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In Word 2007’s equation editor, I can enter “1/2” and I will get a properly formatted fraction. However, there is another kind of fraction that uses a smaller font size. How do I type that one using the keyboard alone?


I notice that if I switch to linear mode, I get a small box displayed:


Using the clipboard, I find that this is the same box (U+25A1) that I also get if I type “\box”. Despite, typing “\box(1/2)” still turns into a normal-size fraction and not the small fraction.

How do I type the small fraction?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Turns out that \box does insert something special, albeit something that defaults to the normal font size, but it has a feature which enables the following sequence of keypresses to make it small:

  • Type \box(1/2) followed by Space. The fraction is inserted and looks “large” at first.

  • Press the (left arrow) key. This brings the cursor into a position where the entire fraction is highlighted in gray. This indicates that \box has inserted an extra element (and then a normal fraction inside of it). (With the “normal” fraction, the Left Arrow key instead navigates directly into the denominator.)

  • Press the Context key followed by D (“Decrease Argument Size”). This command is not available if just one argument is highlighted in gray.

    enter image description here

  • Press the (right arrow) key to restore the cursor position and continue typing.

This finding has several interesting corollaries:

  • You can use \box to reduce the font size of anything, not just fractions. You can type \box\sqrt(x) followed by Space, , Context, D, and it’ll reduce the font size of the entire square-root.

  • Using Copy & Paste to copy the \box character (U+25A1) also copies information on the font size. Hence, copying and pasting a \box that is already set to smaller font size maintains the small font size.

  • You can choose more than just two font sizes. It seems to me that there are 5 different font size settings — the default, two smaller ones and two “larger” ones. With a simple fraction, the two “larger” ones are the same size as default; but if you put a \box inside a \box that reduces font size, you can use this to “restore” the larger font size, as in this entirely fictitious example:

    enter image description here

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I notice from your initial testing if you copy and paste the Unicode character into a new equation and follow it with the equation e.g (1/2) then the small fraction type is correctly inserted. This is not the most fluent way to insert this fraction type using the keyboard, however you could translate this into a simple macro and bind it to a key combination.

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