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Canonical Science Today, rendering mathematics with CSS

Since the idea of encoding mathematics using MathML is being very far
from popular due to a number of factors -expensive tools, bad
accesibility of generated code, unusual verbosity, lack of adequate
support, special fonts, namespaces, special plugins, backward
incompatiblity of MathML with other internet technologies, duplication
of code, and others-, alternative encodings are spreading over the

Probably the most popular one is the use of GIF images generated from
TeX-like sources. However, the usage of images introduces difficulties
for both authors and users. Images do not scale, are not searchable,
are not accesible and cannot be directly edited (you need edit the TeX
source and upload the document with a nev generated image); images are
heavy for servers, cannot be easily reused with changes in background
colors, resizing displays, usually the printing of images of formulae
is unpleasant...

An interesting alternative approach is on rendering of mathematical
formulae via CSS techniques. A future CSS math module would improve our
capacity to render arbitrarily complex formulae, however, today we can
render a lot of math using available CSS 2.1 standard and current

### CSS quality rendering ###
Some people expressed its doubts about the capabilities of CSS for
rendering mathematics and claimed that only a full presentational
markup -in the style of presentation MathML- would be good enough. As
said in the WHATWG list for next HTML5 one can provide MathML rendering
quality with CSS.

I have uploaded screenshots of some mathematical formulae rendered with
both presentational MathML 2.0 and HTML with CSS 2.1. What is MathML?
What is CSS rendering?

Of course, more complex formulae could be also rendered with CSS. For
example nested fractions are not limited to 2 levels.

In future postings I will present examples of formulae are correctly
rendered with CSS thecnique but fail with MathML native browser and,
also, examples of MathML formulae that in theory would be correctly
rendered but in practice -due to limitations on current implementations
and tools- are best rendered via CSS.

Juan R.


Jul 4 '06 #1
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