Microsoft’s Equation Editor: the Good and the Glitches

I had problems over the last few days, which turned out to be because of glitches in Microsoft Equation Editor within Word 2007. Lecture notes I had written suddenly lost whole sections or when I pasted in good parts of a document that had got messed-up into a new document the formatting of the new document instantly got messed-up. That was very frustrating, as I was under pressure to have my lecture notes prepared.

I was wondering if viruses were at work. I contacted our IT people and they promised to investigate. I took the usual precautions of backing up my computer.

Microsoft doesn’t publish the features of Equation Editor, it seems. The fashion now is that one has to go to the web to find the help one needs. A while ago I found excellent information on Equation Editor at the University of Waterloo ( One of the features of Equation Editor is that Shift+Enter can be used to insert a group of equations, which can be aligned together on specified characters. This is an important and necessary TeX- or LATeX-type feature. I was glad to find it.

Once I find a feature I use it to its full potential. The lines of the grouped equations were too close together so I used Shift+Enter to space them out. It seems this was what triggered the glitch: beware! I have now found that by going into draft mode in Word I can see the ‘disappeared’ text. By displaying formatting marks I can see and then remove the Shift+Enter symbols where I used them for line spacing. This seems to restore the document: as I write it is too soon to say for sure that I have beaten the problem.

It seems Microsoft has incorporated much of TeX into Equation Editor now. This is very welcome for me. It is moving towards enabling fluent entry of mathematical equations from the keyboard and yet having full WYSIWIG. That is great! For example, typing times puts in a multiplication sign or the Greek letters can be input as alpha or Alpha, according to case.