[uf-new] an equation/MathML/TeX microformat?

Paul Topping pault at dessci.com
Thu Oct 25 20:45:13 PDT 2007

MathML and TeX are fine as formats but what I'm looking for is a way to
associate them with an equation image within HTML. Just as other
microformats create invisible-to-the-user structure containing text that
is visible to the user, I want to create invisible-to-the-user structure
containing an equation image. The invisible-to-the-user structure in
this case would contain the MathML and/or TeX language representing the
equation. This way, one gets an equation image which is visible in all
browsers but backed with useful equation structure.

This would be useful in a number of ways but here's two:

1) Accessibility of math to people with vision problems and/or learning
disabilities is enabled by converting the MathML to speech or to
braille. This technology is already available in my company's MathPlayer
plugin for IE and it works with popular Windows screen readers. TeX can
also be handled by first converting it to MathML.

2) Other math and scientific software can work directly with equations
if the representation is rich enough. Obviously, an equation image won't
work but MathML or TeX will. Embedding the MathML or TeX with the
equation image in the HTML page will enable one to copy the equation to
the clipboard and then into apps such as Mathematica, Maple, or
MathType. The latest version of MathType includes a feature like this
that allows the user to copy equations out of the many Wikipedia pages
that contain equations. Luckily, Wikipedia exposes the TeX
representation of the equations which enables this feature to work.
Unfortunately, this is done in an ad hoc manner. Standardization of this
is what I seek with an equation microformat.

All of this would be unnecessary if browsers uniformly supported MathML
in HTML but, as previously explained, they don't. IE requires a plugin
and Firefox supports MathML only in XHTML, not plain old HTML. Other
browsers don't support display of MathML at all.

I hope I've made the situation clearer.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: microformats-new-bounces at microformats.org [mailto:microformats-
> new-bounces at microformats.org] On Behalf Of paul_wilkins at xtra.co.nz
> Sent: Thursday, October 25, 2007 8:17 PM
> To: For discussion of new microformats.
> Subject: Re: [uf-new] an equation/MathML/TeX microformat?
> From: Paul Topping <pault at dessci.com>
> > To: For discussion of new microformats. <microformats-
> new at microformats.org>
> > Sent: Friday, 26 October, 2007 11:39:30 AM
> > Subject: RE: [uf-new] an equation/MathML/TeX microformat?
> >
> > "Start the discussion before you start creating any pages on the
> wiki."
> >
> > Let the discussion begin ;-)
> Why do you want an equation microformat?
> hCard solved the problem of copying contact details to your address
> book.
> What problem will an equation microformat solve?
> Can it be solved already with the existing MathML and other formats?
> --
> Paul Wilkins
> _______________________________________________
> microformats-new mailing list
> microformats-new at microformats.org
> http://microformats.org/mailman/listinfo/microformats-new

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