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[whatwg] Mathematics in HTML5

From: <juanrgonzaleza@canonicalscience.com>
Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2006 03:55:34 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <3084.>

James Graham wrote:
> juanrgonzaleza at canonicalscience.com wrote:
>> LaTeX is *not* the preferred format for submissions in Physical Review
>> journals (Letters and A, B, C, D, and E versions).
>  From their guidelines for authors [1]:
> "Acceptable formats for the discount or waiver are currently REVTeX
> (preferred),  LaTeX, Harvmac, Plain TeX, or MSWord"

Therefore LaTeX is not the preffered format (was I exactly said); it is
REVTeX. BUT REVTeX is not LaTeX and that is reason that Physical Review
list contains

"REVTeX (preferred), LaTeX (not preferred)..."

>> That TeX-LaTeX is not
>> sufficient for the web is also recogined even by TeX gurus as David
>> Carlisle [1].
> Note that I have never advocated putting TeX directly on the web. I'm
> merely  stating that simple conversion from LaTeX will be an important
> feature of any  successful format.

Ok, then translation from TeX-like input to HTML Math will be more easy
than to MathML. Note that a^b can be converted to a<sup>b</sup> with
unusual easiness whereas the conversion to <msup>a b</msup> is much more
difficult; really so difficult that today conversors to MathML often offer
incorrect outputs of trivial TeX mathematical fragments of above class.

The problem is that MathML encodes bases as childs of a script element,
whereas bases are not explicitely marked in TeX sources, therefore the
conversor may go backward in the TeX source imaginating what is the base.
That problem disappear in George approach. See his blog (was cited here)
for an experimental XSLT TeX --> Maiden. He did in a pair of days; others
have failed even after several years when trying to use MathML.

Take the case of Distler blog like example. It has been unable to encode
ds^2. In the past encoded like 2s ds, some days ago he changed, but the
code generated continues being wrong.

>> Do you know that LaTeX3 is moving towards SGML/HTML model of
>> publications in some aspects?
> Excellent. Maybe if people move to LaTeX 3 for their offline work, it
> will be  easier to get maths online. (Side note: HTML is not SGML and
> has not been since  at least the Netscape 3 days). I certainly don't
> have any issue if LaTeX can  meet HTML half way, allowing people to take
> small steps toward mathematics on  the web rather than the "one giant
> leap" that you propose.

Reason that LaTeX is focusing to SGML/HTML world appears clear to me:
popularity and solidness. SGML/HTML is more broadly used than TeX based
languages and SGML is much more potent. Therefore, embracing certain
compatibility with popular languages is promoting the survival of LaTeX in
the future.

LaTeX3 project will embrace a new syntax (I do not know details) and
further changes. Therefore, I would not call that "small steps". Active
TeX was an early attempt to join TeX to HTML and SGML. Active TeX also
introduced a new syntax without "\" without "{" and without "}". It was
called the "dot syntax". I would not call those "small steps".

However current HTML5 proposal is a natural continuation of HTML, using
same basic rules and guidelines that worked very well in HTML during

Moreover a TeX user would not find HTML Math completely understandable

\frac{b}{2} ==> <frac><num>b</num><den>2</den></frac>

{a \over 3} ==> <frac>a<den>3</frac>

a^b ==> a<sup>b</sup>

a_j ==> a<sub>b</sub>

But most of TeX users see odd that a^b was expressed as
<msup><mi>a</mi><mi>b</mi></msup> in mathML.

>>>> Some weeks ago I received a draft of manuscript prepared by a
>>>> mathematician and will probably be published in MSOR journal in
>>>> brief. He is not using TeX or LateX because limitations and write:
>>>> <blockquote>
>>>> Mathematicians have been served well by TeX and LaTeX for their
>>>> mathematical typesetting. Too well, perhaps. At least, if an
>>>> dedicated TeXnician of the last
>>>> ten years has a chance to \relax and look about himself he will see
>>>> that the rest
>>>> of the world has moved on in several incompatible ways to the cosy
>>>> world of TeX.
>>>> </blockquote>
>>> Why should I listen to this person?
>> End of debate. Why would I pay attention you?
> As far as I can tell, you don't. But, irrespective of that, it's an
> honest  question. Just citing anonymous sources doesn't make for a
> credible argument.  Why is this person's opinion so worthwhile that you
> quoted him at me? What are  these ways? It's not a helpful contribution
> to the discussion.

Well, he is mathematicians working in an educative program with
mathematics online. He is writing a serie of papers and discusses some
problems with TeX-based mathematics explaining why colleagues would change
the chip.

I do not can cite here because was a personal comunication, he sent me
drafts of their papers are being prepared for publication in a Journal of
mathematics and computers.

I cited here as example that not all mathematicians feel confortable with
TeX/LaTeX which was -I thought- you was claiming at this list.

Anne van Kesteren wrote:
> And all on non-normative forums or non-normative articles. (Opera has
> no official position regarding MathML, fwiw.)

Nobody here said the contrary. In fact I never used the word official in
my messages; I always refered to forums of developers and personal

Also never Microsoft did an official position regarding his lack of
interest in mathematics, but many folks are claiming the contrary as
excuse on why MathML is not being popular.

The w3c never did an official position regarding lack of interest in web
application and some other user?s needs, however WHATWG has been formed
because disapointment with w3c philosophy. No?

Moreover, Opera and Mozilla did an official position regarding the WHATWG
work: Implementations would be incremental reusing the working base of
HTML + DOM + CSS technology.

Therefore, I believe that both Opera and Mozilla Foundation officially are
saying NO to support of MathML for HTML5.


Since any debate and technical specification would be unuseful without
browsers support. I carefully encourage to both Opera and Mozilla browser
people to take an official position regarding mathematics on the work of


MathML is being rejected by many people.

MathML contains a number of technical weakness.

MathML is violating available standards on the web such as XML, HTML, CSS,
and DOM and do not fit in general guidelines of web desing (e.g. device
independence, accesibility) not in the main rules of WHATWG manifesto.

Any implementation of MathML is based in duplication of available
resources, doing the good implementations difficult or imposible, with
difficult maintenance of redundant code, and needing of aditional
implementations, i.e. usual DOM or CSS need to be implemented
independently of level of support of MathML in your browser.

Proposal from the editor of this specification needs of more work that has
been named above, since he adds a new special parsing mode to mixed
content is not MathML.

HTML5 Math has received broad interest in this list, including people from
certain web comunities and mathematicians. There is increasing interest to
do math on the web in a cheap (without special editors, special fonts,
special DTDs...) and powerful ways: for example we can encode (ds)^2,
whereas other groups using MathML (Distler blog, HERMES project...) still
are unable to encode that trivial math after 10 years and three or four
attempts to mathematics from the w3c.


> I initially offered you several proposals, one cheap was implementation
> of a math attribute like a complement to the HTML class attribute, but
> you offers us either further changes to embrace a never-working
> specification (and violating basic guidelines of this WHATWG), embracing
> a markup is ignored or no change in HTML.

Juan R. wrote:
> I simple dislike several claims here for a better markup in HTML even
> from members of Opera, Wiki? and others. You also completely ignore the
> public offering of one of main guys of w3c CSS to study the problem.

It would read

You simple dislike...

Juan R.

Received on Saturday, 10 June 2006 03:55:34 UTC

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