Friday, July 22, 2011 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Safari 5.1 and MathML

Dr. Drang:

The easiest way to compare Safari’s MathML rendering with other ways of viewing math is to go to this page set up by Peter Luschny. He’s created three pages with the same content: one that uses images to display equations (which we won’t concern ourselves with), one that uses MathJax (which is what I use for equations in my posts), and one that uses MathML.

It’s great that this has been added to Safari, although currently the typography is not very good. I’m not really sure what to make of MathML. There needs to be a way to do math in the browser without resorting to images or JavaScript. But the syntax for MathML is so unwieldy compared with LaTeX.


MathML just seems wrong due to its complexity. Seeing it makes you appreciate the simplicity of TeX, which may not be as Ā»semanticĀ« but has the advantage of getting things done.

From what I've seen MathJax is conceptually insane (and quite inefficient once you have many formulae on a page, but has the advantage that it works and creates a reasonably good look.

Unlike HTML, MathML isn't for humans, which means that in addition to good MathML rendering, we need tools that turn human-writeable forms (like LaTeX) into MathML. Both ASCIMathML and MathJax can do this, but they do it on the fly via JavaScript in the browser, which seems inefficient. I suspect offline tools for creating MathML will start to take off once Safari and Chrome get decent MathML rendering.

One of the best examples of "unwieldy" is on the MathML Wikipedia page. It's a comparison of the quadratic formula as generated by LaTeX, troff's eqn, ASCIIMathML, and MathML:

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