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MathType Tip: Advanced Techniques for Adding Equations and Symbols to Word Documents: Part I

Applies to:

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

This Tip explains how to use Word's automatic correction features to make the inclusion of MathType equations in your Word documents easier and faster.

MathType and Microsoft Word are powerful tools for authoring documents containing mathematical notation. While the MathType Commands for Word simplify this process, by taking advantage of Word's automatic correction features you can easily insert frequently-used equations and symbols. You can insert equations by typing just a short keyword; Word will automatically replace the keyword with a corresponding equation without opening a MathType window. This Tip explains how to define these keywords in Word and associate them with MathType equations. We also discuss when to insert simple expressions (e.g., subscripted variables) as text and when to insert them as equations.

This article addresses Word 2002 (Office XP) for Windows, but also applies to earlier and later versions of Word for both Windows and Macintosh. Where there are differences in menus or commands between different versions of Word, they will be mentioned.

Although this article only discusses Microsoft Word, similar features are available in Microsoft Access, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint, but not in FrontPage. AutoCorrect entries (not AutoText) created in one Office application will be available in the others.

Note: This article will assume you have basic familiarity with Word and MathType. If you do not have basic familiarity with both products, please refer to the appropriate manual, help file, or online tutorial. You must also be familiar with basic Windows and Macintosh features, especially selecting and copying objects.

This article will be basic in nature and addresses the following topics:

  1. Types of automatic correction in Word
  2. Using MathType with AutoText
  3. Using MathType with AutoCorrect
  4. Specific suggestions and examples

We recommend printing this article to make it easier to work through the steps given in the examples below. After you've mastered these concepts, you can proceed to a more advanced Tip.

Types of automatic correction in Word

Word has three types of automatic correction: AutoFormat, AutoText, and AutoCorrect. The options for all automatic corrections may be viewed and changed by selecting "AutoCorrect Options..." from the Tools menu in Word. (In some versions of Word, the item is titled simply "AutoCorrect".) Remember, even though you are changing the settings in Word, the settings will take effect in all Office applications.

Differences are numerous between the three types of automatic correction, but there are similarities as well. The names of the three types of correction give some hint as to their purpose:

AutoFormat is used to change the formatting of characters (such as changing 1/2 to or *bold text* to bold text) or paragraphs (such as changing paragraphs to bulleted or numbered lists, based on characters you enter at the beginning of the line).

AutoText is intended to replace text with other text, but gives you the option of making the replacement. You can cause a character, a word, a paragraph, or even an entire page to be replaced after typing just a few keystrokes.

AutoCorrect is intended to correct misspellings and make simple replacements, but you can also replace entire paragraphs or pages like you can with AutoText. A major difference is that AutoCorrect doesn't give you the option of making the replacement; it just does it.


With AutoFormat, you can choose to apply all formatting changes after you've typed your document, or you can have Word apply each formatting style as you type. The second method of AutoFormat, which Microsoft appropriately calls "AutoFormat As You Type," is a source of frustration to many Word users. This feature is the one, for example, that continues a numbered list after you type the first element in the list. Let's say you are typing a math test and have numbered the first question. When you hit enter at the end of the question, Word assumes you have finished the first item in the numbered list and that you want to start the second item. Thus, it begins the new line with the next number in sequence and indents the line accordingly. This may not be what you want, since you may have more than one paragraph in the question (as in a word problem), or you may need a new paragraph to list multiple responses.

With AutoFormat (as opposed to AutoFormat As You Type), you can have Word apply all the formatting changes when you choose – either all at once, or optionally selecting them one change at a time. To use AutoFormat, select it from the Format menu and follow the prompts. AutoFormat is useful if you have pasted text into the document from another document, or when you have AutoFormat As You Type disabled.

Since AutoFormat cannot be used to automatically insert objects such as MathType equations, we will focus the remainder of the Tip on the other two automatic corrections – AutoText and AutoCorrect.

AutoText (N/A Word 2007)

The second type of automatic correction provided by Word is AutoText. AutoText is useful for replacing short text strings with several words or paragraphs. For example, if your name is Frank James and you need to enter your name and address several times whenever you prepare a particular type of document, you can have Word make the replacement for you every time you type the text Frank. Sometimes you will want to write your name without your address, of course, so a nice feature of AutoText is that Word will display a pop-up asking if you want to make the substitution. When the pop-up appears, simply keep typing if you don't want Word to make the replacement. To make the replacement, press the Enter key, the Tab key, or F3 (Windows only). This feature can produce surprising results, such as if you were creating a table with the first names of several people as table headings. If you type Frank, followed by the Tab key to move to the next column, Word inserts your full name and address. Any time Word makes an unwanted correction, you can reverse the correction by selecting Undo from the Edit menu, or by typing Ctrl+Z (Mac Cmd+Z).

In general, AutoText isn't as useful as AutoCorrect for technical papers, but it has some features that make it more attractive than AutoCorrect in specific situations.

  • AutoText is better if you don't want to replace every instance of the text.
  • AutoText lists are easier to transfer to another computer or to share with colleagues than are AutoCorrect lists. (This feature and the next will be covered in the advanced techniques Application Note.)
  • An AutoText entry may be inserted into the document as a field, which allows for easy updating if the contents change.
  • Word 2007 handles AutoText as a "Building Block", and it works differently from what is described here. If you're interested in using AutoText with Word 2007, see the Microsoft article on the subject.


The third type of automatic correction available in Word is AutoCorrect. This type of automatic correction is typically used to correct commonly misspelled words (such as "teh" when you meant to type "the"), incorrectly capitalized words (such as "archaeopteryx" when you meant to type "Archaeopteryx") or for entering common symbols by typing their text counterparts (such as entering by typing "(c)" or entering by typing "c/"). AutoCorrect will replace a simple text string with a character, word, phrase, or even paragraphs of text.

Both AutoText and AutoCorrect can be used to insert clip art, drawings, or MathType equations. In this article, we discuss using these features with MathType. In the advanced features Tip, we discuss using the automatic correction features to insert clip art and drawings.

Using MathType with AutoText (N/A Word 2007)

AutoText is very useful for inserting common symbols or formulas with just a few keystrokes. In this section, we'll see how to set up AutoText to insert MathType equations, and how to use this feature in your own Word documents.

To use MathType with AutoText, follow these simple steps. Although these steps are specific to Word 2002, you should also be able to use the same procedure in Word 97, 98, 2000, 2001, X, 2003, and 2004 with little or no modification. Keep in mind that we often use the word "equation" to mean anything created with MathType, whether or not there is an equal sign.

Setting up the AutoText entry:

  1. Insert a MathType equation into your document.
  1. Select the equation by clicking on it once.
  1. From the Tools menu, select AutoCorrect Options...
  1. In the AutoCorrect dialog, select the AutoText tab.
  1. Notice the equation is already inserted into the Preview window. (There is no way to paste an object into the Preview window. The object is there because you selected it in step 2 above.)
  1. Type the replacement text in the "Enter AutoText entries here:" window. Choose something that is both easy to remember and is not likely to appear in normal text. In this case, "limx0" makes sense because the replacement object is "the limit as x approaches zero". (Actually, you could use the entire phrase "limit as x approaches zero" here, but it's probably easier and quicker if you come up with some easily remembered shortcut, such as "limx0".)
  1. Click Add; the AutoCorrect dialog closes.

Using the AutoText entry:

  1. In your document, when you type the first 4 letters of your AutoText replacement string, Word offers to replace the string with your AutoText object or text string. Press Enter, Tab, or F3 (Windows only) to make the replacement.
  1. Once the replacement is made, either continue typing or insert another object.
\mathop {\lim }\limits_{x \to 0}

Using MathType with AutoCorrect

Using MathType with AutoCorrect is very similar to using MathType with AutoText, but since AutoCorrect doesn't give you the option whether to make the replacement, AutoCorrect is often used for common substitutions (such as the examples given above) or for misspellings. Excellent uses of AutoCorrect for technical documents abound; some suggestions are listed here:

Use AutoCorrect
to replace
2p/3 \frac{{2\pi }}{3}
L-T (or l-t) \mathcal{L}
||R \mathbb{R}
sq2 (or sr2) \sqrt 2
u238 {}_{92}^{238}U
equ  \rightleftharpoons

The list is literally endless, but these suggestions give you an idea of the great utility of AutoCorrect when used with MathType. To insert a MathType object into your AutoCorrect list, follow the procedures above for AutoText, except click on the AutoCorrect tab instead of the AutoText tab.

There is an important distinction between AutoCorrect and AutoText that has already been mentioned, but is important enough to repeat. AutoCorrect does not give you the option of whether or not to make the replacement. It immediately makes the replacement upon typing a "word terminator". You can still undo the replacement as with AutoText (by typing Ctrl+Z or Cmd+Z), but it's best to only put those items in AutoCorrect that you will want to replace every time. (A "word terminator" is anything that terminates a word as you type. When you're typing text, Word knows you have completed the current word when you type any punctuation symbol, the spacebar, the Tab key, or the Enter key. Any of these keys and symbols will cause Word to immediately make an AutoCorrect replacement if one exists.)

Because Word makes the correction immediately upon encountering a word terminator, it's essential that you don't choose a title for an AutoCorrect entry that will be a word in normal text. For example, if you want to enter the quadratic formula \frac{{ - b \pm \sqrt {{b^2} - 4ac} }}{{2a}}, don't call it "quad" or "quadratic". Both of those are likely to appear as words, and most likely at the least opportune time! In this case, it's much better to choose a title like "qu" for the replacement. Remember, although the letter combination qu will appear often in documents, it will never appear as a word. Therefore, whenever you type the letters qu, followed by any word terminator, Word will make the substitution and insert the formula. It will not make the substitution when you type the word quadratic, the word quick, or any other word that contains the letters qu.

See the next section below for some specific suggestions on when to use AutoCorrect and when not to use it.

Specific Suggestions and Examples

Now that you are familiar with the methods of automatic correction in Word, here are some suggestions for use, as well as some specific examples.

  • Use AutoText if you don't want to replace every instance of a text string, but would like to choose when to replace.
  • Use AutoCorrect if you want to replace every instance of a text string with another text string or object as you type, for simple substitutions that do not have to be edited, or for commonly misspelled words

When to use MathType with AutoText and AutoCorrect

These are suggestions for using AutoText and AutoCorrect, but when should you use MathType? When you insert math and science symbols and equations, right? Not necessarily. You could use MathType, for example, to insert the Greek letter pi: p. Your document will be smaller and operate faster though, if you would insert pi by using the Insert Symbol command (from the Insert menu). You could also switch to Symbol font, type the letter p, and switch back to the font you're using for your document. Note that it's not incorrect to use MathType in this case, it's just that there's a better way to do it. Here are some suggestions for when not to use MathType. (The suggestions apply generically within a document, even if you're not using AutoCorrect.)

We recommend do not use MathType for

 Instead, do this...

 OK to use MathType for...

simple subscripts or superscripts.

use subscript and superscript text formatting in Word: xi or x2 (see note*) compound superscripts and subscripts, or sub/superscripts within another expression:
x_i^2{\text{ or }}\sqrt[3]{{{x^2}}}

symbols available with Insert/Symbol.

use the Insert Symbol command:
3  4 = 12
2 ÷  x = x

combinations of symbols and items not available with Insert/Symbol:
\tfrac{1}{2}\sin \tfrac{{3\pi }}{4}x

complete documents. use Word for text and MathType for symbols and constructs you can't create with text.  

*Note: When converting a Word document to HTML, text with super/subscript formatting will look different in Word when compared to the HTML document and to a MathType equation. Compare the three examples below (shown larger than normal):

y = {x^2} + 2{x_i} y = {x^2} + 2{x_i} y = {x^2} + 2{x_i}
in Word, using formatting converted to HTML MathType

Although the difference is easily noticeable, it is not necessarily an objectionable difference. That's for you to decide, but you should at least be aware of the difference.

These are very specific suggestions, but hopefully you can see the general cases for each. Remember document stability, size, and simplicity are all optimized when inserting technical expressions as plain text whenever possible. Now let's take a look at some specific examples when AutoText and AutoCorrect can come in very handy.

Example 1:

You are preparing a fractions quiz for your sixth-graders, and you want to create two versions of the quiz, which will contain mixed number multiplication problems as well as fraction division problems. Having just completed this Application Note on AutoCorrect, you realize this is a perfect use of the feature. You decide to enter 5 different fractions and 5 different mixed numbers, as well as the multiplication and division symbols and a blank answer space into AutoCorrect. You choose the fractions \frac{1}{2}, \frac{2}{3}, \frac{3}{5}, \frac{4}{7}, and \frac{5}{6}, and the mixed numbers 1\tfrac{1}{2}, 2\tfrac{2}{3}, 2\tfrac{4}{7}, 3\tfrac{3}{5}, and 3\tfrac{3}{4}. To use logical names, you name them 1/2, 2/3, etc. for the fractions, and 11/2, 22/3, 24/7, etc. for the mixed numbers. Since the letters m and d will never appear alone in the text of a document, you use "m" for the AutoCorrect entry for the multiplication symbol () and "d" for the division symbol (÷). You also want to leave 10 underscore characters for the student to write the answer, so you type 10 underscores, highlight them, select Tools/AutoCorrect Options, and call it "ans".  So now you're ready, and you enter "1/2 m 3/5 = ans " for the first question. In your document, you see \frac{1}{2} \times \frac{3}{5} = \underline {\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,\,}.

Try it out: Use MathType and AutoCorrect to enter the fractions and mixed numbers shown above, as well as the multiplication and division symbols. Use Insert/Symbol in Word to enter the two symbols. Be sure to highlight the symbol before you select Tools/AutoCorrect Options. Use whatever shortcut names are logical to you, either the ones we suggest above or your own. Finally, enter the answer blank into AutoCorrect as described above, then try it out. See how easy it is to make a 10-question quiz using MathType and AutoCorrect.

Example 2:

You want to create a test to see if your students understand proportions. You decide to create some blank macros in MathType so that you only have to fill in the empty slots to complete the problems. (If you're unsure how to do this, refer the MathType documentation.) You enter 4 blank proportions into MathType's Large Tabbed Bar:

MathType for Windows   MathType for Macintosh

You wonder if this is a good application for AutoCorrect or AutoText, but your colleague points out that if you define these as AutoCorrect entries, you'll still have to edit them after you enter them into the Word document. It would be much better to just leave them on the MathType Large Tabbed Bar, and insert them separately as MathType objects, since that would be much quicker than using AutoCorrect or AutoText entries.

As a general rule, you should never use AutoCorrect or AutoText for something that will have to be edited after it's inserted into the document.


When using MathType with Word:

  • You'll have a smaller, faster, cleaner document if you let Word do what it can without MathType (simple subscripts, superscripts, etc.). Just be aware of the difference in appearance. If it's more important to have consistent-looking equations, use MathType throughout.
  • Using MathType with AutoCorrect and AutoText is a great way to speed up your work, but it ends up being counterproductive if you let Word make an automatic correction that you have to edit in MathType. You're better off inserting the expression directly from MathType, without the intermediate step of AutoCorrect or AutoText.

In most cases, you'll find AutoCorrect superior to AutoText:

  • Unformatted AutoCorrect entries are available to all Office applications (except FrontPage).
  • When an AutoCorrect replacement is made in Office XP or later (including Office 2003 and 2004), if you hover your cursor over the AutoCorrected entry, a "lightning bolt" icon gives you access to the full array of AutoCorrect options, both for this individual entry and for AutoCorrect in general.
  • It takes an extra keystroke – Enter, Tab, or F3 – to put an AutoText entry into a document. This may be distracting.

However, in some instances, AutoText is superior:

  • You can create AutoText entries without fear of accidentally triggering a replacement, since AutoText requires input from you to make the replacement.
  • AutoText screen tips warn you about the contents of the replacement. AutoCorrect gives no warning.
  • AutoCorrect entries are global, so they take effect throughout Office. AutoText entries are specific to Word.

Now that you've mastered the basic concepts of AutoCorrect and AutoText, you're ready for the next Tip. In the advanced Tip, we'll cover

  • these two methods of automatic correction in more detail,
  • using AutoText and Word field codes to make global substitutions in your documents,
  • using AutoCorrect and AutoText to enter Word AutoShapes and clip art, and
  • exchanging AutoText and AutoCorrect lists with colleagues or transferring them to another computer.

On to the advanced Tip...

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