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The Mathematical Markup Language or MathML, as it is more commonly referred to, is an offshoot of the XML language to allow for the use of mathematical notations on a webpage. In all simplicity, it is the layout in terms of both structure as well as content when it comes to displaying mathematical problems on the internet.

It was back in 1999 when the W3C Math Group released Mathematical Markup Language, however it would not be until 2001 that it would be shown to the world. Of course by 2003 they were ready to upgrade the language to version 2.0.

Long before the name sake of the XML language was developed, MathML was already well under development. Unfortunately, while it is now part of the XML language, browser support for it is far and few between. The good news though is that there have been specialised programs designed for dealing with it both online and off.

In the case of presentation of the mathematical formulas, the MathML language handles it, but in the case of the meaning of the various components in the formula, Content MathML is used. It is important to remember though that these are both part of the same language. Furthermore, thanks to the inception of MathML, a visually impaired web visitor can actually hear the mathematical problem through their web browser thanks to the language and the more recent released web browsers which do support it.

The language itself makes use of 30 different elements and 50 attributes which help to layout the presentation of the formula. These are done much like any XML layout in that tags are used. In the case of MathML tags, every tag starts with an “m”. After the “m”, the tag is then followed by a token and is wrapped around the identifier. For example, an addition problem would use <mo>+</mo>. Then you will need to add the operators so that if you are adding 1 and 1, then it would be coded as 1 <mo>+</mo> 1.

Furthermore, to help with the layout, rows can be used. There is also the allowance for items in subscript, fractions and much, much more. Don’t forget that the content can also be defined using MathML as well. But in order to simplify things, there have been a number of editors developed specifically for the purpose of making developing in the language easier. The two most popular editors are that of the Publicon and SciWriter editors.

There are also a number of office products which also support MathML. KOffice, OpenOffice and even MS Office 2007 can handle them. There is even one available for PDAs like that of Mathematica. Through the World Wide Web Consortium there is also an available WYSIWY online editor which can be used.

It is important to remember though, that while out of the box virtually all browsers are now able to support MathML, one particular browser as always does not. In order to view MathML documents correctly using the Microsoft Internet Explorer, you have to download and install a plugin. 

Original Authors: Nick
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 04/03/2009

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