i have to state that i have no idea about font design but i always wondered why there was never a font that fully supports mathematical notation especially multi part mathematical notation such as numbers rasied to a power or an integral with boundaries. and pretty much all the advanced things that LaTeX supports.

for example in arabic i can write ب and by adding another part to that char i can make it بُ or بَ and so on.

  • my question is why dont't we have a font that support advanced mathematical notation?
  • is it because how conventional text editors work or because its as painful as it gets to create such font?

some advanced examples: enter image description here

  • 2
    It's time to contact a type creator. ;) I think you'll get better answers in tex - tex.stackexchange.com
    – bharat
    Nov 4, 2015 at 7:14

2 Answers 2


It is bit of everything combined. Most users do not need a font that covers all the possible use cases. Typing text is much more common than doing mathematical notation, thus a widely useful font only requires a few hundreds glyphs to share.

So for the average western European it takes about 50 characterss for most tasks. By doing 200, you can cover 95% of about a billion people. To cover the mathematical symbols passably, one would need to do another 200-400 characters. I'm now talking of an audience of 100 million who need this 10% of time, and of those only about 1% care. That care number for general text is at 10%. So it's a terrible value proposition. You'd need to find a mathematically inclined designer to get it done.


But LaTeX does use math fonts with mathematical symbols. But just using math fonts isn't enough to typeset math.

The other answer talks about 200-400 characters. LaTeX easily needs more. For instance, there's a package to use Times and matching math fonts: its glyph table lists around 8 * 128 glyphs for math support (not counting the "used with the varg option", and ignoring that txexa has in fact less characters): http://mirrors.ibiblio.org/CTAN/fonts/txfonts/doc/txfontsdoc.pdf

That does not count bold math fonts, which is used a lot in your example.

But to typeset math, you also need to get right the vertical and horizontal positions of each character. For instance, not all superscripts have the same height — they must be moved according to the formula they are a superscript of. So you can't just use a raised 2 to typeset $x^2$ (x square), as you seem to suggest. To know what's the formula you are superscripting, you need semantic markup, which seems too complicated to handle for even modern fonts technologies (though I'm not an OTF expert).

Big parentheses are another issue: a few sizes are drawn by hand, bigger ones are composed out of different characters (with matching vertical lines that can be extended indefinitely).

Donald Knuth's book about TeX (the TeXbook) spends 5 chapters (out of 26) on the rules used by TeX to typeset math, and on a few ways to override the defaults when needed. LaTeX and a few LaTeX packages add more rules.

  • 1
    +1 i said passably. To cover entirely is another matter. But still a very large number of glyphs for a very small audience.
    – joojaa
    Aug 27, 2017 at 15:44

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