# Typing math symbols with the alt key

1. Mar 19, 2008

### tiny-tim

ß ∂ ∆ µ π ∏ ∑ Ω … √ ∫ ≤ ≥ ≠ ± #

I have a Mac, and I have been typing symbols like the above by using the alt key, and wondering why other people don't use the alt key.

As a result of an in-thread discussion with mkbh_10, and of looking at wikipedia, it now seems that PC keyboards simply don't work that way.

(Why?? Macs have always done so. )

It's a nuisance to have to type sqrt and pi, in particular, and even more of a nuisance to have to read them!

Or to have to go into LaTeX where a Mac can type ∫.

And µ can be used instead of theta.

(a) Does anyone know how to type symbols such as the above on a PC?

(b) If it's not possible on a PC, could they be incorporated into the standard Reply page so that people can simply copy-and-paste them?
They wouldn't need buttons, they could just be ordinary type.​

2. Mar 19, 2008

### mgb_phys

Traditional way was to hold down right alt and type the character code.
You can also use the symbol tool to see a map of extra symbols - note though that unless the viewer also has the correct font installed their web browser might not display it correctly.

ps - on a mac do you mean those symbols are printed on the keys, or can you <alt> + spell the greek letter instead?

3. Mar 19, 2008

### DaveC426913

"unless the viewer also has the correct font installed their web browser might not display it correctly."

This is really why. It's not the computer that's the crux, it's the browsers. You just don't want to count on the average user having any particular configuration.

4. Mar 19, 2008

### Staff: Mentor

φ ψ π Ω β μ ∫ √

These are all typed on my PC using simple HTML code which should be readable with most browsers. PC's do have alt number codes, but Dave has a point about browsers with those.

You can find them here http://www.barzilai.org/math_sym.htm

Last edited: Mar 19, 2008
5. Mar 19, 2008

### tiny-tim

Hi mgb!

But that involves going into LaTeX, and it's quite fiddly anyway.
No you use alt like a shift key.

alt-p = π; alt-v = √; alt-; = …; and so on - it's as quick as typing CaPiTaLs!

(But they're not printed on the keys, so you have to remember them.)

And… I forgot to ask before … if I use the Font tool and click on Symbol (which should give all the Greek letters) (but just does this: abgdPOLK), why does it have no effect, even though Symbol is installed on my computer?

6. Mar 19, 2008

### Kurdt

Staff Emeritus
I think its far easier to use the tex ability of the forum. Like others have commented, the PC can produce those characters through the use of alt key codes but not everyone will have the character fonts. That is why I would prefer people to use tex tags instead. Then we can guarantee everyone can see them and they're nicer to read.

7. Mar 19, 2008

### Staff: Mentor

Can the HTML symbols I typed above be seen?

8. Mar 19, 2008

### CompuChip

I can see them, but I personally think typing
$$\varphi \ \psi\ \pi\ \Omega\ \beta\ \mu\ \int\ \sqrt$$
is not very much more work (in fact, it might be less if you're one of those people like me, who doesn't know all the Alt-codes and would have to look them up in a character map), plus they look so much better (plus, you can copy-paste your question right out of your LaTeX document )

9. Mar 19, 2008

### Staff: Mentor

I agree LaTex is better, but if someone wants to type some sybols quickly without understanding LaTex, they can use the HTML codes.

10. Mar 19, 2008

### tiny-tim

… µ comes out on the right line!!! …

HI Evo!

And, from your web reference, I can now use & and # to type Γ Δ Θ

But it is much easier and quicker just to copy your top line into my post: φ ψ π Ω β μ ∫ √
All the characters in the title of this thread are standard characters in Geneva Helvetica Arial Chicago Courier Times etc etc.

Just because PCs can't type them (and Macs have always been able to ), that doesn't mean they're not in the standard fonts - they are!!

So they can be read by any browser!

btw, what font does this forum use?​
I think µ is much easier to read than the spidery $$\mu$$ is – and µ comes out on the right line!!!

All I'm asking is that standard characters be printed somewhere on the reply page, ready to be copied by anyone who doesn't have a Mac …

11. Mar 19, 2008

### Kurdt

Staff Emeritus
If you use itex tags it will come out inline like so $\mu$. And once again they don't need to be included on the page since they can be accessed via alt key codes.

12. Mar 19, 2008

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
Odd, I've never been able to get those symbols to display correctly when typed on a Mac on this forum (they work fine in applications like Word, but never worked here).

13. Mar 19, 2008

### tiny-tim

ooh! … you're right … it is better (not perfect, but better) … but the ∑ button on the reply page gives us only the tex tags, not the itex.
But … and I'm not sure I have this right … don't the alt key codes require 6 keystrokes per letter, and a very good memory?

And didn't you say that not all browsers would read them, while the forum could deliberately display only standard font characters like µ and √ which would be read by any browser ?
Hi Moonbear!

Well, I've just accessed this page on my old iMac with OS 9.1, browsing with Internet Explorer for Mac 5.1, and all the letters (including Evo's) display correctly!

(Are you saying you can't read other people's symbols on your Mac either, or just that you can't type them in yourself?)

Which Mac system are you using?

14. Mar 19, 2008

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
I can read them all fine, and sometimes can get them to show up in the reply window, but once sent, they don't "stick". I don't go anywhere near Internet Explorer (why would you contaminate a perfectly good Mac with that browser?). When on the Macs, I usually use Safari (once in a blue moon, I use Firefox, but our IT people finally got their act together, so the site that used to require me to use Firefox now works with Safari again). One Mac is still running 10.4.x and the other 10.5.x (don't recall what update I'm up to on either).

15. Mar 19, 2008

### Danger

ᴟסԊѯЮζ͡ðːπᾮ‰⁶↘⎇∆≠≥√ﬄ▼№₣₭ὅᵠᴚӝ...
Those all came straight off of Jaguar. There are several hundred things like that already built in. Not all symbols work in all of the thousand or so fonts that I have, though. It's a bit slower than typing, but easy. I just open the keyboard map and click on the symbol that I want.
There are a lot of them that require only ctr, opt, or command combined with regular character strokes.

Last edited: Mar 19, 2008
16. Mar 20, 2008

### cristo

Staff Emeritus
One can quite easily type an "i" inside the brackets!

Like others have said, we have LaTex enabled on the forum, which I think most people will agree is a lot better for long mathematics. For shorter maths, one can open up the character map and either copy, or type the shortcut from there or, for those of us who write in LaTex quite a lot, just use that. Thus, since one can copy the symbols from the character map, it is pointless to put them on the reply page, where it would look messy.

17. Mar 20, 2008

### tiny-tim

… does any browser NOT display ß ∂ ∆ µ π ∏ ∑ Ω … √ ∫ ≤ ≥ ≠ ± # ?

Hi Moonbear!

My old Mac only has OS 9.1, so it can't use Safari or Firefox.

The Mac I'm using now has OS 10.4.11 and Safari, and I have no problem with "not sticking".

Hi cristo!
Yes, but most people don't know that! I didn't know that!
Agreed!
ooh, that sounds great! But where is the character map? I don't seem to have one.
It needn't look messy … it could go in the Additional Options section, or it could be part of a decorative border.

I see there's a code button on the Reply page.
Is that Unicode, or HTML code? Is there a difference?
Is Unicode considered ok on the forum (I've just discovered the "Character Palette on my Mac" … though it's rather inconvenient, since I haven't worked out how to make "favorites" )?

And … does anyone have a browser that won't display ß ∂ ∆ µ π ∏ ∑ Ω … √ ∫ ≤ ≥ ≠ ± # ?

18. Mar 20, 2008

### Mk

Those characters are Unicode and should appear fine in any standard browser.

I also prefer Apple's Option button over the alt+numeric code. On an Apple keyboard, it's handy to be able to type option K (for Kelvin?) for the degrees symbol or option Y for ¥. That sort of thing, I guess. If you forget any of the codes you can activate the keyboard viewer, and there's also a system-wide character palette that has every character possible from many languages and maths.

19. Mar 20, 2008

### jostpuur

tiny-tim, I think you are using those smilies a little bit too much.

20. Mar 20, 2008

### tiny-tim

… no smilies were hurt in the making of this post …

Who? Me? Never! :rofl: The smilies love it! :!!) Most people ignore them and they don't like to object :shy: Smilies are your friends! Smilies are cool!

Let sleeping dogs lie! :zzz: How dare you? :grumpy: how could you? :surprised how are you? fie on you! :tongue: and pie! :tongue2: You should be ashamed! You need colour in your life! You need glasses! you need salt! :yuck:

Smilies aren't just for Christmas!