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I want to type in my variable next to its plot and I'm typing the text in using Inset. However my variable has superscripts to the left. Say it looks like this:

$ \sideset{_a^b}{'}F $

How can I type this in Mathematica?

Right now I just do Ctrl^ and Ctrl_ and fill in the super/subscript and then delete the place holder for the regular script. This works for a while but if I correct something else on the plot then it automatically vanishes. Is there a stable and standard way to do this?

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    $\begingroup$ You can use Palettes -> Basic Math Assistant. $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2012 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @b.gatessucks Thanks, that's a good idea. For some reason I prefer to write a code rather than use the Palatte so I forget about it most of the times. $\endgroup$
    – Amatya
    Nov 22, 2012 at 15:53
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    $\begingroup$ Usually if you hover your mouse over the palette you'll see the required alias/key combo to type as well. $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2012 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ @SjoerdC.deVries oh cool. Thx! $\endgroup$
    – Amatya
    Nov 22, 2012 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ @SjoerdC.deVries So There is a command in the Palette for left superscript but for whatever reasons when I hover my mouse over it the tooltip doesn't show. The tooptip is working for everything else. Hopefully it will show at a later time. thx. $\endgroup$
    – Amatya
    Nov 22, 2012 at 16:22

4 Answers 4

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Rather using manual typesetting tricks, I suggest you define template boxes for these three notations. Add the three styles below to your document's style definitions. (In case you're not familiar with the style editor, to do this: Format > Edit Stylesheet...; and for each of the 3 styles, start typing to create a new cell, press Ctrl-Shift-E to edit the code, and replace with each cell code shown below, and press Ctrl-Shift-E.)

LeftSuperscript style:

Cell[StyleData["LeftSuperscript"],
 TemplateBoxOptions->{
  DisplayFunction->(RowBox[{
   SuperscriptBox[" ", #2],
   "\[NegativeVeryThinSpace]",
   #1
  }]&),
  Tooltip->Automatic}]

LeftSubscript style:

Cell[StyleData["LeftSubscript"],
 TemplateBoxOptions->{
  DisplayFunction->(RowBox[{
   SubscriptBox["\[InvisibleSpace]", #2],
   "\[NegativeVeryThinSpace]",
   #1
  }]&),
  Tooltip->Automatic}]

LeftSubsuperscript style:

Cell[StyleData["LeftSubsuperscript"],
 TemplateBoxOptions->{
  DisplayFunction->(RowBox[{
   SubsuperscriptBox["\[InvisibleSpace]", #2, #3],
   "\[NegativeVeryThinSpace]",
   #1
  }]&),
  Tooltip->Automatic}]

Input

The boxes themselves are written using box expressions like TemplateBox[{"x","y"}, "LeftSuperscript"].

For convenient editing, also create input aliases, by adding another cell to the stylesheet:

Cell[StyleData[All],
  InputAliases->{
    "l^"->TemplateBox[{"\[SelectionPlaceholder]","\[Placeholder]"},
    "LeftSuperscript"],
    "l_"->TemplateBox[{"\[SelectionPlaceholder]","\[Placeholder]"},
    "LeftSubscript"],
    "l_^"->TemplateBox[{"\[SelectionPlaceholder]","\[Placeholder]","\[Placeholder]"},
    "LeftSuperscript"]
}]

Then, you can create left superscripts (Esc l ^ Esc), subscripts (Esc l _ Esc), and subsuperscripts (Esc l _ ^ Esc) while editing using the respective input shortcuts.

Output

To get Mathematica to display the typeset forms in the output, execute

LeftSuperscript /: MakeBoxes[LeftSuperscript[braw_, supraw_], form_] :=
  With[{
      b = MakeBoxes[braw, form],
      sup = MakeBoxes[supraw, form]
    },
    TemplateBox[{b, sup}, "LeftSuperscript"]
  ];
LeftSubscript /: MakeBoxes[LeftSubscript[braw_, subraw_], form_] := 
  With[{
      b = MakeBoxes[braw, form],
      sub = MakeBoxes[subraw, form]
    },
    TemplateBox[{b, sub}, "LeftSubscript"]
  ];
LeftSubsuperscript /: 
  MakeBoxes[LeftSubsuperscript[braw_, subraw_, supraw_], form_] := 
  With[{
      b = MakeBoxes[braw, form],
      sub = MakeBoxes[subraw, form],
      sup = MakeBoxes[supraw, form]
    },
    TemplateBox[{b, sub, sup}, "LeftSubsuperscript"]
  ];

Result

It looks reasonable in both code and typeset-math forms, except for the LeftSubsuperscript when the subscript and superscript differ greatly in length:

left boxes in use

Discussion

Template boxes are harder to mess up while editing than manual typesetting.

Another advantage of using semantically-correct typesetting is that the boxes can be parsed and manipulated as expressions. For example, if you want to use $^y x$ to denote tetration

Tetration[a_, n_Integer] := 
    If[n == 0, 1, a^Tetration[a, n - 1]] /; a > 0 \[And] n >= 0;

— you could define

LeftSuperscript = Tetration;

and use it:

typing

resulting in:
result

You could also symbolically manipulate or generate expressions containing your notation.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for your comprehensive answer. I learnt the most from your answer. thank you! $\endgroup$
    – Amatya
    Dec 9, 2012 at 19:15
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I don't know how you would type this in directly, but the following may get you a step closer.

How about leaving a placeholder?

Row[{Style[Subsuperscript[Invisible["x"], "a", "d"], Italic], 
     Style[Superscript["F", "'"], Italic]}]//TraditionalForm

traditional script

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    $\begingroup$ That worked like a charm! Thank you. I'll wait a couple of days to see what other suggestions come up before I accept. Thanks a lot! $\endgroup$
    – Amatya
    Nov 22, 2012 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ That's a nice one $\endgroup$
    – user1066
    Nov 22, 2012 at 21:53
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There is quite a bit of "micro" tweeking available for typesetting these positions. Starting with Davids answer:

Row[{
   Style[Subsuperscript[Invisible["x"], "a", "b"], Italic], 
   Style[Superscript["F", "\[Prime]"], Italic]}] // TraditionalForm

you can use "\[InvisiblePrefixScriptBase]" instead of Invisible["x"] as per @kgulers answer here. The advantage in doing so is that you do not have unwanted space to the left of your typeset expression. Then adjust the vertical positions of your sub and superscripts:

Row[{
   Style[Subsuperscript["\[InvisiblePrefixScriptBase]", "a", "b"], Italic, 
    ScriptBaselineShifts -> {0.65, 0.75}], 
   Style[Superscript["F", "\[Prime]"], Italic, 
    ScriptBaselineShifts -> {Automatic, 0.85}]}] // TraditionalForm

And you can also nudge subscripts and superscripts in inline cells around via the Insert>Typesetting menu or programmatically with AdjustmentBox. Here I am moving a and b to the right, closer to F.

Row[{
    Style[
     Subsuperscript["\[InvisiblePrefixScriptBase]", 
      AdjustmentBox["a", BoxMargins -> {{0.17, -0.17}, {0., 0.}}], 
      AdjustmentBox["b", BoxMargins -> {{0.17, -0.17}, {0., 0.}}]], 
     Italic, ScriptBaselineShifts -> {0.65, 0.75}], 
    Style[Superscript["F", "\[Prime]"], Italic, 
     ScriptBaselineShifts -> {Automatic, 0.85}]}] // 
  DisplayForm // TraditionalForm

Finally you can control the size of the subscripts and superscripts with ScriptSizeMultipliers

Style[
   Row[{
     Style[
      Subsuperscript["\[InvisiblePrefixScriptBase]", 
       AdjustmentBox["a", BoxMargins -> {{0.17, -0.17}, {0.5, 0.}}], 
       AdjustmentBox["b", BoxMargins -> {{0.17, -0.17}, {0., 0.}}]], 
      Italic, ScriptBaselineShifts -> {0.5, 0.75}], 
     Style[Superscript["F", "\[Prime]"], Italic, 
      ScriptBaselineShifts -> {Automatic, 0.85}]}], 
   ScriptSizeMultipliers -> {0.6}, ScriptMinSize -> 6] // 
  DisplayForm // TraditionalForm

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the typesetting tips. This really helps. $\endgroup$
    – Amatya
    Dec 9, 2012 at 19:12
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You can do CtrlAlt6 and CtrlAlt- after adding these entries in KeyEventTranslations.tr:

Item[KeyEvent["6", Modifiers -> {Control, Command}], FrontEndExecute[{FrontEnd`SelectionMove[FrontEnd`InputNotebook[], All, Word], FrontEnd`NotebookApply[FrontEnd`InputNotebook[], RowBox[{SuperscriptBox["\[InvisiblePrefixScriptBase]", "\[Placeholder]"], "\[SelectionPlaceholder]"}]]}]],
Item[KeyEvent["-", Modifiers -> {Control, Command}], FrontEndExecute[{FrontEnd`SelectionMove[FrontEnd`InputNotebook[], All, Word], FrontEnd`NotebookApply[FrontEnd`InputNotebook[], RowBox[{SubscriptBox["\[InvisiblePrefixScriptBase]", "\[Placeholder]"], "\[SelectionPlaceholder]"}]]}]],
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