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TechNote #159: Last modified: 08/14/2017

Phi symbol is changed to a different symbol when equation is opened in MathType

The information in this document applies to:


  • MathType for Windows
  • MathType for Mac


You have a document with several equations containing lower case Greek phi symbols. When you open these equations in MathType, the symbols remain phi, but it is a different phi character. For example:

\[\LARGE \sum\limits_{d\mid n} {\phi (d) = n}\] \[\LARGE \sum\limits_{d\mid n} {\varphi (d) = n}\]
this equation becomes this


Every character you use in an equation or in the text of your print, presentation, web, or other documents is assigned a unique "code point" within the Unicode standard. Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation, and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems. In a very early version of Unicode, the 2 phi characters were assigned codes incorrectly, with the code assigned to one of the phi characters intended for the other. The mistake was soon corrected, but some software had already been created to conform to the early standard. Software that complies with the later versions of the standard will naturally not be compatible with software designed to comply with an early version.

Correcting the equations

Whenever we see this error, it involves an equation originally created in the "old" Equation Editor (aka, Microsoft Equation 3), and opened in MathType. Equation Editor uses the old encoding for the 2 phi characters; MathType uses the new encoding.

When faced with this issue, you have two choices if you're using Windows, and one choice if you're using a Mac:

  1. Edit the equation in Equation Editor (Windows only). Since the phi characters swap when you open it in MathType, one choice is to keep using Equation Editor for these equations. You may still use MathType for other equations. When you install MathType, the default settings are such that old Equation Editor equations will open in MathType when you double-click them. Here's how to change that…
    1. First, make sure MathType is completely shut down. In addition to closing the MathType window, you need to also exit the MathType Server. The MathType Server doesn’t have anything to do with a network server; its purpose is to keep MathType open in the background so it operates faster after you first use it. To find and close the MathType Server, look in the "Notification Area" in the lower right of your screen, near the clock:
      Windows 10 notification area -- MathType server icon

      Click the MathType Server icon, then click Exit.
    2. For the next step, you’ll also need to exit Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook if they're running. Now open the Equation Conversion Manager (ECM), which is installed with MathType:
      1. Windows 7: You can find the ECM in Start > All Programs > MathType 6.
      2. Windows 8/8.1: Press and release the Windows Logo key to the left of the spacebar. When the Start screen appears, click the arrow in the lower left of the screen. If there’s no arrow, it will appear once you move the mouse in that direction. On the Apps screen, scroll to the right where they’re grouped by program, and ECM will be listed under MathType 6.
      3. Windows 10: Press and release the Windows Logo key to the left of the spacebar. Type the word equation, and Equation Conversion Manager should be the top choice. Press Enter or click it.
    3. When the ECM window opens, there will be 2 panes – "Convert to…" and "Do not convert". Select "Microsoft Equation 3.0" and click the Move button to move it to the right pane.

    4. Click Close, and Equation Editor equations should now open in Equation Editor rather than in MathType. Also, choosing Microsoft Equation 3 from Insert Object will open Equation Editor instead of MathType. You shouldn’t have to close & re-start Word in order to effect this change, but in the event it doesn’t work, if Word was running, try re-starting it.

  2. Edit the equation in MathType, manually changing the phi character for each one. If you only have a few, this is probably the best solution, since all your equations will be in the same format. There's no way to make the change globally though; you'll have to double-click each one, edit in MathType, close it and save the document.

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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