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/docs/community?hl=en
12/23/10
Original Poster
Bas Braams

Wishlist B. Editing equations

Greetings again. Here is my wishlist of things for editing equations.

There needs to be a smooth way to switch to the roman font inside an equation or to define mathematical elements that are to be represented in the roman font. (Perhaps in other fonts too, but the roman font stands out for practical importance.) Some cases are addressed by LaTeX mode (\sin, \cos, etc.), but such a list can’t be comprehensive and the present list is far from meeting the needs of the working scientist. Also the list has all sorts of conflicts due to other uses of control sequences. For example, one may want to write max(x,y) in an equation with “max” in roman font, but the \max control sequence has a different special treatment. One may try to get (x div y, x mod y) with “div” and “mod” as three-character symbols in roman font, but \div gives the dot-bar-dot symbol for division and \mod is not defined. One may try to get (Re z, Im z) with “Re” and “Im” in roman font, but \Re and \Im give the Fraktur symbols. The roman font is widely used for functions or other mathematical elements that have a multi-character name, and this includes elements defined by the document author that could not be anticipated by the designers of Docs. The roman font is also needed all the time inside equations in applied science other than mathematics, for example for physical units. Think also of expressions such as T<sub>in</sub>, T<sub>out</sub> where T is a mathematical symbol (maybe it stands for temperature) and “in” and “out” are ordinary words, which should appear in the roman font. For this last example I think it would suffice to have Ctrl+i available to toggle between italic and roman in equations just as it does in ordinary text. Although it is less important than toggling between italic and roman, one also wants to be able to toggle between bold and regular in equations. For example, it is quite common in physical science literature to use bold for vector quantities. The issue with proper mathematical elements that have a multi-character identifiers is more complicated. The Docs system knows \sin and \cos as single symbols (one can’t backspace over these symbols one character at a time) and that valuable property would be lost if one would just toggle the font and type in sin or cos. However, I think that it is a mistake to try to offer a single fixed collection of such symbols universal for all users of Docs. There should be a general mechanism for users to introduce the mathematical elements that they need and the representations of these elements, also for elements that may not be standard and whose use could not be anticipated by the designers of the Docs software.

I can’t very well suffer having to use point-and-click to switch to subscript or superscript mode in equations. In ordinary text we have Ctrl+, and Ctrl+., but these are not available inside an equation. I  suppose that the internal structure of a Doc equation requires that a subscript or superscript always be attached to some element, as indicated by the x in the “x_a” point-and-click function. Still, I recommend to think of something better than point-and-click. Maybe introduce some control character that starts an element.

I would like to see the TeX/LaTeX mode for mathematical symbols in equations extended to many more, if not all, symbols that have a TeX code. First examples for me personally: sqcup, sqcap, sqsubset, sqsubseteq, sqsuperset, sqsuperseteq.

I believe that the design of the equation editor is inhibited by a requirement that multiple people should be able to edit the same equation at the same time. Does Google really care to accommodate this supposed need? If it frees up some design choices then I think it would be better to make an equation an indivisible unit for the purpose of shared editing.
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All Replies (3)
Gill
12/23/10
Gill
<<I believe that the design of the equation editor is inhibited by a requirement that multiple people should be able to edit the same equation at the same time. Does Google really care to accommodate this supposed need? If it frees up some design choices then I think it would be better to make an equation an indivisible unit for the purpose of shared editing.>> Interesting theory. If it's right, I agree with you. I guess the ideal would effectively be to have a mini-Latex editor that Gdocs could call.
ahab
12/23/10
ahab
"I guess the ideal would effectively be to have a mini-Latex editor that Gdocs could call."
Like we have(/had?) in the 'old' Google Docs text editor - which worked fine, only it was much too limited due to limitation of the URL size of the Google Visualization API that was used for it. The new docs may be working around this limitation by splitting up equations into smaller part thus disabling e.g. the creation of matrices in Equation mode... 

Although I understand Bram's requirements I think they also are very specific as requirement he needs - or at least presented as such. It would be better if the requirement would be generalized. E.g.: Why can one not apply a font markup (or bold, underline or italic, subscript or superscript) to an equation? Just like it is possible to apply a colour or font size! This surely must be a bug!
rmcd
1/16/11
rmcd
I agree about the importance of permitting a roman font in equations. This is how you tell the difference between "abc" meaning "a times b times c" and a function named "abc".

To add a comment, once you have created an equation, it is clumsy to edit it. To take one example, from the drop down list, insert a pair of square brackets. Now put something between the square brackets. Now how do you delete the square brackets without deleting the content in the middle? I can't see how to do it. All I can do is copy the content in the middle, delete the whole thing, and then paste to retrieve the content in the middle.
 
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