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MathType Tips: Group MathType equation objects with drawings and pictures in documents and presentations

Applies to:

  MathType 6.8 and later (Windows)
MathType 6.7 and later (Macintosh)


Suppose you want to add a graph or a picture to a document in Microsoft Word, and you want to annotate parts of it with math expressions you create in MathType. Or maybe you've created a drawing of a right triangle in Apple iWork, and have used Shapes in Pages for that. You want to label the triangle's sides with MathType. If you move the drawing and annotations to another place in the document, or to a different document, you have to move the drawing and its annotations separately. It would be a huge help if you could "group" everything together so that it moves and acts like a single object.


Note the procedures in this tip work in Microsoft Office and Apple iWork, but generically they should work in just about any word processor or office suite. It's impossible for us to test them all, but try it in the software you use and let us know how it goes.

MathType expressions and equations are normally inserted as inline "objects" in word processors. This means they look and act as if they're part of the paragraph into which they're inserted. Generally, word processors don't allow grouping of inline objects, period.

Special steps for Microsoft Word

In the case of Word, it is possible to change the object's "text wrapping" properties to be something other than inline, but the newest versions of Word don't allow you to group these "floating" objects with other objects, such as drawings you create in Word or pictures you insert. (Note: PowerPoint does allow you to group MathType objects with other objects, so some of the discussion below doesn't apply to PowerPoint. We'll note when this is the case.)

If you're working with something other than Word, skip to the next paragraph. In Word 2010/2011, the best way to enable the grouping of MathType objects with drawing objects is to save the document as a DOC file instead of the default DOCX. (If you're using Word 2003, 2007, or 2008, DOCX is fine.) If you're not aware of the differences between the 2 file formats, you should understand that although in this case we're recommending saving as DOC, there are normally advantages to saving as DOCX. The biggest advantages are probably the availability of SmartArt and the fact that a DOCX is more stable and less susceptible to corruption than is a DOC file. Word users have been using DOC for years and for the most part it's worked out really well. Chances are, these differences between DOC and DOCX won't affect you, so saving as DOC shouldn't be a problem.

General steps

To continue this tip, we'll be using Word 2010, but remember we're talking about a general procedure that should work with almost any word processor or office suite. If we say "Word" below, it doesn't mean the step is specific to Word; it just means that's what we're using.

To summarize, let's say you want to create a right triangle with sides a = 5 and b = 6, and you want your students to compute the length of c. You might want this diagram:

  1. Type a = 5 and b = 6 into individual MathType equations, inserting them into your document or presentation. Type the equation for c into a third equation and insert it.
  2. If the equations are inline equations, like they will be in Word or Pages, we need to change them to floating. Do this for each (these steps are specific to Word, so you may have to adapt them to whatever software you're using):
    1. Right-click (Win) or ctrl+click (Mac) and choose Format object.
    2. In the Layout tab, click In Front of text. Click OK.

      Note: If you have more equations than this to use as annotations, you may wish to do this a bit differently. Create one of the equations. Perform steps 2a above. Copy the equation and paste as many as you need, moving each one into its approximate position. Before you go further, edit each of the duplicate equations to be the one you need for the position it's in. Now continue...
    3. Click the equation and move it close to where you want it. To fine-tune its position, hold down the Ctrl (Mac: option) key and use the arrows on the keyboard.
    4. It should still be selected, so now hold down the Shift key and click the other objects -- the triangle and the equations for the other 2 sides. (On the Mac, sometimes the MathType object will de-select, so watch and make sure it remains selected. Click it again if necessary -- all the time holding down the Shift key.)
    5. You should see something like this:

  1. Windows: Right-click the group and click Grouping > Group.
    Mac: Ctrl-click the group and click Group > Group.

    If these options are grayed-out, you may need to first save the document or presentation, and if you're in Word, make sure to save it with a .doc extension.

After you follow these steps, if you need to change one of the MathType objects, you can double-click it, make the changes in MathType, and close MathType. If you're using Office 2010, you don't need to ungroup it first. In Office 2011, you'll need to ungroup, make the changes in MathType, then re-group.

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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