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I have very strong desire to use superscript as the index of the variable.

However, it looks like that the Mathematica automatically recognize the superscript as the power and I got message that my variable with superscript is 'protected'.

Could you help me to make the superscript used as the index of the variable instead of power?

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I'm not sure if it's possible to do, although somebody else might have an answer. I've had this problem before, and just use subscripts instead. For example: $$v_{k\_,j\_}:=\mbox{Sin}[k^2+j^3];$$ Is there a reason why subscripts are not as good for your application? –  DumpsterDoofus Oct 8 '13 at 18:38

4 Answers 4

Superscript is not interpreted as Power:

enter image description here

Presumably you are referring to what happens when you enter a power in superscript notation using the key combination Ctrl+6. Mathematica is capable of representing both this power notation and a formatted plain Superscript. In my opinion it is a failing that the power notation appears in the Typesetting menu while the latter is missing; if anything it should be the other way around I think. Since there is no key combination for raw Superscript I propose using a palette or input alias:


You may enter a formatting template using a palette button which may be created with:

CreatePalette @ PasteButton @ Superscript[\[SelectionPlaceholder], \[Placeholder]]

enter image description here

Click that palette button to insert a template for plain superscript in the current Notebook. Use Tab to move between fields.

Input alias

Either open the Option Inspector, select Global Preferences, type "InputAliases" to find the appropriate entry, and add this to the list of rules:

"sps" -> TemplateBox[{"\[SelectionPlaceholder]", "\[Placeholder]"}, "Superscript"]

Or add it programmatically (run this only once):

 CurrentValue[$FrontEnd, "InputAliases"],
 "sps" -> TemplateBox[{"\[SelectionPlaceholder]", "\[Placeholder]"}, "Superscript"]

Now type: EscspsEsc to enter a template for plain Superscript.

(In version 10.0.0 the first field will not be automatically selected due to a bug; see Input Aliases in Mathematica 10.)

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If you want to use superscripts so as to follow some textbook symbols then use Symbolize


I'm going to paste an image because pasting Symbolize gives you this:

Symbolize[ParsedBoxWrapper[SuperscriptBox["y", "1"]]]

enter image description here

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For internal representation, I prefer avoiding subscripts and superscripts, so I'll give a way for using superscripts for input and output formatting, while the internal expression is of the form x[i].

For output formatting, something like this:

Format[x[i_]] := Superscript[x, i]


Table[x[i], {i, 3}]

Mathematica graphics

For input, this works, but I would wonder whether it is safe:

Power[x, i_] ^:= x[i];
Power /: Set[Power[x, i_], val_] := x[i] = val;

x^i // InputForm
(* x[i] *)

It also works with keyboard input of superscripts.

(x^1 + x^2)^3 // Expand

Mathematica graphics

Mathematica graphics

Mathematica graphics

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When I asked people about this before, they wrote up: Displaying index as subscript on output: e.g. C[i] -> C_i with Notation[...] or Interpretation[..]? As with the other answers, this focuses on only output. But uses an Interpretation instead of just changing the functions themselves. You should just be able to copy/paste the code to try it out. To change from subscripts to superscripts for your code, it should just be a copy/replace.

As for why you shouldn't use subscripts/superscripts, it took me a while to figure it out, but basically it is because $x_i$ is not a symbol. Try to call FullForm on $x_i$ to get Subscript[x,i] which is tough to work with.

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