align with an axis on the chart or part of the drawing. On the slide below, for example, you'd like the label for the y-axis to rotate 90 CCW.

PowerPoint slide

Can't get there from here

Sometimes software just doesn't let us do what it is we want to do, so we have to get creative. In this case, PowerPoint doesn't let you rotate inserted objects. That is, anything listed on the Insert Object dialog -- Excel Chart, Visio Drawing, MathType equation, etc. Since MathType equations are inserted objects, whatever equation(s) we want to rotate must be inserted as something other than an object.


Game not over. MathType has output choices other than "object". Consider the equation above that we want to rotate. If we double-click it to open it in MathType, we can use the Save Copy As command (in MathType's File menu) to save into a format that PowerPoint 1) will accept and 2) allow us to rotate. Without going into the details of "why", let's cut to the chase and say that out of the choices offered, the one that's best is Graphics Interchange Format (GIF). You need to change a few things first though.

  1. Font size. Always important, but now even more so. NEVER leave MathType's font size set the same as for Word documents, then insert them into PowerPoint and click & drag to re-size them. Why "never"? Two reasons. One, the whole reason you're using MathType is so your equations will look their best. We assume you don't want them to be "good enough"; you want them to be as good as they can be. If you're in the habit of inserting small equations into PowerPoint, then dragging to make them larger, no two equations in your document will ever be the same size. You may not be able to tell they're different sizes, but your viewers will be able to. So set the Full size in MathType's Size menu to be whatever size you're using in PowerPoint -- probably somewhere between 24 and 36pt. The other reason you don't want to click and drag to resize is because it takes a LOT longer to resize every equation in the presentation than it would take to simply do it correctly the first time and set the size in MathType's Size menu. Many people work on a presentation at the same time they're working on a Word document. That's OK. Set a Preference File for each, and switch back and forth.
  2. Resolution. GIFs don't actually have a "dots per inch" or "pixels per inch", but for the sake of this exercise we're going to pretend they do. In MathType, open Web and GIF Preferences (in the Preferences menu), and change Bitmap resolution to Other:XXX, where XXX is:
        • 384 for Windows
        • 288 for Mac
    The reason for this is because this is a situation where you do need to re-size the equation once it's in PowerPoint, but you don't want to have to stretch it to make it larger. To do so would make it fuzzy and not look very good. Much better is to make it large, then reduce it to the proper size. The reason for the numbers above is because these are 4 times normal size. When you insert the equation (or expression, but "equation" generically) into PowerPoint, use the Format Picture > Size controls to reduce the size to 25% of the original.

Now rotate

You can do this in one of two ways. The easiest -- at least in this example -- is to stay on the Format Picture panel or dialog, because that's where the Rotation control is also located. For our example, we want to rotate it to -90.

The other way to rotate it is to click and drag the "rotation handle" in the direction you want it to rotate. The rotation handle may be a partial circle with an arrowhead, or a green dot, depending on your version of PowerPoint and/or your operating system:

graphic in PowerPoint for Windows graphic in PowerPoint for Mac
PowerPoint 2016 for Windows PowerPoint 2011 for Mac

Tip: If you hold the Shift key before you click the resizing handle, it will constrain the GIF's rotation to 15 increments. That will give you an easy, precise way to get exactly 90 CCW rotation.

Here's our slide now:

PowerPoint slide after rotating expression for y-axis label

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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