When trying to type "traditional style" inputs such as integrals or sums, I follow the tutorial and type

Esc sum Esc   Ctrl+= n=1  Ctrl+% 10 whatever

However, when I type Ctrl+= it opens the (annoying and useless) alpha interface, and I am forced to use either textual input or use the palette.

I'm running Mathematica 8 on Fedora. Any ideas?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Let me complement your question by mentioning that in earlier versions of Mathematica (7, 6, 5, etc.) CTRL-= let one write under an expression, similarly to how CTRL-7 put the cursor above an expression. This is also annoying for me, but I haven't taken the time to figure out how to do it in 8 yet. $\endgroup$
    – Szabolcs
    Mar 18 '12 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ Another comment: if all you want is enter input to be interpreted, you can use subscript/superscript (CTRL-_ and CTRL-6). This doesn't look the same as over- and under-expressions but it functions the same way when the system interprets your input $\endgroup$
    – Szabolcs
    Mar 18 '12 at 9:28

The keyboard shortcut for underscripts has now been changed to ctr-4 (ctr-$). So, to enter your Sum[expr, {n, 1, 10}], you should type

escsumesc ctr-$n=1ctr-%10 ctr-spaceexpr

Another option is to type the overscript ctr-& first and then use the ctr-% shortcut to move to the underscript position.

Not all of the tutorials have been updated (and if you feel like it, you can submit a bug report to WRI about the oversight that you noticed). That said, the main documentation page on Typing Underscripts does use the correct shortcut (as does the Underscript page).

By the way, I also still find myself pressing ctr-= for underscript and getting frustrated. But I don't think that I'd go as far as to claim that the Wolfram|Alpha interface is completely useless...

  • $\begingroup$ +1 received the new answer loaded message two seconds before I submitted. We now have a new record for the new answer loaded message latency:34 minutes :) Deleting my answer. $\endgroup$
    – kglr
    Mar 18 '12 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ For the record: the Ctrl+$ combination does $not$ produce an underscript on a sum inside an in-line math cell within a text cell. It just gives an ordinary subscript. $\endgroup$
    – murray
    Mar 18 '12 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ @kguler: The MenuSetup.tr info in your post is worth having on the site. Someone who finds this page might be looking for a way to change the default keys. In fact, given @yohbs' opinion of W|A he might want to revert the the ctrl-= shortcut. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Mar 18 '12 at 20:42
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @murray: For the record: Mathematica simply copies the LaTeX convention for inline maths. It does this so that the line spacing does not look stupid. In LaTeX this can be overridden by using \displaystyle or explicit \limits. In Mathematica, select the sum and use the Option Inspector to search for and set LimitPositioning to False in the UnderOverBoxOptions subsection. (This can also be set manually by looking at the underlying box expression (Shift-Ctrl-E) and wrapping a StyleBox with the option UnderoverscriptBoxOptions -> {LimitsPositioning -> False} around the sum) $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Mar 18 '12 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Simon, Mr.Wizard, Sjoerd, thank you for your suggestions to undelete my answer (just undeleted and updated my post.) $\endgroup$
    – kglr
    Mar 18 '12 at 23:53

In this context it might be useful to remark that if you enter


you'll get a complete sum template with your cursor already at the bottom:

Mathematica graphics

I feel this is much easier than going through the other shortcuts.

The same works for products: escprodtesc

Mathematica graphics

indefinite integrals: escinttesc

Mathematica graphics

and definite integrals: escdinttesc

Mathematica graphics

The 't'-s at the end of the shortcuts probably stands for 'template'. At least it works as a mnemonic for me that way.

  • $\begingroup$ Again, this method still doesn't automatically give you sub- and superscripts below and above the summation if you try to put it into a separate paragraph as a display. Another instance of how inferior Matheamtica is to LaTeX for correct mathematical typesetting. $\endgroup$
    – murray
    Mar 18 '12 at 21:38
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @murray The question was about input, not text. Mathematica isn't that good in movie editing and making tea either; what's your point? Did you actually read Simon's reaction to your comment under his answer? $\endgroup$ Mar 18 '12 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, of course I read Simon's reaction. I made my "for the record" comment and the follow-up lest anybody reading this thread be misled into believing that Mathematica would position the scripts in a separate line of text, as if in a LaTeX math-display. And I said it because some folks advocate for Mathematica as a publication medium. $\endgroup$
    – murray
    Mar 19 '12 at 14:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @murray: Maybe you're confused about what displayed math is... you do know that in Mathematica you need to put such math in a separate DisplayFormula cell? Think of it as the equivalent of a LaTeX equation* or align* environment. You can also use DisplayFormulaNumbered in order to have automatic numbering. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Mar 19 '12 at 21:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @murray: If your point is that Mathematica will not display superscripts and subscripts as over and underscripts, then I agree with you. But so what! Expressions in Mathematica are more than just typeset - they also try to be unambiguously interpreted. It has to be more careful than LaTeX does. As for the copying of displayed math into an inline cell, the behavior is exactly the same as LaTeX, so get over it! This is my last comment on this matter. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Mar 20 '12 at 21:51

As the combination Ctrl+% behaves as before (it toggles between Subscript and Superscript, between Underscript and Overscript), you can use it instead of any special short cuts for Underscript: Enter your Overscript first, and use Ctrl+% to enter Underscipts. Of course, this is more challenging a habit switch than the alternative (switch to the new short cut Ctrl+4, that is.)

If you wish to change the short-cut for Below from Ctrl+4 to Ctrl+= once-and-for-all, you need to do some editing in two text resource files in the directory


First, in the file MenuSetup.tr find the following line that assign the Ctrl+= short- cut to Free Form Input:

  MenuItem["Inline Free-form Input",
  MenuKey["=", Modifiers->{"Control"}], MenuEvaluator -> Automatic],

I modified the last line above by adding an additional modifier key as follows:

MenuKey["=", Modifiers->{"Control","Command"}], MenuEvaluator -> Automatic],

to assign Ctrl+Alt+= as the new Wolfram|Alpha short-cut.

Next, you can change the following lines in the same file similarly:

MenuItem["&Above", "Above", MenuKey["7", Modifiers->{"Control"}]],
MenuItem["&Below", "Below", MenuKey["4", Modifiers->{"Control"}]],

The second file is KeyEventTranslations.tr in the TextResources directory. It shows the current key event short-cuts:

 Item[KeyEvent["7", Modifiers -> {Control}], "Above"],
 Item[KeyEvent["&", Modifiers -> {Control}], "Above"],
 Item[KeyEvent["Keypad7", Modifiers -> {Control}], "Above"],
 Item[KeyEvent["$", Modifiers -> {Control}], "Below"],
 Item[KeyEvent["4", Modifiers -> {Control}], "Below"],
 Item[KeyEvent["Keypad4", Modifiers -> {Control}], "Below"],
 Item[KeyEvent["%", Modifiers -> {Control}, CellClass ->  BoxFormData], "Otherscript"],

I added the following line to this portion of the file

Item[KeyEvent["=", Modifiers -> {Control}], "Below"],

Now I have both the new short cut Ctrl+4 and my old friend Ctrl+= for Underscript so that I can phase out of my old habit at my own pace:)

Of course, you need to save the files after your changes, and re-start Mma for the changes to take effect.

Caution: Casual playing with the resource files may be dangerous. It is easy to get carried away and corrupt your installation. Make backups before changing any file.

  • $\begingroup$ @Mr.Wizard, thank you for the edit and the upvote... But I was about to delete this answer as it is the same as, but 34 minutes later than, Simon's answer. $\endgroup$
    – kglr
    Mar 18 '12 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ For some reason I didn't notice this comment until now. I think this answer adds value and I would rather you did not delete it. $\endgroup$
    – Mr.Wizard
    Mar 18 '12 at 23:19

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