There is no restriction on platform in the answers, but a few things to keep in mind:

  • Dragging a mouse and clicking on any button is far too slow and should be excluded from any answer.
    • Latex is of course a standard, are there shortcuts designed to speed it up rather than just typing it raw?
    • You can design your own shortcuts on the fly in several programs, but I'm curious, what are the fastest math shortcuts already designed and ready to use?

I love using the built-in Equation Editor in Word 2007. Alt + = brings up the editor, then you type this:

(a+b)^n=\sum_(k=0)^n (n\atop k)a^k b^(n-k)

This will produce the following:

alt text

It doesn't get much easier than that.

There is also an entire paper (PDF) about using plaintext to type up formulas.

  • 2
    One advantage I've noticed with word is that you can do (a+b)/c (7 chars), in latex is \frac{a+b}{c} (13 chars). Nov 14 '09 at 19:08
  • 1
    Is this going to be useful for inline equations & samples, usually I suffering a lot from this. How about other version of MS like, 2010, or 2013, do they have the same?
    – AlFagera
    Feb 28 '16 at 7:46
  • 1
    This is extremely useful for inline equations. I used it extensively while writing papers for computer science and in statistics. I have used it in Office 2010 and 2013 and it works great. In the middle of your sentence just hit the Alt and = and start typing. Feb 29 '16 at 17:50

Even today, it's hard to beat (La)TeX's math notation. For comparison purposes, Nathan's Word 2007 example can be typeset using the code

$ (a+b)^n=\sum_{k=0}^n {n \choose k} a^k b^{n-k} $

to produce the output

alt text

From this example, the only noticable difference is that Word uses () both to typeset parentheses and to enclose blocks for typesetting, whereas (La)TeX reserves {} for enclosing blocks (and uses \{ and \} to typeset curly braces).

The killer feature of (La)TeX, though, is the fact that you can write your own macros, and therefore define your own shortcuts, for mathematical (and nonmathematical) content. As far as I know, Word 2007's equation editor does not have this capability.

The fastest (La)TeX shortcuts for you will depend on your usage patterns; some of the more standardized ones that I use are the \ce{} macro (provided by the mhchem package) for typesetting chemical formulae and the \SI{value}{unit} (provided by the siunitx package) for typesetting units and values, but they probably would not be very useful for people who rarely use chemical formulae or physical units in their documents.

  • It's fast to type and looks good. OTOH the .tex -> .pdf compile cycle is cumbersome. Oct 7 '09 at 6:47
  • 2
    The killer feature of Word 2007 is that my Grandma has it. It's ubiquitous. I agree with you that (La)TeX is powerful, but for ease of use, I'd have to go with Word 2007. (and no, I've never had to write an equation at my Grandma's house...) Oct 7 '09 at 11:55
  • If Grandma doesn't have latex (or pdflatex), you can just use a simple text editor to edit a LaTeX document while hanging out with Grandma, and compile it when you're back at home. If Grandma needs a copy, send her the PDF (which, unlike Word documents, don't require an expensive office suite to open).
    – mipadi
    Oct 7 '09 at 14:03
  • mipadi, your point is taken. plaintext is easy to create and edit. But Word documents don't require an expensive office suite to open -Word viewer is free: microsoft.com/downloads/… Oct 7 '09 at 17:10
  • @las3rjock, Are you sure latex is the best? How would you read that equation though? Using mouth?
    – Pacerier
    Nov 22 '17 at 22:13

While looking for a faster way to enter differential equations, I found that you can actually add autocorrect for math so instead of typing \partial_x I can type \px (I chose that because it is a common one).

This means I can enter equation about 10x faster. I can even program in longer equations using this method. This is very exciting. This also makes it work better for note taking, as this could be entered almost as quickly as doing it by hand but neater.

I did this testing inside OneNote 2013. I then opened up Word and it actually had my customizations, but when I tried it it seemed to work a little differently. I might work as well, but I don't need to use it there so I didn't spend any more time on it. This is the fastest possible way of entering equations that I know of, because it is completely customizable and you can gear it to what you commonly use. Once I have a decent library I can actually enter equations faster than I can by hand.

Hopefully this picture comes through with some of the Math AutoCorrect that I defined below:

enter image description here

  • So I am Fluid Mechanics and use the Momentum Equation a lot in Notes and Homework. So I entered it using the Math Autocorrect (can copy paste into AutoCorrect after typing equation in the normal way). Below is the result: 15 keys to enter these 3 massive equations that I use all the time...Awesomeness! i.stack.imgur.com/Gguki.jpg Math AutoCorrect & N.S. Equations Momentum
    – Lawrence
    Oct 18 '15 at 5:51
  • This is really cool, @Lawrence. I didn't know there was a math autocorrect. Jun 12 '16 at 19:05

I've yet to find a faster way than using Mathtype for MS Word with keyboard shortcuts defined (supports LaTeX export).

  • what does Mathtype give you that the Equation Editor* doesn't? (* I'm only referring to Word 2007 - prior equation editors sucked). Oct 7 '09 at 3:45
  • (i haven't used eq.edit. in a while now, so some of these may be outdated): 1. you can define keyboard shortcuts while working in "visual style" (no latex) <-- much faster 2. you can easily define your own templates 3. some more complicated stuff is a pita to do in eq. editor ...
    – Rook
    Oct 7 '09 at 13:19
  • The equation editor in MS doesn't support the keyboard shortcuts that mathtype does, or at least I haven't been able to find them. May 15 '10 at 19:25

OCR recorded off of a pen device.

I believe MS PowerPoint has pen capability to write on-screen, so I'm sure you can find a third-party app.

  • An OCR Program that can parse complex math? That is impressive. Oct 21 '09 at 15:12
  • It doesn't parse it, it just saves what's written. Oct 22 '09 at 15:07
  • Windows 7 has the Math Input Panel (basically the handwriting recognition engine for complex math) and it IS fairly impressive.
    – Shinrai
    Oct 19 '11 at 20:48
  • Does not work in practise. Feb 13 '18 at 6:20

I know you want LaTeX, but I just use LyX to type it because I find myself able to keep up with the prof when he's writing formulas using LyX...


I always liked Scientific Workplace - you could click to select all math operators if you wanted, but it had keyboard shortcuts for everything & even in the earliest days, when the main document was far from WYSIWYG, the equation editing always was 'in place' and lightning fast. If you do a lot of technical writing, I recommend it. It has gotten pricey over time.

  • Have to agree; I used Scientific Word (the word-processing subset of Workplace) to write my PhD 10 years ago, and loved it. Best part was that the underlying document was simply LaTex. Mar 17 '10 at 11:34

checkout mathml (w3c standard) .. maybe in combination with asciimathml, also used by asciidoc.

as a side note: there exists kind of an addon to the developer framework qt: "qmmlwidget"

alt text


You can use LYX. There you can learn pretty fast all the keyboard shortcuts you need and type any combination of Text\Math you want.

The big benefit of this comes when viewing the source of what you're typing there under View >> Source Pane. Here you can select to view 'Body Only' and there you see the latex code of all you typed in so easily. From here you can just Copy and Paste it wherever you need it.


  • "Well actually I came here to look for a better solution than mine but I still think it's the fastest." - This is commentary, I went ahead and removed it, because commentary should never be submitted as an answer. The only reason I didn't vote to delete your answer is because you also answered the question.
    – Ramhound
    Jul 11 '17 at 17:04

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