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What is MathML?

MathML 3.0 was released as a W3C Recommendation on 21 October 2010, with a second edition released on 10 April 2014. It is a revision of MathML 2.0, issued in February 2001, with a second edition in October 2003. A product of the W3C Math Working Group, MathML is a low-level specification for describing mathematics as a basis for machine to machine communication which provides a much needed foundation for the inclusion of mathematical expressions in Web pages. It is also important in publishing workflows for science and technology and wherever mathematics has to be handled by software. The new version brings, for instance, improvements for accessibility of mathematics, and for formulas in languages written from right to left. The basic markup remains the same, as the community have years of experience with it. See the Testimonials welcoming MathML 3.0. [more].

Try it!

A variety of implementations of MathML are available (browsers and authoring tools, educational and symbolic algebra software…), many of which are Open Source. Go to the MathML Software list for descriptions and pointers, or read the Implementation and Interoperability report.

There is a good chance that your browser already supports MathML (possibly with the addition of a plug-in or JavaScript Library).


2014-04-10: MathML3 2nd Edition

MathML3 2nd Edition published as a Recommendation.

2014-04-10: XML Entity Definitions for Characters (2nd Edition)

XML Entity Definitions for Characters (2nd Edition) published as a Recommendation.

2014-02-11: W3C review for MathML3 2nd edition

The members of W3C are currently reviewing the second editions of MathML 3 and XML Entity Definitions for Characters. The Math Working Group updated both Recommendations to correct some obvious mistakes and especially to add many clarifications. The review lasts four weeks and the expectation is that these documents will replace the existing Recommendations around March/April.

Most people are used to MathML on its own or inside XML-based formats. But now that people are starting to use math in HTML5, which has slightly different syntax rules, people asked for more explanation. MathML has the same structure and meaning independent of the concrete syntax, but may have to be written in a different way inside HTML5. The new specification explains that, and also makes sure that all examples (except, obviously, those that specifically demonstrate syntax issues) can be copied and pasted into an HTML5 context.

As far as implementations go, the new specification requires no changes. HTML5 implementations have to follow the syntax defined in the HTML5 specification, XML implementations follow the XML specification, and the MathML specification defines how to display and interpret the resulting elements. And that part has not changed.

The XML Entities specification was updated to include the latest Unicode specification. (The previous Recommendation referred to Unicode 5, the current version to 6.) Descriptions were added for symbols that are new in Unicode 6, including the new Arabic math symbols. The text was also reorganized for more clarity. No new entities were defined.

2013-11-26: “Mathematics in ebooks”: project looking for sponsors

Frédéric Wang, well-known for his work on MathML in Firefox and MathJax, has launched a call for sponsors for a project called Mathematics in ebooks.

Although Firefox supports MathML, and MathJax can be used to emulate MathML in browsers that support JavaScript, the resulting rendering is not as good as one would hope: Before you convert a book with mathematical formulas to an e-book, you would want typesetting closer to the quality of paper books.

The problem is lack of programmer time. There are few people who can do the programming and they have little spare time. Frédéric Wang is one of them and the project is meant to allow him to work full-time for a few months.

The main goals of the project are twofold:

  1. Create a collection of educational & scientific documents that will serve as examples & test cases for publishers and implementers.
  2. Improve rendering quality in WebKit and Gecko so that EPUB publishers can rely on it.

His initial target is € 3960, or one person in France working full-time for three months.

2011-06-07: MathML for CSS Profile is a W3C Recommendation

With the advancement of CSS Level 2 Revision 1 to Recommendation, the MathML for CSS Profile automatically also became a Recommendation.

The Profile describes which parts of MathML3 can be formatted with CSS and which can thus be displayed by many types of software that understand CSS but do not understand MathML itself. This allows quite a large part of MathML already to be used even though not all browsers and formatters implement full MathML yet.

The specification had already been tested and reviewed by the W3C members and the W3C Director in October 2010, but it has a normative dependency on CSS, and thus couldn't be a standard unless CSS Level 2 was a standard itself.

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