My problem is simple. I'm working on a document which will display a few simple, mathematical formula's. I will just copy & paste those images inside my documents, presentations and whatever else but to do this, I first need to create those images first.

So, is there any good, simple to use software which can create these images?

Okay, there's the Wikipedia entry which lists quite a few applications. It contains MathCast, which is free. I just don't like it. There's OpenOffice but am already using Microsoft Office and don't need a complete second Office product just for it's math functionality. Office itself also has an equation builder but I need something outside Office which can generate bitmaps or metafiles so I can re-use the image. The Wiki contains even more applications but it's a bit of an information overload.

Since this is just an one-time use for about 15 different functions, none of them real complex, I don't really want to spend any $ on it. And also, it should be simple to use...

As an example, this image from Wikipedia:

alt Convert an interest rate from one compounding basis to another compounding basis

The formulas that I need to generate are reasonable similar to this one. And although I could just use Paint to draw it, I'd prefer something more complex that will remember the formula itself, not the image. But the documentation will need images since the document will be shared with others, possibly even exported to PDF and even used in presentations. (Or even added to the HTML of a web page.)

  • Have you used the Equation editor provided with MS office? That is pretty handy – Jonno_FTW Sep 3 '09 at 12:34
  • Yes, I've tried the Office version. But I need one that I can use outside Office. Something that can generate bitmaps or WMF files to use in other documents, presentations and more. – Wim ten Brink Sep 3 '09 at 12:44
  • Related question: superuser.com/questions/15783/math-equation-formats – las3rjock Sep 3 '09 at 14:19
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    -1, With all due respect, your responses are wasteful if you need to do this just once. This is programmer laziness and stubbornness at its core - you're a programmer who doesn't want to program to solve a problem that you could solve by doing just a tiny bit of programming, so instead you create a giant question that spans several person-hours of work to solve a 3-4 minute, one-shot problem you have that you're too lazy to solve with your own skills. Brilliant use of your time. – J. Polfer Sep 3 '09 at 19:31
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    Hey, it's his time :). I've done the same on quite a number of times. – alex Sep 3 '09 at 20:19

10 Answers 10



  • One of the apps I've tried to download, but unfortunately the download is broken off before it's complete. :-( – Wim ten Brink Sep 3 '09 at 12:27
  • Managed to download an older version. It works, but I am used to better quality applications. :-) So far, it crashed twice and I'm not doing any complex rocket science here... – Wim ten Brink Sep 3 '09 at 15:35
  • Accepted this answer since this happens to be the app I've used to solve my problem, even though all others have been very useful! – Wim ten Brink Sep 4 '09 at 7:37

I've used this LaTeX parser and works ok for what you want yo do: Equation Editor.

This is simpler but also uses the LaTeX syntax: Texify

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    Too complex for me, since my knowledge of Tex is limited to... Well, I just heard it's name. :-) – Wim ten Brink Sep 3 '09 at 12:32
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    If you want something that will "remember the formula itself, not the image," your free software options are pretty much limited to (La)TeX and MathML. Of the two, I find (La)TeX much easier to read and write by hand. It's also what Wikipedia uses to render mathematical formulae. – las3rjock Sep 3 '09 at 14:29
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    @Workshop Alex - Tex syntax, for math, is about the same as trying to type a math equation in a programming language. It's not that hard, get over it. If you want to be a true superuser, I suggest you spend an hour learning the syntax. – J. Polfer Sep 3 '09 at 14:39
  • @sheepsimulator, you are correct. However, I'd just prefer to use some IDE-like solution so I don't need to learn yet another syntax. After 30 years of programming, I just think it's nice if I don't have to learn a new syntax for a change. Especially if I just need it once. – Wim ten Brink Sep 3 '09 at 14:55

Try using Wolfram|Alpha. If your input is, for instance ln(x)^2+x=10, it will give you the results and also display the function graph.

Wolfram|Alpha is a very good search engine based on Mathematica. I've been impressed by its results.

Edit: I thought the generated image was a bit small, but I found a workaround. If you save the search result to PDF, when you open it and zoom in, the graph maintains all its fidelity (it seems to be vector drawn, it's not an embedded jpg or gif).

Second edit: try this in Wolfram: i2=[(1+i1/n1)^(n1/n2)-1]*n2. The formula is given as an image, like this.

alt text

Is this something you're looking for? It's not identical to what Wikipedia creates, but it's not far from it. The only thing is, it took me a while to get this. I kept clicking on the equal sign until it gave me the result :).

  • +1 for Wolfram|Alpha. I love that search engine. – ephilip Sep 3 '09 at 13:01
  • +1 since it looks great! It's not the answer to my question, though. I don't need an answer, I just need to dosplay a formula. – Wim ten Brink Sep 3 '09 at 13:39
  • Second edit comment: Well, I tried "Y=F(X)" which it translates to "Y = EllipticF[X]". When I asked "Income=F(Value)" it said $31410 per year! Where did that come from??? :-) So it looks great but can't get it to work like I want to... – Wim ten Brink Sep 3 '09 at 14:07
  • Sorry it wasn't more useful to you. $31410 :)? I would'n mind having that... – alex Sep 3 '09 at 14:16
  • @Workshop Alex - So what if it gives you the answer to your formula? it displays the formula in an image file, and that's all you need, and that's all you asked for. – J. Polfer Sep 3 '09 at 14:42


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    I don't need to plot the function, just to display it with proper mathematical layout. The documentation is showing part of a functional design and will be read by non-technical people with math knowledge to validate. – Wim ten Brink Sep 3 '09 at 12:29
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    Oh, sorry for the misunderstanding. As I saw 'mathematical calculations', I tought of results of math formula, and not formula itself. – mouviciel Sep 3 '09 at 13:42
  • Well, +1 anyways. It's a useful link, even though it's of no use for me right now. :-) – Wim ten Brink Sep 3 '09 at 14:52

Forget apps - use an HTML version, then do a capture.

Stef's HTML Equation Generator


I think any of the suggestions posted here, including the Office Equation Editor, should be fine. It seems to me that the product doesn't have to produce images, since you can always take a snapshot of the screen image and crop it down. Better yet, use a PDF print driver (Office 2007 has one built in, or you can use a product like DoPDF). Use your program of choice to generate a screen image of the equation, highlight it, select Print->Print Selected (on most programs), and output to PDF.

  • Right now, I use MathMagic, as MicTech suggested. The latest version failed to download but an older version seems to work. It's able to save as JPG, which isn't perfect but so far the best solution. Just keeping this Q open, hoping for an even better suggestion, although most are very valuable already. – Wim ten Brink Sep 3 '09 at 15:04

OpenOffice.org has Math.

  • Yes, but it's part of a huge Office product while I already have MS Office. If Open Office Math was a separate product, great! But it's not, AFAIK. – Wim ten Brink Sep 3 '09 at 18:09

If you are versed in LaTeX, try it. I've been using TeknixCenter and MixTex on my Windows machine.

But the easiest way is really OpenOffice Math. Get the portable version and start within seconds..


openoffice.org has math, or theres tablet pc tools for windows XP and vista that include stuff that might be of help


MS Office also has a formula editor.

In 2007 -> Insert -> Equation (at the end of the bar)

Previous versions also have them, but i can not provide you with instructions to them.

  • The question specifies that he wants non-office. – jweede Sep 3 '09 at 13:28
  • Sorry, I did mention it myself already. I need something that can be used as a stand-alone application, to generate separate images. – Wim ten Brink Sep 3 '09 at 13:35

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