Typing Mathematics: Word, TeX, and PowerPoint
This page addresses issues commonly faced by students who are writing papers or giving presentations with substantial mathematical content. The following topics are discussed.
 Mathematical papers
 Mathematical presentations
Please direct questions or suggestions for improving this page to Dr. Chris Hill.
A choice of two programs: Word and LaTeX
Microsoft Word is the most widely available document preparation program on our campus. Word is a pointandclick, WYSIWYG* editor. The equation editor in Word allows the user to create a wide variety of mathematical expressions. While Word's equation editor generally does not produce professionalquality output, the quality is good and suffices for most student projects. For more information, see Typing a mathematical paper using Word.
LaTeX (pronounced "lahtek" or "laytek"), also referred to as TeX, is the documentpreparation program of choice among mathematicians, computer scientists, engineers, physicists, economists, and other scholars. In terms of mathematical typesetting, LaTeX sets the world's standard with its professionalquality output. Editors for LaTeX are not WYSIWYG. Rather, the user creates a plain text file consisting of the manuscript text and formatting commands, and then compiles the file, thereby producing a PDF or DVI file with the content formatted as desired. The formatting commands are logical and quickly learned, and numerous online resources are available to help the novice (or experienced) LaTeXer. Anyone seeking a career in a mathematicallyoriented field is advised to use LaTeX. You may use an online LaTeX editor without downloading the program or you may download LaTeX for free to your own computer. For more information, see Typing a mathematical paper using LaTeX.
*What you see is what you get.
Typing a mathematical paper using Word
We assume familiarity with the basic textediting features of Word, so we focus here on typing mathematics. To achieve the best results, all mathematics (even isolated variables) should be typed using Word's equation editor. To use the equation editor, follow these steps.
Using the equation editor in Word
 Position the cursor where you want the mathematical expression to go.
 To engage the equation editor, go to the Insert tab and click on the pisymbol icon for "Equation". (If you click on the arrow below "Equation", you'll get a short menu of famous formulas. If you click on "Symbol", located immediately to the right of "Equation", you'll get a selection of special symbols, which is occasionally useful but a poor substitute for the equation editor.)
 You should now see an empty equation "box" at the desired location in your document. Also, the top of the window should now be filled with several menus of mathematical items, as seen in the screenshot below (taken from Word 2010).
 Word's equation editor is of the pointandclick, WYSIWYG variety. A special format (such as a fraction, a subscript, or an exponent) or a special symbol (such as the infinity symbol) is inserted into an equation box by locating it in one of the menus and then clicking on it.
 When you are done creating a mathematical expression, click outside of the equation box to disengage the equation editor.
 To edit a previouslycreated mathematical expression, click on its equation box. This action engages the equation editor.
Typing a mathematical paper using LaTeX
TeX was developed by Donald Knuth of Stanford University in the 1970s and '80s to allow anyone to create professionallooking documents, particularly documents that contain mathematics. Knuth designated TeX as freeware. A friendlier version of TeX called LaTeX (pronounced "lahtek" or "laytek") was subsequently developed by Leslie Lamport and has largely replaced the original "plain" TeX. Like its predecessor, LaTeX is freeware. The current version of LaTeX is LaTeX2e. These days, when someone speaks of "TeX", they are referring to LaTeX.
LaTeX has become the de facto standard for typesetting in technical fields such as mathematics, computer science, engineering, and physics. Indeed, LaTeX has been used to typeset thousands of textbooks and numerous journals, and is the primary method of displaying formulas on Wikipedia.
To use LaTeX, you may use an online LaTeX editor without downloading the program or you may download LaTeX to your own computer.
Overleaf offers an online, collaborative LaTeX editor. If you'll work alone or with one collaborator, the free Personal version will suffice. The forpay Collaborator and Professional versions are for people who'll be working with multiple collaborators. The forpay versions also track document history.
To use LaTeX on your own computer, you'll need to install a TeX distribution, which is a collection of TeXrelated sofware. A TeX distribution for any of the major operating systems may be downloaded for free from the sites below. The download includes an editor (referred to as an integrated development environment, an IDE, or a front end), such as TeXstudio or TeXnicCenter, for working with TeX documents. The download is over 1 GB.
To create a document using LaTeX, the user creates a plain text file consisting of the manuscript text and LaTeX commands; the commands will inform a compiler how to format the content. The plain text file may be created in virtually any text editor, but by creating the file within a TeX editor, the user can then compile to file to create a PDF or DVI file with the content formatted as desired. The result can be as professionallooking as pages in a textbook.
As an example, here is a sequence of LaTeX commands alongside the mathematical expression it produces.
\displaystyle{ \sum_{n=0}^{\infty}ar^n } 


It should be noted that TeXstudio, TeXnicCenter, and many other TeX editors include pointandclick menus for inserting the commands for a wide range of mathematical symbols, eliminating the need for the user to learn or look up many commands.
Here are some helpful resources to aid in learning and using LaTeX. Many others are available.
 For beginners
 Getting something out of LaTeX, by Jim Hefferon. "This is for people considering using LaTeX. This is not a tutorial. Instead, it takes you through making a first document. If this quick taste leaves you wanting more then you are ready to go through a tutorial."
 Sample LaTeX file This file contains the global formatting commands that would be suitable for most mathematics assignments and projects at St. Bonaventure. In a TeX editor (such as TeXstudio), copy the contents of this file into a new LaTeX file, and then add the desired content where the file indicates.
 The NotSoShort Introduction to LaTeX2e, by Tobias Oetiker, Hubert Partl, Irene Hyna, and Elisabeth Schlegl.
 For everyone
 LaTeX Tips Created by A.J. Hildebrand of the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign, this wellorganized, superblywritten resource addresses issues of interest to novices and professionals alike. These tips are part of Hildebrand's TeX Resources.
 LaTeX commands
 Summary of LaTeX commands A comprehensive 14page reference of LaTeX commands, organized alphabetically.
 LaTeX mathematical symbols An indispensable fourpage reference of the LaTeX commands that produce mathematical symbols, organized by category. Includes some commands from the amsmath package.
 Documentation for selected TeX packages. A TeX package is an addon that was developed independently from TeX and provides additional features. There are many, many packages available. The packages listed below are particularly helpful and are included in the ProTeXt and TeXLive distributions.
 User's guide for the amsmath package The amsmath package was created by the American Mathematical Society to facilitate the writing of mathematical articles. To access this package from a particular LaTeX file, put the command \usepackage{amsmath} in the preamble of your file, right after the \documentclass command.
 User's guide for the geometry package The geometry package allows the user to set and adjust page formats using intuitive parameters. To access this package from a particular LaTeX file, put the command \usepackage{geometry} in the preamble of your file, right after the \documentclass command.
 User's guide for the graphicx package To access this package from a particular LaTeX file, put the command \usepackage{graphicx} in the preamble of your file, right after the \documentclass command.
 Online assistance
 Books
 George Gratzer, More Math into LaTeX, 4th ed., Springer, 2007. Highly recommended.
 Leslie Lamport, LaTeX: A document preparation system, 2nd revised ed., AddisonWesley, Reading, MA, 1994.
Making a mathematical presentation using PowerPoint
If you are basing your talk on a paper that you typed with Word, then it's easy to create your presentation using PowerPoint. The equation editor for PowerPoint is the same as the equation editor for Word, and it can be accessed in the same way.
You can transfer mathematics and text in your paper to your presentation by simply copying and pasting. You'll be able to edit the mathematical expressions in your presentation in the same way as in your paper.
Making a mathematical presentation using PowerPoint and LaTeX
If you are basing your talk on a paper that you wrote wih LaTeX, and you want the beautiful expressions rendered by LaTeX in a PowerPoint presentation, then you'll need to download a program that allows you to insert LaTeX expressions into a PowerPoint presentation. There are several programs available—some free and some not. Here are three.

IguanaTeX A free PowerPoint plugin. Easy to download and easy to use.

MyTeXPoint A free simplified version of TeXPoint (see the next program).

TeXPoint A formerlyfree program that now has a modest cost.
For the sake of completeness, I'll point out that there is a lowtech alternative to these programs. To get a LaTeX expression onto a PowerPoint slide, you could take a screen shot of the LaTeX output, copy the image onto a PowerPoint slide, and crop the image until only the pertinent piece of mathematics remains. This process would need to be repeated for every expression you wanted in your presentation. There are serious drawbacks to this approach. First, when the cropped image is enlarged, the math within will lose its sharpness. By planning ahead and enlarging the original output just so, the cropped image could be arranged to be about the desired size, but this seems like a pain. Second, the math in the image cannot be edited.
If you like LaTeX so much that you're actually considering any of the above options, I recommend that that you see the next section for an alternative.
Making a mathematical presentation using LaTeX: Beamer
Beamer is a TeX package for creating presentations. If you already know and like LaTeX, then you might consider using Beamer instead of PowerPoint for your presentation. (For basic information about LaTeX, see Typing a mathematical paper using LaTeX on this page.)
Be aware that some of Beamer's commands are specific to Beamer, so even if you're quite familiar with LaTeX, you'll still need to invest one or two hours learning to use Beamer.
Beamer is included in the MikTeX 2.9 distribution. To designate a LaTeX file as a Beamer presentation, specify the document class as "beamer", that is, use the command \documentclass{beamer} as the first line of the file.
Here are some helpful resources for learning and using Beamer.
Beamer was created by Till Tantau, Joseph Wright, and Vedran Miletićin in 2003. Its name is taken from the German word Beamer, which is a pseudoanglicism for video projector.