|September 23rd, 2023|
Previously when I've wanted to do math I've written it out as fixed-width ASCII:
In my editor this looks like:
<pre> e^(-7t) </pre>
This is reasonably readable, works anywhere, and I like the aesthetic. I probably should have stuck with it, but after helping publish a report that included some traditionally-formatted equations and learning that MathML has been supported cross-browser since the beginning of the year (thanks Igalia!), I decided to try it out. I wrote the equations in two recent posts in it, and am mixed on the experience.
It definitely does look nicer:
On the other hand, here's how it looks in my editor:
<math display=block> <msup> <mi>e</mi> <mrow> <mo>-</mo> <mn>7</mn> <mi>t</mi> </mrow> </msup> </math>
There's a small learning curve on when to use the different tags, but
mostly it's just very verbose. And I think, needlessly so? That
-" is an operator, "
7" is a number, and
t" is an identifier could all be the default. Then I
could just write:
<math display=block> <msup> e <mrow> -7t </mrow> </msup> </math>
And we could remove many uses of
<mrow> too: a
series of characters without whitespace separating them could
be already treated as a group:
<math display=block> <msup> e -7t </msup> </math>
Of course if you wanted to use a character for a non-traditional purpose you could still mark it up as one, but a good set of defaults would make MathML much more pleasant. I'd hate to have to read and write blog posts as:
<word><lt>h</lt><lt>e</lt><lt>l</lt><lt>l</lt><lt>o</lt></word> <word><lt>w</lt><lt>o</lt><lt>r</lt><lt>l</lt><lt>d</lt></word> <pnct>.</pnct>
I know I'm about 25 years too late on this, and I'm happy that a pure-HTML solution is now cross-browser, but it's still sad we ended up so close to a comfortable hand-editable solution.
(Just use MathJax? Nope—I don't want a runtime dependency on JS. Though I could see including a LaTeX-to-MathML or a MathML-verbosifier step at build time.)