[whatwg] Mathematics in HTML5

juanrgonzaleza at canonicalscience.com juanrgonzaleza at canonicalscience.com
Sun Jun 4 06:25:50 PDT 2006

James Graham wrote:
> H?kon Wium Lie wrote:
>> I think you make a compelling case for adding math to HTML the simple
>> way. Personally, I'm open to adding it to HTML5. How much would it add
>> to the specification?
> I remain sceptical about this.

This appears to be not an optimistic attitude. Let us try!

> However, if there is a serious effort to
> replace  MathML I believe the resulting language must fulfil the
> following requirements:
> 1) Easy conversion from standard LaTeX2e. This probably means that the
> grammar  should follow LaTeX as closely as possible. ISO standards that
> no-one uses are  irrelevant in practice; LaTeX matters.

What is easier to convert MathML or HTML, ISO 12083, XML-MAIDEN?

x^2  => <msup><mi>x</mi><mn>2</mn></msup>

a_n  => <msub><mi>a</mi><mi>n</mi></msub>

x^2  => x<sup>2</sup>

a_n  => a<sub>n</sub>

About the ISO, maybe you do not know that it was based in SGML and due to
complexity of SGML world not much end users used ISO 12083 (moreover there
is historical issues). But the ISO standard was used in academic

In “A Decade of DTDs and SGML in Scholarly Publishing What Have We
learned?” talk (Extreme Markup Languages 2002) it was presented a table
with usage of mathematical encoding by publishers: AIP, BioOne, Blackwell,
Elsevier, Highwire, IEEE, Nature, PMC, UCP, and Wiley.

IEEE, PMC, and Wiley used TeX or LaTeX. AIP, BioOne, and Nature used ISO
12083. Elsevier and Highwire used Elsevier Math whereas UCP used AAP Math.
Because 12083, AAP and Elsevier math are structural cousins, one can say
that 6 big academic publishers used ISO 12083 and really only IEEE and PMC
were incorporating TeX into SGML markup.

> 2) Excellent typography. Faking radical signs and so on is simply
> unacceptable.  Mathematics is painful enough to read as it is without
> poor presentation making  the reader's eyes bleed. A significant effort
> is needed to get as close as  possible to TeX in this regard.

Where in web or at paper? In both cases you can add capabilities to HTML
and CSS to achieve the best TeX quality. Already with current XML-MAIDEN
approach and good Unicode fonts you can achieve an acceptable quality in a
cross browser way for most of people interested in mathematics. The
approach can be improved.

However, nobody has been able to extend TeX-LaTeX for providing TeX
quality _outside_ limited world of paper and ink (and specific boring TeX
fonts). The GIF images that most of LaTeX to HTML converters generate are
not we call excellent quality.

About radical signs the default rendering of MathML in native browsers as
Firefox is really ugly with a completely distorted position of the sign
and a filled box of the size of the radicand. One needs download and
install special TeX fonts, which is contrary to web design rule of device
independence. Moreover special fonts usage does not completely solve the
rendering (because CM was never designed for web), and you are obligated
to compile full Gecko engine each time you want change fonts!

> 3) The provision of alternative fallback content should be easy. For
> accessibility reasons it should be possible to provide the LaTeX source
> and/or a  textual description of the equation. It should also be
> possible to provide an  image to display instead of the rendered
> equation. Indeed, it would be extremely  beneficial if there were some
> way to make the current generation of browsers  render the image and
> ignore the mathematical content which, given the  enhancements to CSS
> likely to be needed to fulfil point 2, is likely to render  extremely
> poorly in current generation browsers.

Latex Source? for what?

I find no utility on providing default images.

Juan R.


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