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TechNote #160: Last modified: 08/14/2017

Equations are scrambled in Microsoft Visio


The information in this document applies to:

 

  • MathType for Windows
  •   Microsoft Visio

Issue

You're using Microsoft Visio, and have added several equations to your diagram. The equations looked fine when you left for the day, but when you booted up the computer the next day, the equations are scrambled. It looks something like this (click for full-sized view)…

Visio diagram with good equation Visio drawing with corrupted equation
original (you may download the Visio file here) scrambled (you may download the Visio file here)

Reason

This is caused by a bug in Visio, but there are techniques you can use that will keep your equations from being scrambled. The good news is, even after they've been scrambled, they can still be recovered. It just has to be done one equation at a time.

Best practices for using MathType with Visio

Although this is a bug in Visio, we know how to minimize its effects on you and your files.

  1. Inserting equations. Use one of these 2 techniques to get equations into Visio:
    1. Use the Insert > Object command in Visio, and choose "MathType 6.0 Equation" from the list. After you create the equation, close MathType by clicking the red X in the upper right corner of the MathType window. Don't use copy & paste.
    2. Open MathType from the Windows Start menu. Create the equation, select it, then cut & paste it into Visio. Leave MathType open for your next equation.
  2. Sizing equations. Don't click and drag a corner to re-size equations. In MathType, use the Size > Define command to set the equation size to match your Visio diagram.
  3. Don't copy & paste equations within Visio. We don't recommend this because while it may not appear to cause problems initially, we have seen cases where it will cause problems later. These problems are such that the only recovery is to recreate the equation, so it's best to only insert equations as described in step 1 above.
  4. Editing equations. We have determined this to be the cause of scrambled equations like the ones in the example above. By using the techniques here, you can keep this from happening, but if it does happen, you can recover without creating the equation again.
    1. If you insert equations as described above, and never need to edit them, we don't believe the equations will ever scramble.
    2. If you insert an equation and double-click to edit it before closing the document, this should not cause a problem.
    3. If you have closed and reopened the document, then need to edit an equation, if you double-click it to edit, then close and reopen the document, the equation will be scrambled. However, the equation is still valid. Cut the equation (ctrl+X is a convenient way to do this), open MathType, paste the equation into MathType, edit it if you need to, then insert it into Visio as in step 1. The equation will be unscrambled.
    4. Do not double-click an equation to edit it. This is the best advice we can give. As described in step 4b above, this can work if the conditions are right. To keep equations from becoming scrambled though, we recommend always using the cut & paste technique, cutting the equation from Visio, pasting into MathType, editing, then inserting back into Visio. By doing this, we believe the equations will never be scrambled.

Reporting this issue to Microsoft

This is Microsoft's bug, and only Microsoft can fix it. Many people believe that since Design Science and Microsoft are both software companies, then we must have a more direct line for reporting bugs such as this. The truth is, that is not the case. Microsoft listens to you, the customer, because that's where their money comes from. The best way to get this bug fixed is for many customers to report it. We have made it easy for you to do so. Microsoft has a Visio Suggestion Box, and when a suggestion has 5 votes, they respond to it. You can speed the process of Microsoft's action by voting on the suggestion we have posted to the suggestion box.


We hope this has been helpful. As always, please let us know if you have questions about this, or if you have additional techniques that work. We'd love to hear from you.


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