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MathType Tip: Drawing attention to your equations with comments and annotations

Applies to:

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

Suppose you're writing a PowerPoint presentation to introduce function rules to your 6th grade math class. You'd like to be able to annotate an example equation with labels, but don't know how to do that.

The subject of annotating MathType equations is a broad one. There are many ways to annotate equations, and we cannot cover them all here. This tip will suggest a few ways, but we encourage you to seek out additional ways you can accomplish this. This tip will discuss:

Using MathType to annotate equations

MathType has braces, brackets, arrows, and other templates that are perfect for this type of situation. Let's say this is the example you want to use:

\underbrace {f(n)}_{{\rm{Output}}} = \underbrace {\overbrace {\,\,n\,\,}^{{\rm{Input}}} + 3}_{\scriptstyle {\rm{Rule for}} \atop \scriptstyle {\rm{Function}}}


You should explore each of MathType's template palettes on your own to see what templates you can use for annotating equations, but there are four that are particularly useful for this purpose. Notice the templates at the bottom of MathType's Fences palette (see screen shot to the right). To create the expression above, just choose one of the templates from the palette, and begin creating the equation. Be sure to switch to Text Style to type the annotation. You can change the color either before you create a particular section, or you can change colors after the entire equation is completed.

Here are some additional suggestions for using MathType's templates for annotating equations. Each of these examples was created totally within MathType:

Creating the annotations in your office suite

Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, as well as similar programs in other office suites such as OpenOffice, have drawing tools that you can use to annotate equations. In general, make sure your drawing tools or drawing toolbars are turned on. If you don't see them, check the View menu for a listing of toolbars you can choose from. In Office 2007, they're turned on by default. Here's an example of annotating an equation in a Microsoft Word document (click the image for a larger version):

Using the drawing tools in Microsoft Word.

Using a paint or drawing program for the annotations

Most paint programs (such as Corel Paint Shop Pro and Adobe Photoshop Elements) and drawing programs (such as CorelDRAW and Adobe Illustrator) allow you to annotate photos, drawings, and other graphic objects. If you choose to use such software to annotate equations, it's best to first save the equation as a high-resolution GIF (300dpi minimum) if you're using a paint program or as a WMF (Windows) or EPS (Windows or Macintosh) if you're using a draw program. Once you open or import your equation, use whatever text and drawing tools are available in the software to achieve your annotation. Suggestion: If your software has the capability of using layers, it's a good idea to keep the equation in a layer of its own. If you later notice an error, or otherwise want to make a change, you can change the equation layer without affecting the rest of the equation + annotation system.

Using a paint program to annotate an equation.

Annotating equations in business graphics software

Business graphics software such as Microsoft Visio or SmartDraw offers a pretty impressive array of options for annotating your equations. Not only can you use MathType equations to annotate drawings, flowcharts, and diagrams created with this software, but once you insert the equation, you can use available tools to annotate the equation, as shown in this screen shot:

Annotating equations in SmartDraw.

Which method of annotating equations is best?

It really depends on what type of annotations you need to make and what software you're using. These are our recommendations:

  • If annotations can be limited to above and below the equation, to the left or right, or for "boxing" in an answer (as in the first set of examples above), it's best to do it all in MathType. This has the advantage of letting you use the same equation + annotations in more than one document type. You could use the same equation, for example, in a handout you create with SmartDraw, the lesson presentation you create in PowerPoint, and the unit quiz you create in Word. For simple annotations, this is the best solution.
  • If you're working within Word or PowerPoint, or similar programs in other office suites, it's best to use the drawing tools in those programs. There is a wide range of shapes, arrows, and callouts available, and when you're finished, you can group the annotations with the equation so that they move and animate as one object. Except for some of the simple annotations you can make directly within MathType, this is the fastest method of annotating equations.
  • If you're using a business graphics program such as Visio or SmartDraw, you might like the drag & drop simplicity of building handouts or creating charts and diagrams with this type of software. Annotating equations is just as easy in these programs as it is to create any other type of output with them. We recommend doing your annotations directly in these programs if you're already using them for your project, but don't choose them because of their ability to annotate equations.
  • For total control over the entire annotation process, use a paint program such as PaintShopPro or a draw program such as Illustrator. These products let you totally tweak the equation and annotations to achieve the precise look you want. Of course, with such control usually comes an increased investment of time on your part, so that may be the case here.

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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