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How to programmatically convert an operator such as Equilibrium into its displayed form as a string? The conversion should work like this:

FullForm[convert /@ {Equilibrium, LongRightArrow, LeftVector, Equal}]

Mathematica graphics

I've tried various methods with no avail:

  • converting to strings and wrapping in "\[...]"
  • using different form wrappers (DisplayForm, TraditionalForm, etc.)
  • using low level boxes, but since that is really not my alley, I was a bit clueless
  • since operators with built-in meaning are used too, argument usage does not seem viable (e.g. ToString[Equal["", ""]] which returns True)
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Don't be confused by Mma interpretation of Unicode chars. Try ToCharacterCode@ToString@Equilibrium["a", "a"] and them FromCharacterCode@% // FullForm – belisarius has settled Mar 28 '12 at 13:27

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

This seems to work

convert[str_] := Module[{stream, output},
  stream = StringToStream["\"\\[" <> ToString[str] <> "]\""];
  output = Read[stream];

convert /@ {Equilibrium, LongRightArrow, LeftVector, Equal} // InputForm

Mathematica graphics


You could also do something like this:

convert[str_] := ToExpression["\"\\[" <> ToString[str] <> "]\""]

convert /@ {Equilibrium, LongRightArrow, LeftVector, Equal} // InputForm
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How about (updated based on TomD's comment):

convert = StringTrim@ToString[HoldForm@#["", " "]]&


In[]:= convert/@{Equilibrium,LongRightArrow,LeftVector,Equilibrium}
Out[]= {\[Equilibrium],\[LongRightArrow],\[LeftVector],\[Equilibrium]}

Note, that the output here is a string:

In[]:= Head/@%
Out[]= {String,String,String,String}

Mathematica graphics

Edit Note, this also works on operators like Plus or Minus.

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Nice solution, and almost perfect: the Equal sign (it is now correctly present in my original post) that is returned is the two-character format (==) instead of the one-character version (see my updated Q). This difference can be a probelem if you simplify the solution to this: StringTake[ToString[HoldForm@str["", ""]], {2}], as it clips the == sign to =. – István Zachar Mar 28 '12 at 13:42
That's a good point. Let me see what I can figure out. – Eli Lansey Mar 28 '12 at 14:28
Nice solution. A slight modification with StringTrim. For example StringTrim@ToString@HoldForm@#["", ""] & /@ {Equilibrium, LongRightArrow, Equal, SameQ, Plus}. – TomD Mar 28 '12 at 16:26
@TomD Good point. Forgot about that function. Still stuck on that double-equals, though. Seems like Heike's second solution might work better. – Eli Lansey Mar 28 '12 at 16:29

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